Last Thursday Benito's Hat opened on New Row in Covent Garden. I'd been very excited about the imminent arrival for some time due to its close proximity to my office. Having visited the Goodge St post a while back, I'm pleased to see both the on going success and expansion of a quality eatery and another place to add to the list of where I buy my lunch in the area surrounding work.
I was invited to attend a preview evening on Tuesday, a few teething problems remained evident, no signage, no large 'transformer' table and no bench along the front window. Still, none of that is important, what matters is the quality of the food and the drink. This branch, with it's wonderful central location, will focus more on alcohol that it's predecessor. There is a small but solid cocktail menu and our evening began with an introduction to tequila from Alex of Tequilano, resulting in a challenge to create our own cocktail.
The evening was great fun and our team (me along with Thomas, Jules and Nathaniel) somehow managed to emerge victors. We were assured that our winning concoction, Jules' Marvellous Medicine, would soon be appearing on this wall:
A lethal combination of tequila, grenadine, campari, passionfruit liqueur, grapefruit, lime and mint. Shocking pink in colour and served short.
Upon my return one lunchtime, I noted that the wall remains bare and Jules' Marvellous Medicine is not in fact appearing on the menu currently, owner Ben remarked that he wished he had reviewed each teams list of ingredients before selecting a winner, alas it was too late, we were shaking our maracas and choosing winners t-shirts by this point. Never mind, I'm sure punters will make do with the 'real' drinks on offer, highlights among them including an espresso martini and a refreshing paloma.
On the night us wannabe mixologists were kept relatively sober with a constant supply of tacos (the slow braised pork variety being my preference), tortillas, guacamole and their brilliant black beans, flavoured with avocado leaves. For lunch, I opted for the lighter Felipe's chicken salad, chicken braised in achiote, tomato and guajillo chillis.
This may look a little messy but it was tasty, filling and, I think, a bargain for £5.50. Anyway, Mexican food it all about getting involved, using your hands and should never be fancified in my opinion.
During the preview night I learned that a shot of tequila should not be chased by lime and salt, this only masks the flavour and causes that teeth on edge sensation from your mouth down to your tummy. It should instead be followed by a slice of cucumber, this makes the whole thing really rather pleasant and is definitely how I'll be enjoying that winning bottle of Tequilano.
Thanks to Sally of Relish PR and Ben for being excellent hosts. I was invited to attend the preview evening as a guest of Benito's Hat
19 New Row