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Review: Mouth-watering flavours and spice at Toluca Mexican Bar & Grill

Spicy beef quesadilla
Spicy beef quesadilla

Four and a half stars

It's the start of new chapter at Toluca Mexican Bar & Grill.

Previously known as Los Banditos, the restaurant located in Lichfield's City Arcade has been given a new name and a refreshed menu.

My fiancé and I visited the night before its big relaunch having been attracted by the mouth-watering array of dishes on offer.

Already big fans of fajitas and enchilladas, we relished the opportunity to taste some Mexican-inspired food that we hadn't made ourselves with a helping hand from Old El Paso.

The interior of Toluca was bright and welcoming and we were offered a comfy booth by the window. The high back seats offer both a bit of privacy and a good view of the rest of the restaurant.

As we knew we were eating out, we had deliberately only had a light lunch earlier in the day so by the time we were ready to order, we quite feeling quite hungry and looking forward to a Mexican feast. For our starters we each chose a dish from the large tapas menu.

Options on the new-look menu range from olives marinated in garlic chilli and lemon oil, crispy cauliflower and patatas bravas to torpedo prawns, pork belly bites in barbecue sauce and Mexican mozzarella sticks.

Both of our choices were on the old menu. My partner went for the lamb koftas while I opted for the lemon and herb crispy chicken tenders. They were served with different tangy mayonnaise-like dips that we couldn't identify but tasted lovely. The portion sizes were very generous, which was good as we were ready to tuck in.

The three round lamb koftas were really well-cooked and were packed full of flavour. The mystery dip was a great accompaniment.

The lemon and herb crispy coating on the chicken was really well-balanced. Both were a great start to the meal.

When it came to picking our mains, we were both really struggling because there was so much choice. So many things sounded really tasty so picking just one seemed hard. There were fajitas, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas all with a range of different fillings as well as burgers and Mexican gyro kebab.

And if none of that takes your fancy, there was a long list of other dishes to tempt you such as vegetarian chilli and blackened Cajun spiced cod.

Or if you want to sample a few different things, you could opt for the Tex Mex Box containing a mini burrito, a taco and a quesadilla or a taco sharer platter for two.

My fiancé decided to try the pork carnitas enchiladas, topped with salsa, grated cheese and coriander, and served with French fries and a side salad. Other fillings on offer were pulled chicken and spicy beef.

The melted cheese on the top was a lovely, golden colour and the tortilla was packed with a huge serving of tender and lightly-spiced pulled pork. The side salad was a nice accompaniment and was covered with a tangy dressing. The only downside was the fries, which were slightly on the soggy side but that certainly didn't take away from the overall dish, which he described as delicious.

I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten quesadillas so for my main course I decided to try one with spicy beef. Made with a flour tortilla and grilled with cheese it was also served with French fries and a side salad. I was delighted with my choice. The triangles of grilled tortilla and melted cheese were packed full of spicy beef that certainly lived up to its name. It was the perfect level of spice for me, the smoky, chilli flavour had a nice kick without spoiling the taste of the meat which I'm assuming had been slow-cooked as it was beautifully tender.

Again, the fries could have done with being crispier but that didn't stop either of us from eating quite a few of them anyway.

Like with the tapas starters, both dishes were generous portions and we felt were getting a lot of great-tasting food for the money.

Unfortunately for us, we had been chatting away and enjoying our main courses so much that we ran out of time for dessert as the restaurant was closing for the night. It was our own fault as we were eating later than we normally would.

It was a real shame to miss out on dessert after the tapas and mains had been so good. Although with hindsight, I'm not sure I would have had much room left for pudding after all that delicious spicy beef - but we did peruse the menu anyway just to see what we could have had and what we might select on our next visit.

Straight away, my partner spotted the churros that were described as being dusted in cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate sauce. The raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake also sounded delicious as did the gooey chocolate brownie. There were also gluten-free and vegan options.

All of the staff that served us were friendly and attentive and we didn't have to wait too long for our food to arrive.

As well as its main menu, Toluca also offers a lunch menu with any main meal or any two tapas for £7.95, between 12.30pm and 4.15pm, Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays, as well as dedicated children's, vegan and vegetarian and takeaway menus.

It's also a popular spot for cocktails and the restaurant has an extensive drinks menu. Anyone visiting the restaurant on Friday and Saturdays evenings can enjoy live music entertainment which, judging by the comments on its Facebook page, is great fun.

We were very impressed with the quality of the food and we are looking forward to returning soon to sample more of the menu. If you're in Lichfield, Toluca Mexican Bar & Grill is well worth a visit.

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