Until recently, there hasn’t been much about the Holiday Inn Express Safa Park that’s triggered anyone to trill “ARIBAAA!” very loudly. But then those teaser videos on Instagram came along. The girl, the boy, the pre-sunset desert and lots of pineapples. Each 30-second clip ended with “The Cool is Coming” and our own impatience nearly drove us nuts.
The cool, of course, was Muchachas Mexican Cantina, the newest eatery from the Bull & Roo foodie group founded by a certain Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez. It had come to the Holiday Inn Express Safa Park. All clear! But still, too
soon to be shrieking “ARIBAAA!”
We wanted to try this little pastel sploshed piñata and see whether the food and drink lived up to all the “likes” clocking up on Instagram.
First, the food. This ain’t no Tex Mex. The Muchachas’ menu is full of contemporary Mexican dishes with inspiration drawn from street food and with a focus on sharing.
We were promised “crunchy, zingy, zesty, salty and sweet” and the reality is all of those things:
each dish looking like a summer- drenched work of art.
Expect dishes like grilled flank steak taco (AED29) and super cheesy queso fundido (AED76), which is a gooey mix of cheese and spiced-up devil prawns piled into half a pineapple and served with homemade tortillas and petals.
We opted for the Fiesta Menu (AED225pp) and sat back and relaxed as our waitress brought us a selection of “staff favourites”. The steak tacos (served on the back of super-cute ceramic pink dogs) and the cheesy prawn pineapple arrived, as did the fish tacos, charred corn on the cob, delicious pulled-beef belinis and a mound of multi-coloured tortilla chips and fresh guacamole for dipping (plus lots of delish desserts later on).
The level of detail in both the ingredients and visuals lifts each dish high above most Mexican offerings in the city. Folks, it really does taste as good as it looks.
As for the drinks, you are in for a treat. Choose from a menu that has been curated by a team of magical mixologists that know their adventurous side as well as all the Mexican classics. And while the kitchen closes at 11.30pm, the bar keeps things going until 2am-ish.
Back to the venue. We know Tom & Serg love the unexpected, but it’s hard to imagine this used
to be a drab, smoke-tarred bar in a functional business hotel.
Now it has the wow factor; white-washed and bright with plenty of teal touches and pastel pink (muchachas is Spanish for girl, after all). Fruit balanced on wooden shelves, plant pots and cute little cubby holes. It has energy, but nothing is over the top; just simple, cozy and really quite cool. There isn’t a sombrero in sight. If there was though, we’d lift it off and shriek “ARIBAAA!”
Where: Holiday Inn Express, Safa Park
Contact: +9714 327 5878,