Brunch Review: Ella Canta, Park Lane in London
Tucked into the side of the Intercontinental Park Lane, I ask the manager the former use of this seemingly striking space from Mexican mastermind Martha Ortiz. Ella Canta is ‘the former breakfast buffet of the hotel’ he tells me. Any hint of sad croissants or sour orange juice has been erased, making way for a new partnership with internationally-acclaimed interior architects David Collins Studio.
Ella Canta (Spanish for ‘she sings’) is funky, fun and bright and is just what us Londoners need. David Collins Studio has thrown in waxy foliage, pink walls and a hand-carved, floor-to-ceiling walnut installation that runs the full length of the restaurant and is inspired by the work of Mexican furniture designer Eugenio Escudero. The architecture celebrating Ricardo Legorreta, with ceramics of Gustavo Perez and textures from Ernesto Alva, sets the scene for an eclectic menu taken from Mexico City, drawing inspiration from Martha’s world-renowned Dulce Patria in Mexico City that blends ancient cooking traditions with a contemporary conduct.
This time last year we were buzzing with a new wave of popularity towards Mexican, although until recently London’s saturated dining scene has been lacking in this department. This is where this recent opening steps in; marking our popularity and intrigue for the very finest and most authentic aspects to this little explored niche cuisine. Gastro aficionados have been flooding each evening to Ella Canta and to what has been dubbed London’s best new Mexican for a carousel of colourful dinner dishes. This however has left a space wide open throughout the day for a Mexican style weekend brunch.
From £59 for 90 minutes of unlimited margaritas, Ella Canta’s brunch is instantly more appealing than any other disastrous bubble infused prosecco affair – and these margaritas are dangerously delicious. Soon after knocking back my first the manager re-emerges with an aperitif: a lone grasshopper that I am instructed to pop in whole. This guy is covered in gold dust, of course, what else Martha?
The menu is eloquently written for the aficionados and my guest and I admittedly ask our waitress for assistance. ‘Overture’ tapas style dishes start Ella Canta’s brunch experience. These include ‘Chicharron con salsa de tomate cruda (fried pork crackling with fresh tomato salsa), Ceviche de almeja navaja, fruta de la passion, habanero y mango (razor clam ceviche with passion fruit, mango and habanero) or Quesadillas mulitcolor (wild mushrooms, huitlacoche chile poblanco, beef and adobo); are each sophisticatedly delicious as they are written.
For the ‘Main Act’ of Martha’s Mexican performance – a collection of larger brunch dishes with further margaritas. One designed as a popular hangover cure is the green or red chilaquiles with egg cream and cheese whilst adding an element of indulgence – lobster tail with black bean chorizo and flour tortillas. Other ‘Main Act’ dishes are red snapper ‘Veracruz Marimba’ style with potato purée and saffron, Cantina-style hot shrimp soup or grilled aged beef with spring onions and salsa. For the ‘Final Curtain’ we share Mexican churros with caramel and chocolate, these are however not where Ella Canta’s strengths lie following distinctive savoury dishes.
Restaurants adjacent to hotels often lack their own identity or culinary narrative; Ella Canta, however, is not cautious or afraid to stand out against the conformity of the Intercontinental. An environment and menu that literally sing the praises of Mexican cuisine to us ill-informed Europeans; it is a dining destination for anyone with a taste for Mexico.
Ella Canta: One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London W1J 7QY, www.ellacanta.com, 020 7318 8715