How a Mexican restaurant made me regret moving:
The first flat I owned was in Abbeville Road. It wasn’t where I’d planned on being (I much preferred the beautiful Georgian houses in Clapham Old Town). But, my ‘Garden Flat’ (basement) had a wonderful open plan kitchen dining room and a big living room with a bay window. Best of all, it had a garden. Pear and apple trees, a 60 foot lawn, a patio for those all important barbecues and a tangle of shrubs and perennial flowers. I was sold in a few brief minutes of Estate Agent spiel and moved in, staying for almost ten years and discovering the joys of Abbeville Village.
What I hadn’t realised was that, even then (around 20 years ago) Abbeville Road had its own really rather good set of restaurants and bars. I loved living in the area, although most of what was there then has gone. And, I had a poignant sense of ‘It can’t possibly be as nice as it used to be’ when was invited to visit new Mexican restaurant Comensal. Of course there is no logical reason why it shouldn’t be. When I met owner John Sim and discovered he’d picked Abbeville Road because he too had a nostalgic memory of what a good area it was for ‘Neighbourhood Dining’, I felt quite reassured.
John met his partner Cati Bego in Mexico City. And, when he returned to London he quickly realised that there was nowhere selling the kind of fresh, contemporary Mexican food that he could find over there. He and Cati set out to create a menu of dishes which include Cati’s favourite Taco and Mole De Mi Mamá Con Pollo – their signature dish. – Cati’s mother’s recipe for home made Mole, served with seasoned chicken breast and Mexican red rice.
I do hope Mama forgives us for not trying the Mole. It was a ridiculously sticky lunchtime and even sitting outside on the terrace, my instinct was to pick salads and chilled dishes.
We both started with ceviche and a dish of guacamole and tortilla chips. There was a definite case of not reading the small print, we ordered two of a dish that was intended for sharing and consequently had a LOT of ceviche. Or maybe it was a freudian slip, I could happily have eaten another portion of the fresh, lime and coriander infused fish.
My companion’s Filete de Pescado had clearly come straight from the grill. It’s a fillet of seabass with a Chintextle sauce which is apparently a spicy savoury chilli paste hailing from Oaxaca, one of the southern coastal states of Mexico. I’m not sure he anticipated the generous portion of rice because he’d ordered an extra side of rice, while I’d picked a Mexican salad.
All in we were quite full by the time we reached dessert so we shared our Pastel de Elote, a traditional Mexican cake served with raspberry guajillo sauce. On first appearance I thought it was going to be a little heavy, but actually the corn made for a remarkably soft, moist texture that paired beautifully with the tangy raspberry sauce
Now, more than ever I regret leaving Abbeville Road. I doubt I’ll ever move back there simply because the type of property I want to own isn’t within my budget there. But, I do miss that ‘Village’ feeling. I’ve clearly been chatting to far too many Estate Agents.
And, I suspect that Comensal is just that little bit more than a neighbourhood restaurant. I’m certainly hoping to come back for more.