There’s a shimmy-shammy maracas shaking soundtrack accompanying every footstep on the stairs up and into El Santo.

Elephantine trumpet blasts, bin lid banging undertones, it sets the scene for one of those old Havana type places with low lights, cosy booths, streaks of fashionable neon running across an open loft type ceiling.

Caramba – I quite like this vibe, I think, as a tall barman uncoils himself from chat with a customer and goes off to find someone to steer me to a spare two-seater in amongst the wine glass waving, taco raising couples in perhaps the cheaper seats across from those glam trellised booths.

Tacos, I hear you say. Yup but El Santo has pretensions, senõr, to much more than that.

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I start then with the Cangrejo Al Horno: baked crab, coconut, cashew crumble, in a scallop shell, flashed under the grill, an inoffensive, sweetly pleasant if not particularly crabby stewy dish.

Then it’s a dark bowl, surrounded by a lot of hunky ice cubes, containing a chunky tuna ceviche, tangy, refreshing, some sesame seeds, miso mayo, the odd mango cube, a little quinoa, no cuddly toy, but something they’ll call a wasabi cracker and I’ll call a prawn cracker.

Pleasant enough even at thirteen bangers and all the time that relentless Latin sound track is playing at a level so low that it doesn’t interfere with the murmur of conversation, but does occasionally sound like a dustman, somewhere, is falling down a very long flight of stairs.


They have charcoal grill, Parilla, on the extensive menu hitting those pricey top notes with a Tomahawk Steak to share at, phew, £80 but trickling down through Brazilian Picanha to the Barriga De Cerdo Criujiente or crispy pork belly at £18. Oft! £18 for pork belly nowadays, great money if you can get it.

The strip arrives, seared, crisped and blackened on the grill where I presume it’s been flashed rather than cooked, great crispy kale, a few pickled shallots (needs a lot more) and a, wait for this, banana puree. This is something you don’t see every day. For good reason.

It has the consistency of wallpaper paste, and tastes of nada. Meh. But I’m now wondering what kitchen in the world could seriously handle all these varied dishes on the menu on a Wednesday night and put them out with with style and care, let alone one in Glasgow?

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At least the tacos look sharp – when they eventually arrive.

The service tonight is not so much stop-start, plates delivered in passing, everyone seeming hurried, as giving the impression that either they’re under-staffed out here, perhaps not yet sure whether they’re running a bar or a restaurant or maybe the kitchen is monetarily overwhelmed. Yes, these tacos. Now.

This is a Latin American inspired place, but is it just another theme restaurant or the real deal? And are the tacos made with Masa Harina or wheat? Umm. No clue on the menu apart from an announcement that “all our food is handmade in the building” think about that one. I certainly will when I see the dessert.

Moving on. The tacos do look freshly made and are filled alternatively with crisped pork, apple and coriander pesto and refried beans or with breaded cod cheek, mango gel, jalapeno and, uh, caviar.

The pork is crisp enough not to be chewy, the pesto has a kick, okay a bit too much refried bean experience, but at a tenner for two I would order again.

That caviar incidentally comes spooned in half a chilli, just enough to give a salty sensation when eaten, the cod cheek from the frier is still crisp and the mango gel probably works.

Parfait De Chocolate Y Canela to finish. One of those little choc dome desserts that may be made in here but doesn’t look it, brick hard muscovado ice cream that has just been pulled from the freezer. Squirts of sweetness. Clunky, overall, disappointing.

As for El Santo? Over ambitious? A work in progress perhaps.

El Santo
84 Miller Street
Open: closed Monday and Tuesday

Menu: Interesting Latin America inspired restaurant with pastel de gambas, pico de Gallo, ceviches, charcoal grill parilla, ambitious but maybe bitten off more than the kitchen can chew. 3/5

Service: At these prices it wasn’t great, food delivered in passing, big gaps between dishes, mid-week staff shortages? 3/5

Atmosphere: there strongest point, pleasant low-lit Latino, intimate lighting, atmospheric music. 4/5

Price: Tacos at a tenner for two are good value, desser tat £9 for one not so much, rest in between. 3/5

Food: They’ve set themselves a hard task with such a varied menu, tacos were pretty good, ceviche okaty-dokey, otherwise a bit ho-hum. 6/10