Restaurant Review: El Sombrero Mexican restaurant

By - Friday 30th October, 2015

Despite cocktails and sombreros, Joy Akwue-Butler was left feeling that the party never quite took off

28 High Street, Croydon CR0 1QH

Time from East Croydon:  8 minutes

El Sombrero restaurant.
Photo author’s own.

It has been some time since I last did a restaurant review; over the summer I took a bit of a break! But before my daughter Jasmine headed back to university, I thought I would invite her and her partner James to join me for a meal at El Sombrero. So, on Friday 28th August, we made a booking for three people.

Above the door of the restaurant is a sign proclaiming: ‘Let’s party!’ I was glad that I had come with some young people, although when we entered we noticed that it was occupied by mixed groups of people of differing ages.

Photo author’s own.

Having been shown to our table by one of the friendly waitresses, we thought we would start our evening with cocktails, so Jas and I both ordered a piña colada (£3.75). As James was driving, he decided to opt for the non-alcoholic virgin banana – bananas, coconut, pineapple juice and Grenadine (£2.95). The cocktails were reasonably priced, but they probably used cheap ingredients as the piña colada didn’t have the rich creamy taste that I would expect – but it did have a lot of alcohol!

Classic cheese nachos.
Photo author’s own.

Our waitress came to take our order and I asked her what she would recommend. She replied that she couldn’t really say, as she had just recently started working there! So I went for a typical Mexican starter of classic cheese nachos – tortilla chips with salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole (£3.85). Jas went for the chicken goujons – tender strips of chicken coated in crispy herb breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with BBQ dip (£3.95). James ordered some garlic bread with cheese (£3.25).

I enjoyed my cheese nachos, which I shared as they’d given me a generous portion. They were tasty, although the salsa was slightly lacking in flavour. James received three slices of cheesy garlic bread, which he enjoyed. But Jasmine was disappointed with her starter – the chicken goujons came with a salad that looked limp and was served with no dressing, and the goujons were not consistent in taste; the first piece tasted quite nice but the last one tasted processed and unpleasant.

We were offered sombreros to wear, to get us into the party spirit

Nina, a waitress who has worked at El Sombrero for a number of years, told us that the restaurant has been running for more than a decade. She was able to assist us in our main menu choices as we were all unsure what to order. Jasmine opted for the enchiladas – flour tortillas filled with chicken, topped with salsa and cheese, which are then baked and served with rice and salad (£9.50). James chose the BBQ honey ribs with chilli wings – a half rack of ribs dripping in honey BBQ sauce, with spicy chilli chicken wings (£9.95). I went for the chicken fajitas – a construct-your-own dish of warm flour tortillas, served with griddled chicken strips, mild peppers and onions, grated cheese and dips (£10.95).

Mexican hats!
Photo author’s own.

While we waited for our main course to arrive, we ordered another round of cocktails! We were also offered sombreros to wear, to get us into the party spirit. The music that was playing in the background was actually quite good; they played a cross-section of music that catered to most tastes. I bumped into some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, who admitted that they often frequent El Sombrero for their cheap cocktails!

Chicken fajitas.
Photo author’s own.

Eventually our main courses arrived. Again Jasmine was disappointed with her dish, feeling it lacked spice and flavour. The rice may have been coloured red but it tasted like plain rice and she said the whole dish was ‘nothing special’. On the other hand, James really enjoyed his BBQ ribs; he said they were well cooked and full of flavour but not too strong or overpowering. He didn’t eat the chips as he felt they lacked seasoning and tasted a bit bland. My fajitas arrived with four tortillas and a few thin slices of chicken which were slightly over-cooked. But once the chicken was wrapped up with the rest of the accompaniments they tasted reasonably okay!

El Sombrero is more Mexican-themed than authentic Mexican

I visited the ladies toilets, but was not impressed with the general cleanliness.

El Sombrero is more Mexican-themed rather than being a truly authentic Mexican restaurant. But if you don’t mind basic surroundings and food, you do get to eat in a friendly, relaxed party atmosphere and I imagine it would be a good place for hen and stag nights. Unfortunately, it won’t be somewhere I will be rushing back to in a hurry.

Joy Akwue-Butler

Joy Akwue-Butler

Joy Akwue-Butler works as the Operations Manager for IKM TeckChek Europe whose UK office is based in Croydon. She has lived and worked in the area for over 20 years. She currently lives in Caterham with her partner and has one daughter – Jasmine. Joy loves eating good food and enjoys socialising!

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  • Anne Giles

    Thanks for the tip! Actually, we rarely go to Mexican restaurants, as virtually everything has either cheese or wheat, which I can’t eat.