Worcestershire’s Essential Entertainment Guide
Get the latest updates, offers and competitions from What’s On…
Authentic South American food and hand crafted cocktails. Burritos, nachos and tacos all feature on the menu alongside fresh fish, chilli and a large vegetarian selection.
Bodega Cantina & Bar, Worcester,
14 Foregate Street,
Telephone: 01905 22200
As a much-loved fixture of Birmingham’s restaurant scene, Bodega Cantina & Bar has long been delighting diners with its easy-going yet utterly authentic approach to contemporary South American street food.
With branches now open in Worcester and Leicester, and with a fourth set to open in Derby in March, this humble high-street chain shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Part of the ever-quirky Bitters‘n’Twisted restaurant group (whose sister venues include Birmingham success stories Island Bar, The Jekyll And Hyde and The New Inn, Harborne), Bodega’s extensive menu brings together street food influences from across the South American continent.
Hand-picked by the restaurant’s intrepid team of seasoned travellers, popular tapas dishes such as filled Burritos, Quesadillas, Empanades and stuffed jalapenos sit happily alongside a mouthwatering menu of regional specialities, including the Brazilian-inspired Xim Xim (chicken and prawns in peanut butter sauce), Peruvian classic Lomo Saltado (steak marinated in soy sauce and red wine) and grilled swordfish with fresh mango and Mexican red rice.
Add to this a carefully prepared menu of signature cocktails made with rum, pisco, tequila, cachaça and vodka, alongside an extensive choice of South American wines, bottled beers and spirits, and you have all the ingredients of a winning brand.
Arriving at the Worcestershire branch - located just a stone’s throw from Worcester Foregate Street station, within walking distance of the city centre - I was instantly transported from my historic English surroundings to the beating heart of contemporary Mexico, Peru or Argentina. Exposed brickwork, shabby-chic fixtures, café-style seating, Mexican-inspired wall art and a vibrant colour palette of terracotta, teal and lime imbued the venue with an authenticity and easy-going charm akin to any continental tapas bar or downtown cantina.
Opting for the tried-and-tested starter of House Nachos filled with Bodega Homemade Chilli and topped with Mozzarella, Cheddar, Sour Cream, Chives, Salsa Fresco and Guacamole (£5.25), it was clear from the very first bite what set this chain apart from its nearest high-street competitors. Bursting with full-bodied flavour, generously loaded with toppings yet at the same time deliciously light to the taste, the intense flavour of the chilli (by far one of the best examples I’ve tasted on the high street!) was complemented perfectly by the zestiness of the avocado and tomato salsa.
Entering into the spirit of my surroundings, my accompanying choice of Brum Runner cocktail - an intoxicating blend of Appleton Signature Rum mixed with Banana and Blackcurrant Liquor, Pineapple, Lime Juice and Molasses - likewise proved a deliciously refreshing (if potent!) palate-cleanser.
Moving on to the main course, my dish of Moqueca de piexe - a flavourful combination of fish, peppers and onion in a coconut milk sauce - was every bit the Brazilian delight. Poised somewhere between a seafood gumbo, Italian fish stew and Cullen Skink, chunks of only the freshest salmon, seabass and prawn found their perfect partnership in the rich and velvety coconut broth, punctuated with every mouthful by the subtle heat of fresh chillies, garlic and green pepper. Add to this a rustic slice or two of cheese bread and you have all the ingredients of a South American classic.
My partner’s choice of Lomo Saltado (a Peruvian-inspired steak dish influenced by Chinese culture) was likewise a masterclass in authentic flavour, even though at times the bold combination of soy sauce, fresh herbs and red wine proved a little too much for the untested palate.
For the ultimate ‘fiesta on a plate’, keep an eye out for the fixed-price menu, a handpicked selection of house favourites priced at a not-unreasonable £24.50 and just perfect for sharing!
Rounding off our evening with a White Chocolate and Mojito Cheesecake (£4.25) served with fruit coulis, I confess that stepping out onto the cold English high street proved something of a shock to the system - a testament, no doubt, to the venue’s unmistakable warmth and uniquely relaxed atmosphere. There was just enough time to sneak in one last cocktail - an intriguing blend of Tequila, Lime, Pomegranate and Prosecco - before heading back to reality!
Shaking (and stirring) up the UK bar scene (one cocktail at a time), Bodega is the ray of South American sunshine Worcester’s newly revitalised high street has been crying out for. Quirky in style, relaxed in atmosphere and instilled with the authentic spirit of Latin American street culture, Bodega’s intimate surroundings, delightfully offbeat street decor, inventive approach to traditional tapas dishes and expertly conceived cocktail menu make it a highly desirable addition to any high street.