If you have been daring enough to dive into the slinkier areas of Amsterdam, you will recognise the raunchy exterior of Bonita’s in Southsea as something that promises pleasure, laced with a twinge of guilt; alas, this neon-lit, enigmatic building lures drooling customers inside by offering an entirely different type of taco.
My first attempt to dine at Bonita’s was on a Wednesday; they offer an incredibly generous 50% off all food when you purchase a drink; with this in mind, you can understand why it was impossible to get a table, especially as it works on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
The second, and successful attempt, was early Friday evening – again, we were unable to book, so opted for an earlier sitting in hope that we would miss the rush.
Entering Bonita’s is like stepping through the pages of an 80s top-shelf magazine, whether or not it was the intention, they have managed to create the Playboy Mansion of Mexican food, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
A vibrant pink hue penetrates the air, with impressively unique, floral arrangements dangling from the ceilings; it is Avatar gone feminist, even a trip to the lavatory offers temptation to take a selfie in an old-fashioned telephone box.
We arrived early enough to take advantage of ‘happy hour’ with 241 cocktails; I decided to go for the Paloma – a tequila and grapefruit combination that was both refreshing, whilst offering a sour kick that had me sitting upright in my chair from the first sip.
My friend chose the watermelon margarita, a fruity twist on a classic, and the perfect palate cleanser for an evening of heavy eating!
Our server was friendly, attentive and more than happy to explain the menu to a dimwit like myself, who was confused by the amount of food one would require to experience ultimate dining fulfilment.
We ordered a variety of dishes on the pretence that this was a tapas-styled menu, if eateries such as Wahaca were anything to by, then my expectations were along the lines of bitesized tacos and quesadillas that would leave even the tiniest of tummies on the scrounge for seconds, taking this into consideration, we selected four taco plates and two quesadillas, taking it as the chance to try as much as possible.
The food, as you would expect, comes out as it is ready, rather than in one go, so as the first plate of chicken quesadillas and burnt end beef tacos hit the table, I realised that we may have over-ordered.
These full-portioned plates were bursting with colours, from the bright greens of the pea shoots decorating the chicken, to the bright red drizzled over the beef brisket and fresh chopped chillis lingering on the side.
I’ve had a real thing about halloumi recently, so it was a no-brainer to order these. It was just the right amount of filling, and the battered halloumi was beautifully cooked, with a real ‘melt in the mouth’ texture, rather than an unpleasant rubbery result, beautifully completed with the chipotle sauce, that added a welcome kick.
The only taco that I struggled with was the Chifa duck; I found the meat quite tough, whilst the hibiscus reduction, spring onions and cucumber, caused the taco itself to become soggy – the contrasting textures made it quite difficult to eat – could possibly work better if the duck was shredded, but the taste itself was still fantastic, I would perhaps, personally, just opt to try something else from their extensive menu on my next visit.
All in all, a really delicious, memorable dinner that offered a variety of exciting dishes and flavours, and offered a real opportunity to pick a favourite!
Obviously, you can’t indulge in that much food without leaving room for dessert, so we grabbed some churros to share. I find churros can be a bit temperamental, having that bite on the outside and keeping the fluffiness on the inside without it turning chewy, but these were perfect, PLUS, they are offered as a sharing board for only £10, which is a fantastic idea for a bigger group looking for a sweet treat to munch on.
I highly recommend Bonita’s if you are looking for a taste of something different. Not only is the food great, the entire experience is one that will stick with you, and have you recommending to friends time and time again. I would suggest trying your luck for a table during one of their many mid-week offer nights, from Taco Tuesdays, to 50% off Wednesdays.
I look forward to returning and eating my way through the remainder of their exciting menu.