Tempus tries out Intercontinental's magical Mexican restaurant Ella Canta headed up by celebrity chef Martha Ortiz

By Scott Manson | 23 Jan 2018 | Indulge

One of London’s most traditional hotels has taken a gamble with its flagship restaurant. Is the capital ready for Mexican with a twist?

img tempus
* Ella Canta is Intercontinental's newest restaurant opening, headed up by celebrity chef Martha Ortiz

When you think of Park Lane hotels, certain words and phrases spring to mind: luxurious, certainly, but also staid, overly traditional and living on glories past. No one has namechecked the Met Bar as a hot spot for at least a decade and The Dorchester, although home to a fine French restaurant, is more dickie bows and ballrooms than cutting edge culinary goings-on. That’s why Ella Canta, the high-end Mexican restaurant set in the Intercontinental Hotel, has got London’s foodies all-a- flutter. The buzz about this place is ridiculous thanks to some seriously good reviews. Plus the fact that’s it’s helmed by celebrity chef Martha Ortiz, whose Mexico City restaurant, Dulce Patria, consistently ranks among Latin America’s best. An exuberant character, Ortiz is also a judge on Top Chef Mexico. >>

Related: Avenue's red-blooded menu brings a shot of Manhattan to St James

img tempus
* The octopus, one of the dishes on offer at Ella Canta

It’s this colourful, magical style that’s proved such a hit here at the concrete junction end of Park Lane. Like a wild flower pushing through the paving stones, Ella Canta is a beautiful anomaly and deserves to be huge success. From the floral-headpieced waitresses to the David Collins-designed space itself – complete with a 45-metre hand-carved walnut screen that runs the length of the restaurant – and the brilliantly eclectic mix of music soundtracking our night, this place combines good cooking with good times. Edible golden grasshoppers atop guacamole was an interesting opening, as was an unusual Mexican take on Caesar salad which featured grilled gem lettuce, fried anchovies, anchovy dressing, grated cheese and some spicy mayonnaise. The verdict around the table veered from ‘What the...?” to “I love it.”

Related: Five London restaurants that will make you want to go vegan

And it’s that sort of place. Even if you’re not sure about one dish, something to your taste is sure to follow. It’s like Russian roulette dining, but obviously better because no one dies. What we did all agree on was that the soft shell crab was a sublime dish, while the chunky, charred and ultra-tender beef fillet – served with black chichilo and aubergine – was the standout of the night. There are plenty of desserts to tempt you too, but save yourself time and just order the churros – a doughy, caramel, chocolatey affair that your taste buds will thank you for. Ella Canta: putting the fun back in hotel fine dining, one golden grasshopper at a time. 

Read more in the new issue of Tempus, available now 

img tempus
* Ella Canta's interior is as dreamy as the menu