The Walpole Daily Practice | Dining in with Ella Canta

Georges Mikes, in his 1946 book, How to Be an Alien, wrote “On the continent, people have good food; in England, they have good table manners”. That may have been true more than 70 years ago – maybe even 20 years ago – but I would argue that, until the Great Shutdown of 20th March, one could eat better, and certainly with greater variety, in Britain than anywhere else in the world. I am sure I’m not alone in making a mental list of all my favourite London restaurants, counting the days until we’re once more able to go out to eat, not only for the food, but for the scene.

This week it’s the memory of a peerless dinner eaten a year or so ago at Ella Canta that’s been making my mouth water. Designed for iconic Mexican chef Martha Ortiz at the Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane by David Collins Studios – I’ve yet to find somewhere DCS has had a hand in that I didn’t fall in love with at first sight – Ella Canta was described, entirely accurately in my experience – by critic Grace Dent as ‘a Frida Kahlo Cacti-strewn dreamscape’.

Dreams are not all we have: Ella Canta has kindly shared the recipes for two of the things I loved most when I was there so we can make them at home: guacamole nationalista and classic margarita. In the restaurant, the guacamole is served with a gilded grass-hopper: these are in sadly short supply in West London, but I’m assured its absence won’t ruin the experience, and a properly made Margarita is one of the most refreshing and uplifting of cocktails  (do stick the glasses in the freezer for a bit before you salt the rims and serve). As Grace Dent says, “Ortiz’s schtick is a breathless blend of Templo Mayor high drama, wild-hearted swagger and magic realism” and after one or two of her Margaritas, you’ll understand exactly why Ella Canta should be high on your restaurant ‘book-it’ list come Autumn.

Guacamole nationalista

INGREDIENTS
[Serves 6-8]
One medium brown onion, chopped
Fresh lime juice, to taste
5-6 avocados
100g coriander, chopped
90g Serrano chilli pepper, chopped and seeded, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Pomegranate seeds, to taste
Requesón (white moist cheese—the Mexican version of ricotta) [Walpole:with the current shopping restrictions Requesón can be hard to find: it’s not the main attraction in the recipe, so substitute ricotta or cottage cheese to give a fresh, slightly salty tang]
Corn tortillas, cut in triangles and fried, on the side or maíz tostadas

Method
Soak the onion in lime juice for half an hour, and then drain
Carefully mash the avocado in a bowl or molcajete (a traditional lava-stone mortar with pestle)
Add the coriander, onion and chilli
Season with salt and pepper
Serve the guacamole in an elegant plate and decorate with the pomegranate seeds, the requesón cheese and the tortilla triangles

The Ella Canta Classic Margarita

INGREDIENTS
40ml Patrón Silver Tequila
20ml Cointreau Orange Liqueur
20ml Fresh lime juice

Method
Prepare your glass by running a wedge of lime around half of the rim and dip into salt
Combine the Tequila, Cointreau and lime juice in a cocktail shaker
Add a handful of ice cubes
Close and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds
Strain into an elegant glass
Add a slice of lime to garnish

www.ellacanta.com

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