I was fooled by the promotional signs of £2.99 dinner deals and a milkshake bar that claimed their frozen fruit was fresh on Holloway Road – anybody would. And so I was fooled by the pedestrians who did not look the type to care much about food – many of them headed for fried chicken. So, when my other bib nudged me in the morning for brunch at El Rincon Quiteno, I was far from being convinced anything would turn out to be decent. I gave it a go on the basis that my recent food detour to Holloway Road – Cigansky Ray and Tibilisi – had been satisfying.
Zero expectation. Zero appetite..
El Rincon Quiteno is a Bolivian/Ecuadorian deli but they also serve freshly prepared hot dishes. There was a massive display of cooked dishes to be re-heated in the oven and on the walls it was a hall of frames celebrating the man behind El Rincon’s success. Low-key ambiance at my time of visit, I must say, and marked only by a few drowsy diners waking up for their cure of caffeine, baked beans and jacket potatoes. Those were, of course, not the highlight of El Rincon. The ‘kitchen’ menu – very Latin American – was extensive and I did have problems choosing dishes, with unfamiliar terminologies and also the knowledge that the portion would be large.
I resolved for three starters to share: Saltenas, Tortilla and Yucca Frita. The Saltenas was a pasty of chicken, potato, onion, egg and pea filling. Very substantial and packed with flavours, making the burn on the top forgivable. The Tortilla came as if a gateau – beautiful layers of thickly sliced potatoes and eggs. It was more rustic than, say, the one at Barrafina, and pre-prepared to be pinged in a microwave, but it was a lot more noble than the serving at Moro and Morito. I did not finish it, feeling like saving room for my main course. The Yucca Frita was the only thing made fresh from the kitchen. It was like chunky chips but more dry and grainy. Flavour-wise, it was delectably sweet. The outside was very crispy and greaseless – at this point I knew there would be more great things to come. *licking lips*
There was a long pause between the starters and the mains, which was understandable as the guy who took the order from the whole dining room also happened to be our chef. I took my time – looking out at Holloway Road. Was I making this sound very tranquil? Could this street be described so? But, I insist there was peacefulness of sort. And then my Picante de Lengua – described as a casserole of tongue, served on a bed of rice – arrived. BIG!! This was a tomato-based stew of ox tongue with peas. It was good. The tongue slices were tender and the stew appetising and with some bit of heat.
My other bib’s main was, well, BIGGER. It was this typically South American plate of many things – braised kidney beans, deep-fried pork belly, Chorizo, fried egg, avocado, pancake, plantains – called Bandeja Paisa. The beans were flavoursome. Chunks of meat in the chorizo instead of everything being blended and encased. The plantain was served two ways: fried and as fritters. And the pork – THAT! – was deep fried. Crispy outside and nicely cooked inside, but this method of deep frying the whole thing at once makes the pork a bit more chewy.
And no – to answer your question – my other half couldn’t finish it!
We did not ask for cakes. Blime me who would, after all that food! On reflection, El Rinco Quiteno is like West-End favourite Canela. Just that El Rinco does better food at more reasonably priced and relies a bit less on microwave. A few minutes after the meal we found ourselves at a Russian convenient store up Holloway Road. Great place for snooping about for good Georgian wine.
And if anybody insists there is no great things on Holloway Road, I will strongly disagree.
My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
EL RINCON QUITENO
235 Holloway Road
Tel. 020 7700 3670