Freshly opened in Covent Garden’s Maiden Lane, El Nivel has a curious entrance. Only a single blackboard announces its presence next to a similar restaurant called La Perla, which also is based on featuring Mexican cuisine. A small bit of research reveals that they are part of the same group of restaurants. So what is the difference?
Looking at the different menus, it seems that La Perla, a bar and grill, offers the standard Mexican fare of quesadillas, fajitas and burritos. El Nivel seems that bit more upmarket. Its menu has a greater intrigue and its bar is stocked with a glittering array of tequilas and mescals. The interior is that little bit more elevated than downstairs with a more relaxed feel to the place.
The laid-back atmosphere extends to the food with sharing plates making up the bulk of the menu. My companion and I picked out four from the newly put together menu. Our choices were the pequeno mensaje del cielo, enmoladas de pollo, chuletas de cordero and tostadas de Atun ‘Luzia’. If that all seems a little overwhelming, we were helped in our decision making by the knowledgeable staff who were able to break everything down, taking into account our particularities of taste and tolerance for capsaicin.
The pequeno mensaje del cielo were open plan tacos, with chicken, chili and ginger. Whilst an interesting spin on a traditional dish, it fell between a taco and fajita without being able to provide the captivation of either. Much better was the enmoladas de pollo, lime marinated chicken combined with goat’s cheese in a sauce of roasted pineapple, chili and tomatillo. This was a luxurious dish with the rich sauce complimented by the simplicity of the goat’s cheese.
Another highlight were the chuletas de cordero, lamb cutlets with Chimichurri salsa. The meat had a vibrancy to it and was rounded off by the piquancy of the salsa. My companion was a little perplexed by the tostadas de Atun ‘Luzia’, raw yellowfin tuna served on crispy corn tortillas, served with smoked chili cream sauce and toasted hazelnuts, but I found it a very sophisticated and well put together dish.
Whilst the emphasis at El Nivel is one of refined Mexican food, it is not reflected in the price and you can get very well fed at less than £20 per person. The excellent value for money should then allow you a certain leeway with the cocktail menu. A particular highlight was Autumn Leaves, sharing many of the same qualities as the food; fresh ingredients, well combined and excellently presented.
28 Maiden Lane
Tel: 020 7240 7075