Monique Chambers | Sunday, 31 January 2010

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Hasta la vista

My verdict? GO | Rating 8/10 | Style 6/10 It’s not pretty, but it has a great atmosphere | Service 8/10 Absolutely charming timely service | Selection 8/10 Lots of choice but wish it did have cocktails | Steal-ability Luckily, it’s predominantly a takeaway!

My colleagues decided that the January blues had gotten in the way for far too long and we arranged a girls’ night out, choosing Amigo’s in Sliema as our starting point. It got the vote on a number of counts: firstly, it’s really easy to park, so not too far to walk to on a cold windy rainy night as it turned out to be; secondly, it has a varied menu with a calorie counter and nutritional values on the reverse of the menu (genius) for those still sticking to their New Year resolutions; and last but by no means least, it’s cheap in the never-ending wait for post-Christmas pay-day. Seriously, I couldn’t believe the price came to around €10 a head and believe me, we ate like our throats were about to be cut.
It has a branch in Paceville, but we (well, some of us), have kind of passed that stage in our lives – though that outlet does, I learned a little too late, do cocktails, which I was really in the mood for. However, let me warn you in advance that the Sliema one doesn’t – probably a good thing in hindsight because we were giggly enough already; I had a feeling our poor waiter was really going to earn his money tonight. I don’t know what it is, but just like grown men in a pack, we girls act like adolescents when we are together, the silliest thing can set us off and in fact even the names of the dishes caused much amusement. I am not sure why, but we were reading the menu in our best Mexican stroke Spanish accents. How we didn’t all order chimichangas I’ll never know. You just tried it, didn’t you? Ha!
On the menu, apart from the calorie counter, are nachos (six varieties thereof), salads, the usual suspects that peaked my good intentions side: loaded potato skins with cheese and other naughtiness; a selection from the grill with DIY burritos, burgers, chicken breasts, more pizzas than a pizzeria, and a page dedicated to tacos. Phew.
Anyway, we started with a plate of nachos deluxe (€4.50) and each went for the bits we liked most: the crunchy tortilla on the edge for one, the jalapeños for the hot chick, the saucy ones for the saucey one, and yes you guessed it, I dove into the really cheesy ones. The refried beans weren’t a huge hit – but it’s polite to leave something on your plate, no? A bottle of house red took the place of Margaritas and Caipirinihas and other cocktails, and we mulled over the menu a bit more, trying to steer each other to go for a little bit of what else we fancied.
Famed for their pizza – and the queue to collect takeaways proves it – we discussed the option (and even our waiter tried to persuade us to try the new varieties), but we stood firm and decided that as we were there for Mexican we should order accordingly and went for the tacos. With 17 types to choose from, we were sure to have a different one each. Everything from tandoori chicken, spring vegetables, pepperoni delight to chicken supreme, spicy bean and a beef and bean combo that I chose, were all around €5.50 each. We studied and compared the calorific values and saw that yes, they were different, but by this point, we didn’t really care. We did also give in to a side order of one of the new recipe pizzas (€7.00), but it was a light one, just rucola and parmesan. Oh, and we ordered a very generous portion of range fries (€2.50); big fat crispy chips with a ketchup and garlicky mayonnaise that would in fact, have satisfied the whole staff (including film crew) of the Southfork Ranch in Dallas. The waiter was very patient with us and an absolute joy. He was charming, funny and attentive. Somebody at the table wanted to take him away – I’ll not mention names.
I’m sure said waiter made us eat more than we would normally do and then he went on to tempt us further with a slab (do I need to tell you it was large?) of warm choc fudge pie with cream. Thankfully we just ordered just the one with four forks, it would have been sheer gluttony otherwise. I must confess that although the Mexicans are essentially responsible for chocolate, there are better choc desserts around. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and my corner did disappear almost entirely.
The decor is not something you would go home and recreate – unless of course you have a real penchant for the land of the poncho. I think the walls were cactus green – for some reason that colour is sticking in my mind. And there was an Aztec logo brandished around the walls like a tattoo around a regretful girls arm, but the music makes you feel like, even with the wind whirling outside, that you are at the Yucatan beach club, and it makes you want to salsa your socks off. There were ample heaters and in the Summer, the whole fascia of the place opens up to resemble a huge beach hut. This detail of the decor aside, the one thing they could change at Amigo’s in Sliema is to clear some space and create a dance floor; it would give the ever present crowd picking up their takeaways something to do while awaiting their order (by gloved servers – which I have never seen in Malta before) and, it is a ripe opportunity to hold impromptu salsa classes – walk in, dance out? I think I’m onto something.

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