mexican-cafe-logoAAAAreeeba. The Mexican Cafe is not a high end high class joint. It is a lively, noisy and very busy place with a vibrant carnival like atmosphere. We went there in June the night before the City of Christchurch Marathon – my companions were ‘walking the half’ so a night out was still within the training programme. Using the Entertainment Book voucher my two friends and I had a very filling night out for a very modest sum.

Being a Saturday night the place was pumping and we had to wait at the bar with a jug of margaritas to keep us going. I wondered if it would all turn bad at that point having had a couple of bad run ins with a jug or two of margaritas in the past, but this was a smooth and mmmmmm inducing experience. Mexican food can be dull and mass produced but these guys obviously spend time making the food tasty and authentic as NZ mex food can be.

I can’t remember what I ate but it was a bit on the traditional side. I kicked myself when Ange tucked into something with a little more interesting and tasty. Because the prices are so reasonable with mains topping at about $22 I am so looking forward to going back and trying some of the more interesting items on the menu. You can check out the extensive menu on the website at


After jotting down a few lines about Cartel I checked out the spin on the SOL Square website and found this ‘Cartel has generated a legion of fans with its standoffish attitude and cool staff. Specialising in cocktails and cigars, Cartel should be your next stop on a visit to SOL Square’ I might not have gone there if I had known that it was standoffish, I am not a standoffish kinda a girl.

However, this proved not to be my experience. Cartel is a grungy looking place with some kind of attitude to the uninitiated, cluttered and busy. We ventured in on a very cold but crispy June evening earlyish. The decor was dark and interesting and the staff really friendly, even though they are probably trained to be standoffish. We didn’t sample the food but had a lovely bucket of Pinot and headed outside to sit under the gas heaters on the big sofa. Hugging the woolly covered hottie offered to me at the bar I sat watching the lights twinkling and the people wander by. Apparently bands play here and it gets really busy. On a Tuesday night during Conference I can see Cartel attracting a wide range of people looking for a very relaxing and slightly standoffish experience…