15th February 2023
El Mariachi is a Mexican themed restaurant and bar in Tonbridge, just around the corner from the library and main high street, with its eclectic mix of independents eateries and famous Tonbridge School, one of the leading boys’ boarding schools in the country.
By day the restaurant is frequented by shoppers and locals looking for a tex-mex fix, rather than a quick sandwich. By night it turns into a vibrant party venue, where large groups come out celebrating birthdays and special occasions, usually donning sombreros. I am visiting a good friend who happens to work in the town and decide to wander down the road to have some lunch. She says everybody loves the place and it is very popular for work parties and family celebrations. They also offer a complimentary glass of Sangria or Margarita to TN members
when ordering a main dish, Monday to Friday.
The first thing I notice is the bright colour scheme, almost reminiscent of a certain Warner Bros cartoon and deliberately so. The drinks list is vast, covering two pages. A wide choice of cocktails, Contemporary, Tropical, Mexican, Creamies, Non-Alcoholic and Mariachi specials. There’s tequila, beer, margaritas, ice teas, including a Long Island and Jack Daniel’s version. Sangria which I opt for with merlot, vodka and brandy is a seriously strong one. They also do a Rosé version. It would be nice to have fresh fruit in it but its good all the same.
Five whites, five reds, three sparkling, including Moet & Chandon and Saloon bubbly Prosecco. Fancy a martini, they have four including espresso and their own gin martini with lime, fresh mint, cucumber, sugar syrup, London Soho gin and fresh lime juice. Phew I think I covered it all!
The menu is split into starters and tapas. Choose three starters for £13 or £5.45 each. I’m saving myself for the larger plates of which you can have three for £16 or £6.45 each. They have garlic breads, beef chilli samplers, corn on the cob, Cajun mushrooms, grilled halloumi with jalapeño jelly and classic quesadillas. I choose potato skins which are crispy and loaded with bacon and cheese. You can have sour cream and Pico Degallo or Mexican chilli and sour cream if you want. Note to self, I should have brought my friend as the portions are definitely designed to
From the larger plates I choose Piri-Piri chicken skewers drizzled with the above sauce. Following that spicy prawns and chorizo. It says I’ll be left wanting more and am therefore excited to find out if that’s true. Then panco’d calamari, just because I love it, served with salad, lemon and
They have a big choice of nachos here with a multitude of dips, the usual favourites, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, re-fried beans and chilli hummus. You can order the nachos for two in a classic, beef, chicken or chorizo and olives and they even have sweet potato versions with melted cheese, jalapeño and the same classic, beef, chicken and chorizo and olives offerings. There is something for everyone.
The music is kitch, the customers are regular. This seems to be a very well-known place, considering it is not on the main high street, but it is situated between several other eating establishments on this quiet road. I would recommend coming with an empty belly as you will most certainly leave with a full one.
I really enjoy the plump prawns and chorizo, swimming in a great sauce with a nice sweet chilli hit. I find myself dunking my potato skins and fat calamari rings into it too, its good stuff. I like the little salads on the side as well, especially the dressing and refreshing lettuce and sweetcorn. I leave the shredded carrots, you know how I hate them!
As I eat I hear the owners on the phone confirming large party bookings, whilst welcoming yet more regulars in who have ordered takeaways. I am sure their popularity continues to grow by word of mouth as their social media is relatively quiet.
Do I have room for dessert? Of course I do, but I have a re-think and ask my friend to join me just so I can share some churros without feeling guilty. They come with gooey chocolate sauce and we partake of a latte to wash them down. They have six desserts in total, a cheesecake of the week, chocolate fudge cake, sorbets and a special banana and cajeta chimichanga, accompanied by fried ice cream, who doesn’t love that. There are plenty of coffees and Twinings teas. I guess by this point one is hoping to call for a cab or roll home in a happy fashion. Perhaps not roll, it’s a long way for me to Tunbridge Wells.
El Mariachi is an enjoyable place, not taking itself too seriously. If you are looking for somewhere to have fun with your friends and family, with a great choice of food and drink that will make everyone happy, book a table, it will make you smile.
All opinions are my own. Review exclusive to the TN card.
Member reward at El Mariachi: A complimentary glass of Sangria or a glass of Margarita when you order a main from Monday to Friday. Please show your membership card at the beginning of your meal. Find out more here.