Bodega Cantina, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham

South American flamboyance and flavours.

Bodega is a Midlands based, South American inspired, small chain of restaurants, with branches in Birmingham, Leicester, Sutton Coldfield and Worcester. We became big fans of South and Central American cuisine after a visit to Costa Rica, so after reading some great reviews, decided to give it a try.

Bodega is near the bottom of Bennetts Hill in the city centre. We didn’t book as we dropped in early on a Wednesday evening and didn’t expect it to be busy. I’ll be honest, we were both pleasantly surprised to find the place was absolutely heaving, and disappointed that it looked as though we weren’t going to get a table.

However, the door host was charming. She told us two bookings that had been due at 18.15 had not turned up, and she would give them fifteen minutes grace before she would give their tables away. After fetching us a couple of Classic Margaritas, which were two for £9 as it was Happy Hour from 4 till 7, true to her word she showed us to our table at 6.30.

The interior is a bright and colourful long narrow space. The tables are crammed in, so don’t expect a lot of privacy. To be honest, it’s so busy and noisy anyway that this was not a problem. Anyway, everyone is so intent on their food and drink that conversations were pretty perfunctory anyway!

The menu consists of street food, small plates, large plates, sides and dessert. In our view the best approach is a bit of pick and mix sharing. The vast drinks menu includes all the South American specialities such as Cervezas, Tequilas, Mezcals, Rums Piscos and Cachacas as well as a Gins, Wines, Ciders and Soft Drinks.

We had Chipotle Beef Brisket Nachos to start, followed by Peruvian Ceviche, Fish Tacos, Jalapos, the Brazilian Moqueca and Sweet Potato Fries. After our delicious margaritas, we washed it all down with a couple of Estrellas. We didn’t have room for dessert and, on reflection, would have skipped the moqueca (tasty as it was) and stuck to a selection of sharing plates, leaving space for some churros, which looked amazing.

The nachos were divine, light crispy nachos and melt in the mouth beef, topped with just the right amount of mixed melted cheese, slightly acidic soured cream and soft, cool avocado. The ceviche, while it couldn’t match the best we’ve ever had at a roadside café in Costa Rica, was a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and the fish “cooked” but still firm. These, and the fish tacos were the highlights for me, but it was all delicious.

The service was excellent. The staff were patient, chatty and cheerful, despite being so busy. The menu was so extensive and interesting that I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes, but I have a funny feeling that I’ll be unable to resist the ceviche and fish tacos again though!

Food 4/5
Service 4/5
Ambience 4/5
Overall Value 4/5

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