Restaurant review: Mercado Bar and Cantina, N16

With Mexican Independence Day taking place on September 16 it seemed as good a time as any to pop into one of North London’s most famous independent Mexican restaurants.

Mercado is a bit of a Stokie institution and the sight of diners enjoying cocktails on the outdoor tables is a common one throughout the summer.

After a round of obligatory (and excellent) margaritas from the extensive cocktail list we shared an enormous platter of nachos, smothered with the usual toppings and barbecued chicken. The quesadillas were fantastic, filled with big juicy prawns, tangy sauce and a hint of salad. Also good were the fajitas, strips of steak, peppers and onion seasoned in spice and served on a sizzling plate, although I was getting pretty full by this stage.

As well as the usual Tex-Mex suspects, the menu also features some traditional Mexican fare - the stuffed chicken looked tempting, but we went for the camarones al chipotle, plump prawns in a rich tomato sauce, fragrant with coriander - subtler than the menu’s more doughy offerings. The service is quite slow, so probably not one if you are in a big hurry. But overall Mercado is a cheap, cheerful meal out with enough quality and surprises food and drink wise to keep most happy.