Food review: Bodega Cantina, providing flavours and spices from South America in Birmingham's city centre
I have been on the search for good quality Mexican food, with tacos to eat to my heart’s content, and I had been pointed in the direction of Bodega Cantina in Birmingham.
Bodega Cantina is based on Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, right around the corner from Birmingham New Street, which is makes it quite easy to get to and with many other bars and restaurants in the area, the vibes around the place on a Saturday evening on ‘payday weekend’ were immense, with everyone in a jolly mood ready to enjoy good food and drinks.
The restaurant is not huge, but is intimate with the interior impressively decorated with posters and landmarks from all around South America hanging on the walls.
According to its website, Bodega Cantina is a South American-inspired neighbourhood cantina and cocktail bar, and throughout my evening there, one thing I can confirm, is that the cocktails are fabulous. I tried an array of margaritas, all made with different flavours, and yet they all tasted exactly how a margarita should do, with good quality tequila.
As I mentioned above, I have been on the search for good quality tacos, more specifically beef birria tacos. After watching endless amount of videos on TikTok and Instagram of people cooking the tacos, I was craving some myself, and so I was very pleased to find Mexican beef birria tacos on the menu.
There is an array of options, and with my nut allergy, I was pleased to be given full information on what I could and could not eat, as well as being offered a vegan menu which also has a great selection.
To start with, I fell into the temptation of the freshly made tortilla nachos, topped with cheesy goodness, sour cream, salsa, guacamole and jalapenos. To accompany the nachos, I went for more spicy, cheesy goodness by ordering the Mexican Jalapos, which are breaded spicy jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and are served with chipotle mayo.
Spoiler alert – the Mexican jalapos are without doubt my favourite item on the menu, and I could eat dozens!
The freshly fried breaded jalapeno peppers were so, so good, I could not stop myself from biting into them despite them being piping hot, burning my mouth each time – but the combination of the cream cheese and the jalapeno was a combination to die for, and as I said, my favourite thing I ate that evening.
Moving onto the nachos, they were equally as tasty, and as described on the menu, they are freshly made tortilla nachos, with a spread of seasoning that made them so moreish, I could have sat there eating just nachos and jalapos.
The cheese sauce was slightly cold which wasn’t great, and I think had it been hot as I imagine it should have been, it would made the taste even better.
The guacamole and salsa were a delight to go along with the nachos, as they were perfectly spiced, to give a little kick that made for a pleasant combination.
All in all, I was impressed with the starters, and the portion sizes too, with more than enough for myself and my partner.
Moving onto mains, there are lots of options, ranging from quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, as well as a variety of large plate options and even sharing plates, giving diners a wide selection of mains to pick from.
We chose to pick bits from three different items, including the beef birria tacos, slow roasted Dr Pepper marinated pork quesadillas, and the sharing plate of the chicharrones de pollo, which is a Puerto Rican fried chicken dish.
I was here for the tacos, and I will start with them. Strangely, all of their tacos are served with blue corn tortillas, which I’m not a fan of, I prefer traditional tortillas, and so we were not off to a great start. The dish comes all separated, and so you build the taco yourself, adding the meat, salsa, guacamole and lime.
After combining the beef brisket with salsa, guacamole and sour cream into my blue corn tortilla, I was slightly underwhelmed.
The beef brisket was reasonably marinated, but it lacked a punch.
Having been disappointed with the tacos, there was slight redemption with the other two dishes, especially the pork quesadillas, which were marinated well, and the pork was incredibly tasty, combined with the cheese, peppers and onions, winning me back.
The Puerto Rican fried chicken was exactly that, fried chicken. Tasty mind, and not just a typical KFC type chicken, but there was a lot more flavour to the breading and the crispiness could be heard when brushing my cutlery against it – again, another dish that helped following the disappointment of the tacos.
All in all, the food at Bodega Cantina has great potential, and I feel that it is almost there. I would definitely recommend a visit, and to try for yourselves, as I was quite pleased with the starters and most of the main dishes, but the tacos can and should be a lot better.
Finishing off the evening, we tried the ultimate churros, which comes with dulce de leche sauce, dark chocolate sauce, two servings of vanilla ice cream, and according to the menu, should have been topped with cinnamon sugar, as churros normally are, yet my churros were missing the cinnamon sugar.
That was a minor issue but still not great. The churros themselves were great, crispy and made fresh, and one thing I look out when eating churros is making sure they are fried well, so that the inside is not mushy but crispy.
No one likes a mushy churro, and thankfully these were crispy, and combined with the two dipping sauces, made for a decent dessert.
My verdict on the whole experience is that it is not far off being a great restaurant with good tasting food, but falls slightly short.
Would I visit again? Probably, yes. Me and my partner both joked that we would happily come to eat the Mexican jalapos, nachos along with their margaritas, and would happily leave. They were our favourite items, and I would honestly go back just for the jalapos and nachos.
12 Bennetts Hill
Ultimate sharer nachos (serves 4) - £13.95
Mexican Jalapos - £5.50
Chicharrones de Pollo - £7.25
Slow Roasted Dr Pepper Marinated Pork quesadillas - £7.25
Mexican Beef Birria tacos - £9.50
Halloumi tacos - £6.50