Itâ€™s not exactly Mayfair but Elephant and Castle is on the up. Theyâ€™re extending the Bakerloo Line so it wonâ€™t be a dead end, there are rumours of the shopping centre finally being redeveloped and there are flats going up at every turn.
So Paladar, a new Latin American restaurant, just a short stroll from that chaotic roundabout at E&C, is a great addition for all those new tenants. The dining room is reassuringly rough and ready; no posh design team has been in. Just the owners with a paint brush, some freestanding lamps and a couple of dark grey table clothes.
We start with green plantain crisps and a citrusy guacamole (Â£7). The citrus element is noteworthy – it zings far more than your usual guac. Chunks of crispy pork belly (Â£6.50) sit in a super sweet sriacha reduction. The blend of salt, sugar and fat here being a marvellous thing.
Sea bass ceviche (Â£10) is made even livelier with passion fruit. Itâ€™s sharp, tangy; a taste of summer. Seared prawns (Â£8.50) sit atop crisp blue corn tortillas and below a mango salsa. This is seriously tasty stuff.
Itâ€™s easy to see why grilled octopus with tempura breadfruit (Â£18.50) is their signature dish; the tentacles are cooked perfectly. Grilled chicken skewers (Â£8.50) are less successful. Thereâ€™s flavour aplenty but the chick is a touch on the dry side.
Cuban confit pork and tortillas (Â£16.50) has a touch of the El Pastor about it. Itâ€™s a DIY job, we stuff the small tortillas with the soft, fatty pork, some habanero chilli and pineapple salsa and sit back in delight.
Heritage tomatoes (Â£6.50) are of the highest quality. Theyâ€™re all soft and squishy, drenched in decent olive oil and sprinkled with mint.
For pud, we share blue corn churros (Â£6.70) which are harder than your usual doughnut-esque version. It means they are perfect for scooping up the coffee dulce de leche and the chocolate sauce.
Eating at Paladar felt like weâ€™d stumbled across a hidden gem of a restaurant in an unknown area while on holiday. Itâ€™s not a polished multimillion pound opening but the food is vibrant and exciting and thereâ€™s charm in abundance.
Would we go back? Yes
We dined as guests of the restaurant