Culinary superstar Martha Ortiz brings her unique modern Mexican cuisine to London at Ella Canta

Having transported her unique blend of visionary artistry and authentic modern Mexican cuisine to London, culinary superstar Martha Ortiz is now quite at home on Park Lane at Ella Canta which adjoins the InterContinental London Park Lane, one of the Capital’s most prestigious hotels. The restaurant and bar joins Theo Randall at the InterContinental bringing two renowned chefs to one dining destination in the heart of Mayfair.

Photo by Pepe Molina, courtesy of Martha Ortiz

Ella Canta (Spanish for ‘she sings’) draws inspiration from Martha’s world-renowned Dulce Patria in Mexico City, blending ancient cooking traditions with contemporary style, within a space designed by internationally-acclaimed interior architects David Collins Studio.

Mayahuel – the cocktail named after the Aztec Goddess of the agave plant

Martha Ortiz oversees Ella Canta as Chef Patron, working alongside Executive Chef of the InterContinental London Park Lane, Ashley Wells, and Head Chef of Ella Canta, Elias Silva Resinas.

Martha’s philosophy and the modern Mexican spirit are brought to life at Ella Canta by renowned interior architects David Collins Studio and Creative Director Simon Rawlings.

Guacamole Nacionalista with fresh cheese, pomegranate and gold grasshopper

Strong shapes, soft colours and clean lines celebrate the architecture of Ricardo Legorreta, ceramics of Gustavo Perez and textures of Ernesto Alva.

A palette of blush pink, sun-bleached red, blue and tan reflects the architecture and landscapes of Oaxaca, while a hand-carved, floor-to-ceiling walnut installation runs the full length of the restaurant to the bar, inspired by the work of Mexican furniture designer Eugenio Escudero.

View of the walnut installation inspired by Mexican furniture designer Eugenio Escudero

This aesthetic also extends to Ella Canta’s staff who have been dressed in elegant colour block jumpsuits, suits and dresses designed by British label 1947 in shades of burnt orange, teal and powder blue, accessorised with vibrant floral headpieces.

Female staff wear vibrant floral headpieces

The bar at Ella Canta is a destination in its own right, offering a carefully-sourced collection of rare mezcals and tequilas alongside signature cocktails.

The bar at Ella Canta

Sips inspired by the traditional margarita include the Calavera, with Patrón Silver Tequila, Patron Citrónge orange liqueur, orange marmalade, grapefruit, lime, lemon verbena syrup which honours the decorated skulls which are revered during the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico.

One of the margarita cocktails is the Calavera

The wine list has a strong Central and South-American focus, including wines from Hacienda La Lomita in northern Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe.

Innovative mezcal-based concoctions include the Nahuani’s Star, with Nuestra Soledad Ejutla Mezcal, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, Suze liqueur, lemon, aloe vera, guava purée, rose syrup and activated charcoal.

The menu at Ella Canta features several of the dishes that have made Martha one of Latin America’s most celebrated chefs, whilst incorporating fine produce from across the British Isles. The modern Mexican menu begins with the Overture – moreish appetisers that pair perfectly with the Mexican-inspired cocktails on the Bar Menu.

To start, I ordered the Yu-ka t’ann – one of the signature cocktails in the list of Mexico’s Gifts to the World. My dining companion ordered a refreshing Agua Fresca – the Coconut Rose and Lychee Water made with fresh lychee and nectar, lime and coconut water garnished with coconut flakes and a sprig of lavender.

The Yu-ka t’ann mixes Avocado honey washed Patron Silver Tequila (Patron Tequila is the drinks partner of the restaurant), Galliano l’Autentico liqueur, chilli and mandarin peel infused agave syrup, Peychaud’s bitter and XTA anise liqueur. The story behind the name of this smooth cocktail is that the Spaniards gave the region Yucatán its name because the Mayan people answered their questions with the phrase ‘uh yu ka t’ann’ meaning ‘hear how they talk’! We paired our drinks with a couple of Overture appetisers – Tacos de chilorio and Tostada escabeche de salmón.

The chilorio tacos are three moreish tacos made from produced using masa which is ground on the premises filled with slow-cooked beef flavoured with Mexican herbs for a full-bodied taste sensation and dressed with avocado salsa.

The pickled salmon tostadas comes with avocado and chipotle. The spicy chipotle combines with the ocean-fresh taste of the salmon for a tantalising explosion of flavour on the palate. The dyed Maldon sea salt flakes add a pop of colour to the presentation of the dish.

From the Drama section of the Martha’s carefully crafted menu – otherwise known as Starters – my dining companion ordered the red-hued Ceviche vampiro con el esplendor. This arrives in a bowl of what looks like a pool of blood which is in fact a fiery sangrita sauce dotted with finely diced fresh mango.

The South coast sea bass ceviche is beautifully tender – it’s a shame there isn’t more of the fish to enjoy in the excessive amount of sauce. However the sangrita sorbet topped with a pineapple butterfly is an excellent addition and the smooth iced texture pairs well with the marinated sea bass.

For my starter, I ordered the Pulpo con salsa de chiles ahumados. The octopus is first quickly blanched in boiling water before hitting the hot grill then sliced and served with smoked chile sauce and pieces of charred onion. The octopus has a wonderful texture and flavour.

Soon it was time for the Main Act. I chose the Barbacoa de cordero – Lamb shank cooked barbacoa style served with salsa of morita chile and chickpeas. Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the word barbecue derives. The slow-cooked lamb was only lightly seasoned allowing the full flavour of the meat take centre stage. The accompanying sauces brought the dish to life with a rich gravy poured over by the waiter with plenty left on the side and the smoky morita chile salsa danced on the taste buds.

My dining companion chose the Carne asada norteña as their main. The 40 days aged Cotswolds English strip loin arrived cooked to medium perfection and sliced ready to be wrapped in homemade warm tortillas.

The beautiful meaty goodness from the extra-long aged steak combined perfectly with the flavours of the refreshing cactus salad and tasty molcajete style salsa prepared by hand in a traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle.

To accompany the main dishes we also ordered a serving of Remolacha rostizada – roasted beets served with an avocado and habanero sauce. The beets were flavoursome and still retained plenty of bite despite being roasted. We’re told by the friendly waiter that the Chayote salad is another delicious choice with the fresh green flavours of zucchini and lime.

Desserts – the Final Curtain as they are descrbed on Martha’s menu – include fantastic Mexican churros with caramel and chocolate in addition to the famous Tres Leches cake made with three different types of milk and served with fresh strawberries and raspberries.

Speaking of Ella Canta, Martha Ortiz said, “I adore London: The art, the culture and the people are all such an inspiration and I am thrilled to bring the food of my homeland, with all its colour, poetry, and magic, to this beautiful city”.

Photo by Pepe Molina, courtesy of Martha Ortiz

Martha Ortiz is a chef and cookbook author who is celebrated for her creative, feminine cuisine, her historical research into Mexican food traditions, and the great imagination and fantasy present in her work. She is recognised for resurrecting Mexican culinary traditions and reinvigorating them with modern twists, with an emphasis on the sensual nature of the food of Latin America.

Martha shows off her country’s gastronomy with depth of flavours that encapsulate Mexico’s spirit and sense of identity. She has penned eight cookbooks on regional cuisine and distinguished herself as a food writer and a leading chronicler of her country’s gastronomic history. Her restaurant in Mexico City, Dulce Patria, is consistently recognised as one of the top restaurants in Latin America. She is also a regular on broadcast throughout The Americas, including Top Chef México.

Ella Canta
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London W1J 7QY
020 7318 8715
www.ellacanta.com
@ellacantalondon

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