Mexican dining to put a smile on your face!
A Firm Favourite
Carlito Burrito is one of my favourite places to eat in Brighton, and I’m certain I‘m not alone. From their £5 lunchtime burrito deal, to their authentic range of Mexican street food to share, not to mention their fabulous cocktails. It’s the most colourful place to stop for a bite around London Road, by far, and it radiates cool! The staff are laid back, so don’t expect anything else, just get comfy and take in the atmosphere. There is no end of stimulation for the senses at Carlito Burrito and it begins as soon as you walk through the door.
I have eaten here many times, but I’m no less excited about my meal tonight. We are gradually greeted by the happy waiting staff, who are all smiles and chilled vibes. They let us sit anywhere we like, they’re easy, it’s early and we’re some of the first diners to arrive. I expect this to change and so do they as they gear themselves up behind the bar.
A Vast Array of Drinks
It’s hard not to drink at Carlito Burrito. There is such an amazing array of cocktails, Mexican craft beers and a dedicated Mezcales menu to boot. Mezcales is distilled from maguey, a species of agave plant and has a very meticulous method to it. I read about this on the menu. Intrigued as we are to try a Mezcal, longer drinks in the form of the Chilli and Coconut Mojito (fresh chilli, lime, mint and Koko Kanu – £8) and the Coriander Margarita (El Jimador Tequila, triple sec, agave, fresh coriander and lime juice – £7.50) beckon. Two traditional cocktails with a Mexican twist. I ask for my Margarita with little to no sugar syrup and our waiter is happy to oblige.
Sharing Street Food
Carlito Burrito does great burritos – clue’s in the name – but that’s not all they do. And if you are happy to settle in for a bit and spend a little more money, the Mexican street food dishes to share are a fantastic way to sink your teeth into much more of this glorious cuisine! As massive fan of the sharing plate culture and of street food, I can’t recommend this menu enough.
You are advised to choose two or three ‘Street Food’ dishes per person and there is also the ‘Light Bites’ and ‘Sides’ to consider too. Wanting to immerse ourselves in this menu as much as possible in one sitting, we decide on a selection of five dishes to share, picking from all three of these sections.
Mexican Twists on Classic Cocktails
During all the deliberating, our cocktails arrive. The one with the whole chilli in it catches my eye immediately, but I know it’s not mine – watch out, drink envy! One sip of my bespoke Coriander Margarita however and I’m content. Refreshing, tart, not at all too sweet… I could drink these all night.
As a bit of a chilli fiend, it goes without saying that I ‘help’ my partner along with his too. I have to say that this is a clever concoction indeed. Beautifully balanced, with a real kick.
This is the kind of cocktail that you remember!
The first of the dishes brought to our table is the ‘Chilli Butter Fried Greens’ (£2.95) from the Sides selection. This is an ample dish of green beans and leaves, glistening with the butter they have been cooked in. I’m sure this is not the healthiest way to enjoy a dish of greens, but it might be the best. The greens have bite and are seasoned perfectly; the chilli is subtle but gives this dish a bit of edge.
The second dish is comfort food perfection; cos is anything else as satisfying as deep fried halloumi? It’s all about the batter and Carlito Burrito do it so well. Their ‘Hallouminati’ (£4.50) Light Bite dish is made with ‘Negra Modelo’ (Mexican beer) batter and ‘squishy’ halloumi and served with a chipotle relish dip. All harmoniously working together – big wedges of crispy light batter, over rich salty cheese, dipped in spicy smoky chipotle sauce.
Back by Popular Demand
At this point we pause to consider that maybe our eyes are bigger than our tummies. Though, all is forgotten when dish number three makes its grand entrance. Back by popular demand ‘Octopussy’ (£7.50) also from the Light Bites is clearly a favourite amongst Carlito Burrito’s loyal cliental. And I can see why!
Octopus chunks, chorizo and black beans in a ranchera sauce and served with totopos to dig in and scoop it all up with. This dish has got it all. The octopus is cooked perfectly; the chorizo is tender and juicy; the sauce is rich, spiced well, and full of flavour. The crisp like totopos make a wonderful pairing; these super crunchy, edible spoons make this dish playful and great for sharing.
In all honesty, one more dish would have been enough… but we’ve got two coming. ‘Maria Sabina Mushroom Quesadilla’ (£7.75) and ‘Pork Pibil’ (£7). Both dishes were picked from the Street Food menu and both quintessentially Mexican; even if you know nothing about Mexican food, you will almost certainly have heard of quesadilla.
The Pork Pibil looks beautifully appetizing on rustic board; two round, flat, open tortillas with generous amounts of pork ‘filling’ plopped on top and decorated with lines of chipotle sour cream. The tortilla themselves have a distinct consistency, flavour and appearance, maybe it’s because they’re made from corn, but either way it works. The pulled pork shoulder, in achiote lime and orange juice is divine. Each bite is a flavour explosion, mixed up with pickled habanero onions and chipotle sour cream. This is a really tasty dish.
The mushroom quesadilla is much more subtle flavour wise, but is a good solid dish for the less adventurous diner. And let’s face it, every menu needs offerings of this kind. Having said that, the guacamole is great and the salsa is super refreshing after the richness of our other dishes. The garlic and thyme lift the dish and even with the cheese, this seems lighter than the others somehow. But for a spice lover like me, a hotter side sauce is in order and it’s good to know there are several additional sauces you can order at Carlito Burrito, should you want to introduce a bit more heat (50p/90p each).
Seriously Satisfying Dessert
In the name of ‘review’ we ask to see the dessert menu. The selection is modest. It’s likely that few diners feel the need to further indulge after a night eating and drinking at Carlito Burrito, but we have the perfect excuse. The ‘warm chilli and cinnamon brownie’ served with a cinnamon, orange and Mezcal gelato seems to have everything covered. It sounds incredibly formidable and looks just that.
It is super chocolatey with a fantastic chilli kick and wonderful warming cinnamon notes. It oozes as we tuck in, which is seriously satisfying. The orange and Mezcal ice cream is boozy and creamy and fits the brownie like a glove. It brings the richness of this dessert down a notch and at the same time it adds its own flavour twist. My partner declares this is the best brownie he has ever had!
You’ve probably guessed it, but I love Carlito Burrito. It’s fun; it’s colourful; it’s chilled; the food is authentic and interesting; the menu is well thought out with plenty of memorable smash hit dishes; whatever mood you’re in; and whatever you want to spend.
In short, restaurants like this make me happy, so if you haven’t been yet… go! And let Carlitto Burrito colour your day and put a big smile on your face!