Food & Drink: Bites

SOUTH-WESTERN US COOKING
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The Independent Culture
CHILLI FOR the time of year? The time may be about to come for US south-western cooking, and these restaurants are in the vanguard.

Cactus Blue, 86 Fulham Road, London SW3 (0171-823 7858) Mon-Fri 5.30- 11.45pm, Sat noon-11.45pm, Sun noon-11pm. A huge range of tequilas, and some of the best south-western food around. Quesadillas come with various fillings; chillis are used ingeniously in tenderloin adobo with sweet potato tamale and fresh corn salsa or chicken fajita with smoked peppers and black beans. Main courses around pounds 12; total pounds 25-pounds 30.

Aragua, St Saviours Square, Dartmouth, Devon (01803 832224) Wed-Sat dinner, Sun lunch. This is Venezuelan and has a Latin American repertoire. Several dishes are similar to south-western cooking and spicing is shared. Caesar salad with pimento and anchovy croutons; steak and black bean chilli; or Cuban-style red snapper with lemons, tomatoes and prawn- chilli rice. A selection of South American wine changes regularly. pounds 25 without wine.

La Casita, 6 Devizes Road, Swindon, Wiltshire (01793 614185) Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat and Sun dinner. A Mexican take-away, and small dining room, which should have a licence by now, with modest prices: steak fajita at pounds 9.95 is the most expensive, chilli dishes less than half that. Much of the food is made on the premises, with homemade lemonade. You can also order on-line at www.LaCasita.co.uk

Coyote Cafe, 2 Fauconberg Road, London W4 (0181-742 8545) Mon 6-10.30pm, Tue-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat noon-11pm, and Sun noon-10pm. An American local with outside tables and a popular brunch, that, gets on with cooking up innovative south-western options. Wild mushroom or smoked chicken quesadillas, for starters; chilquiles - a grilled vegetable and flour tortilla sandwich with green chilli apple sauce, as a main course. Friendly prices too: a couple of courses for pounds 15.

Idaho, 13 North Hill, London N6 (0181-341 6633) Daily 11am-11pm (10pm on Sun). The latest addition to the Montana group - trail-blazing restaurants serving superior south-western cooking in Richmond, Fulham and Notting Hill. This former pub in Highgate with an outdoor terrace offers chargrilled squid with charred jalpeno and tomatillo salsa; roast salmon, ancho butter sauce and tomato lime salsa; and Mexican chocolate flan. Brilliant bread.

Around pounds 30-pounds 35.

Storyteller, 11 North Place, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (01242 250343) Daily lunch and dinner. An improbably located branch of a Norwegian restaurant mixes Californian, south-western, European and British cooking. Upmarket versions of quesadillas, burritos, and duck fajitas feature. Three courses without wine for pounds 20-pounds 25; none of the wines are marked up by more than pounds 5.

Caroline Stacey

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