WHERE are the Mexican wrestling posters is our first impression? You had to grapple with them in every corner of Lucha Libre, ill-fated Great Northern import from Liverpool that traded on the musclebound men in the masks legacy. With more than a nod to the Day of the Dead etcetera
The Cotton Factory, 78-cover dining space in the uber-chic Whitworth Locke aparthotel, isn’t going down that dusty cliche-ridden camino as it hosts for the next three months its first pop-up – El Camino, a big hit in Urmston at its parent venture Get Chucked and now seeking city centre credentials.
We popped in on its first day when it was all a mite chaotic. A couple of frozen margaritas and the presence of Hanna Monroy soon reassured us. El Camino’s open plan kitchen team haven’t been flown in from Guadalajara or Chihuahua. You start to question the authenticity of the gringo-led package.
Reassuringly Hanna, from Mexico City, is on board as consultant after helping transform the NQ’s El Taquero into the real deal (thanks for those complimentary hibiscus flowers we begged for a home taco recipe).
Booked in for three months, El Camino is mean to be the the first of an evolving series of ‘restaurant residency’ collaborations with up and coming food traders, showcasing global cuisines. Already it looks a vibrant addition to the Whitworth Locke complex that hosts 160 large, mostly pink rooms (with galley kitchens), a spectacular atrium bar open to the public (as is ground-floor, street-facing coffee shop from Foundation) and, consolidating the home from home vibe, a co-working lounge (below), in whose exposed brick confines complete with rainforest mural you can linger all-day with no pressure.
How long you can linger over the El Camino food we’re no so sure, but the temptation is there As well as a range of tacos dishes include quesadillas with beer braised ox cheek or sweet potato and a range of sharing options such as crunchy tortilla chips with fresh salsa and guacamole, corn croquettas with cheese and spring onion, and queso fundido (akin to Mexican fondue. Perhaps too much stringy cheese going on but hey this is Mexico.
We road-tested various big plates off the grill, too, including (slightly resistant) rib-eye steak, pork chop and grilled sea bream – all cooked on the charcoal grill with charred greens, ancho chilli butter and salsa verde.
Fret not, plant-based brigade. Treats for you include chipotle cauliflower taco with radish, red chilli and sweet potato puree. To accompany tequila cocktails and the inevitable Modelo and Corona beers.
The Cotton Factory, named after the 19th century mill on the site, was created by London’s The Initiative Group, which has launched and managed an eclectic range of boutique hospitality outlets globally over the last decade.
Youri Michel, director of The Initiative Group, said: “We have a great space at The Cotton Factory and it is exciting to have the opportunity to fill it with a variety of hungry young operators to create unique one-off experiences in the city. El Camino is a great first choice for the restaurant and we can’t wait to begin our first residency with their team.”
Matthew Brierley, general manager at Whitworth Locke, said: “We’re excited to bring such a unique ever-evolving dining concept to Whitworth Locke. Collaborating with The Initiative Group to create something that reflects our ethos of immersing our guests in the city has been key to developing the right restaurant for the space..”
The Cotton Factory, Whitworth Locke, 74 Princess St, M1 6JD. El Camino is open 12pm-11pm (Mon-Sat) and 12pm-9pm (Sun). During its soft launch funtil July 7, diners will receive 50 per cent off food when pre-booking a table.