Who puts Dr Pepper on a taco?

I haven’t written about Bodega since they launched their Taco Tuesday special last year, but I’ve been back with The Boy on a number of occasions – it’s definitely one of our staple favourites in the city. Taco Tuesday offer is still in full swing, but we headed back this week to see the new menu items that they have broken out for the forthcoming summer.

As ever, the cocktail offering is strong and a blueberry and elderflower martini was a light, refreshing welcome drink which set the tone perfectly with its delicate aromatic flavours. The bright, entertaining decoration in Bodega never fails to bring a smile to my face. True enough it is a bit of a stylized rendering of South America from what I remember, but it makes a great restaurant design. And I will always, ALWAYS take a figure of the little Lucha Libre guys. Cos I love them.

Gimme tacos!

On to the menu, and we tried a number of the latest offerings, all washed down with a delicious jug of iced sangria, which was excellently balanced and really fruity – something I could sit outside and drink all day long in the summer (now there’s an idea).

Taco! Taco! Taco!

You’ve got to start with nachos really, don’t you? And they are still the best around – freshly fried tortilla, smothered in melted cheese with a freshly made salsa and guacamole and a shiny dollop of smooth sour cream, flecked with slices of jalapeno. If you like it spicy, you can pep it up even more with some of the house hot sauce they use from a local supplier to their Birmingham restaurant, the home of the original Bodega.

Confit tomato and roasted veg

Then before we knew it, we were on to the tacos. They’ve got shiny new taco holders, so they look even more devilishly tempting and come in a range of flavours. Sadly we didn’t get to try the mahi-mahi (which always reminds me of being in Hawai’i!) but we were overwhelmed by the collage of flavours that we were presented with. The vegetarian option was packed full of roasted vegetables, the butternut squash in particular adding great texture and sweetness. This was garnished with confit tomatoes, a sprinkling of black beans and corn kernels – a real bouquet of fresh flavours all wrapped in a soft taco shell.

Mole marinated chicken

Taco Tuesday, if you didn’t know, is when you get tacos with a tequila cocktail for a tenner. It may surprise you to learn that this happens on a Tuesday. It’s an excellent offer, not least because the tacos are so darn tasty. The mole marinated chicken with toasted pine nuts was a real flavour bomb – proper slow burning, complex spice that built up in your mouth as you enjoyed each mouthful.

Dr Pepper slow cooked pork

Then there was the Dr Pepper pork, slow cooked for hours to give a beautifully soft meat in flavourful juice. I’m not normally a fan of big brand ingredients (it’s like Oreo ice cream, why bother?) but I have to confess that this really works. The sticky sweet sauce has been well spiced and gives a real finger-licking experience, while the flavours are maximised and complemented by the accompanying spicy slaw. I am hard pressed to say which I prefer between the chicken and the pork. I think I’ll just order them both.

We also had a go at the burritos – street food size, although you can order them as a main with sweet potato fries. To be fair, I’d pretty much pigged out on the tacos, so the smaller serve was eminently sensible at this point. I really liked the earthy flavours of the plantain and lentil, but also again was a big fan of the Dr Pepper pork! Hard to choose! My only recommendation would be to pimp your burrito with dirty rice as I felt there was perhaps a little too much plain rice in there which made the burrito feel a little under-seasoned overall to me – however, you also receive sour cream, salsa and guac on the side so there is plenty to mess around with to get the flavour just right for your tastes.

A real humdinger of a new addition to the summer menu is the plantain salad. This is definitely something I will be treating myself to of a lunch time when I just have to get some time away from the office. Warm, gently spiced plantain – perfectly crisp on the outside and smooth inside – sits atop a mountain of salad, with dressed leaves, avocado and pomegranate seeds. A great mixture of tastes and textures with the plantain doing everything you need to fill your belly and all the rest being as virtuous as it is delicious.

After all that goodness it would have been rude to refuse a cocktail – just to finish things off. My pick of the selection is the Negringo – a beautiful punchy and smoky drink made with mezcal, Noilly Prat and Aperol. Sounds a bizarre combination but it absolutely works. A great drink to round off a fabulous meal in any language. And happily it’s on the happy hour menu which means it’s 2 for £8 between 4pm and 7pm and from 10pm until close.

I loved Bodega before, and after trying their new menu I love them a smidge more. The food is even more beautifully presented, the flavours are complex and interesting and the whole thing is presented by a really friendly team who provide excellent and relaxed service. Thank you to them for the invitation!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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