Cactus Blue, Fulham Road SW3
6HR Tel:020 7823 7858
Susie Rowbottom takes
a tequila or two in her stride
Deep cedar green
Golden edged hue
Shades of silver
Blue is located at the quietly
fashionable end of the Fulham Road,
glass-fronted and sophisticated.
Beyond the impressive facade there
is a magnificent under-lit marble
bar, around which one can perch
on springy bar stools and happily
spend an hour enjoying a bottle
of rather good house wine (La Croix
Blanc Vin de Pays d'Oc, £9.75),
or sip cocktails (Champagne Cocktail, £5.25).
The lighting in the evening is
subdued and relaxing, the ambience
warm and soothing, reminiscent
of the desert after sundown. An
Indian artist from Santa Fe was
responsible for the stylish decor,
using native American artefacts,
paintings and fabrics. The look
is modern ethnic - there's attractive
ironwork including a fabulous gem-studded
chandelier and a balconied upper
restaurant area around the square
bar giving a lofty feel. The cosy
restaurant downstairs is buzzy
without being noisy, full of desert
tones and burnished copper glinting
in the candlelight - all adding
up to plenty of atmosphere.
You can be guaranteed that you
have never seen a menu quite like
this before, and you may need guidance,
which the waiter will be happy
to give. The food is eclectic,
New Mexico meets Europe interpreted
by Chef Andrew Barber, who
trained under celebrity chef Nico
Landenis. He used to be at The
Fulham Road, which gives the clue
that this is no fast food joint.
Faced with a delicious choice
of appetizers with unfamiliar names
(quesadillas and tamales, for instance),
we were relieved to be given a
selection to try. All the food
looked as amazing as it sounded, Tamales come
wrapped in a decoratively sculpted
maize husk. Cactus Blue do all
their own home curing, and the
Tequila Cured Wild Salmon with
Potato Flour Tortilla, Creme Fraiche
and Black Caviar, (£5.25)
was sublime. Amongst the quesadillas
(a sort of stuffed pancake) is
a fascinating sounding Roast Squash,
Peppers and Jack Cheese version,
with Chile, Lime and Sour Cream
Dip (£4.75) - truly delicious.
I would have liked to try some
Cactus Blue Mussels with Vera Cruz
Salsa (£4.95) or the equally
exoctic Blackwater Crab Stack,
Papaya Salsa, Ginger and Flat Parsley
Jus (£5.95) but I forged on
to the main course.
I plumped for Pumpkin Seed Crusted
Tuna with Spiced Mashed Potato,
Crispy Onion Rings, Smoked Mango
and Corn Salsa (£11.95) -
not a dish for the faint-hearted!
I was assured the tuna would be
pink - it wasn't, but this was
the only disappointment, I never
knew mashed potato could be this
exciting. My companion had a Grilled
Chicken Fajita with Smoked Peppers
and Black Beans (£11.95).
Tortillas came attractively wrapped
in a banana leaf, with little pots
of sour cream, tomato salsa and
guacamole, and the dish involved
a fair amount of dexterity for
the self-assembly, but the spicy
result was worth it.
The wine list definitely veers
towards the New World, so feeling
in the mood for experimentation
we went for a white from Mexico
(Baja California Fumé Blanc, £14.00),
which was a fragrant, well-balanced
accompaniment to the robust flavours
of the food: we had chosen well!
From the dessert menu (all at £4.25)
I opted for Slow Baked Tamarillos
with Mascarpone and Biscotti. I
was told that tamarillos are a
sort of tree tomato from Brazil,
they tasted like a sharp, bittersweet
plum - perfect if, like me, you
don't care for over-sweet puddings.
The classic Key Lime Pie, by comparison,
was for the sweet-toothed. For
chocaholics there is a Mocha-Chocolate
and Pecan Tart, which might also
have tempted me.
Cactus Blue pride themselves on
their selection of 40 sipping tequilas
- these are aged for four to six
years and infused with flavours
such as aniseed, so you don't have
to slug them down in one gulp.
We risked one each as a digestif
- Herraduro Anejo (£4.50)
and Perfidio Crock (£6.50).
The latter has been aged in oak
barrels for six years, with a resulting
smoothness that I wouldn't normally
associate with tequila. Worth trying.
The service was very good, appropriately
latin and not at all obsequious.
The average cost of a three-course
dinner for two with wine came to
a little under £60 - extremely
good value when you fancy something
a little different.
Susie Rowbottom, 23 February
Cactus Blue, 86 Fulham Road,
London SW3 6HR Tel:020 7823 7858