Rincon Quiteno
235 Holloway Road
Islington N7 8HG
Right, how can I put this down without being offensive? And I’m not talking about the restaurant, I’m talking about journalists. I’m not a food critic, but I have fully functional tastebuds. Do they write brilliant reviews about places that look like and taste like a suburban school canteen, because telling the truth would be politically incorrect? How can possibly a yellow, dried, chicken empanadas deserve praises? How can a place lacking entirely of ambience be defined authentic? Rincon Quiteno is a tired establishment where nothing tastes the way it is supposed to. Bandeja Paisa’s pork tasted nothing but liver and all the vegetable like onion. Platano con Queso was nothing but a banana version of a jacket potato. Yuca Frita’s resemblance to Captain Birdseye’s fish fingers was striking. I cannot even blame the fact I’m not South American therefore I cannot appreciate the food because A)I’ve been to other South American restaurants and I loved them B) there were South Americans dining at Rincon Quiteno that night, but the food they were eating looked even worse than what we ordered. Maybe we have just been unlucky, maybe the food is better and fresher during the week or maybe I’m just trying to find an excuse to justify my harshness. But what else could I say? It is nothing more than a sandwich shop like many others in London and the service you get from the staff is not nice, is not rude either…well, it is almost non-existent. Yes, dining there is cheap, but a cheap experience is what you get. It is not worth the trip. And certainly doesn’t deserve a column on a magazine…

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 2
I have never set foot in South America. I tend not to say that too loud as usually I am pretty show-offish about the extent of my travels. I take the opportunity to apologise for this to readers who have had to bear my travel stories whether they liked it or not. As a general comment with regards to the London interpretation of South American food, having already done Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and now Ecuador, I am not having too much fun. I mean, Argentine food is great but the particular experience we had in the particular restaurant we went to was not so great. I am assured we were unlucky as the place is usually fabulous. The Brazilian was alright. The Colombian was bad. This Ecuador was bad and very similar to Colombia.

The restaurant itself looks a bit like one of those old Italian lunch places in the City which look like they are still in the 1960s. They are usually quite shabby but have this charm about them, and usually fantastic food. This one was just shabby. Besides, it was dinner so my standards were higher than for a quick bite between meetings. So all in all I was already miserable before even ordering.

The patrons were: us, a South American family, a group of somewhat dodgy Eastern European men. The waiter / owner was kind but I was to depressed to care.

Starters. Empanadas de pollo: stodgy, dry. Some fried vegetable sticks with pico de gallo: good. Platano con queso: alright but I prefer the jacket potato it imitates – I say this as a huge lover of plantain: the cheese / platano combination was a bit too oily.

For main we shared the same platter I’d got at the Colombian – not so much variety, I know. It consisted of a pork steak (edible), pork belly (I don’t like the way they do it, it’s crisp in bits but otherwise stodgy and fatty), some beans (just beans), sausage (absolutely revolting – and the exact same as the Colombian), rice, little tortillas (these were alright). All in all really, really bad.

We paid £25 in total perhaps. At least they accepted plastic so I didn’t have to look for a cashpoint and could go back to my car, about which I was starting to get anxious in the dark – she gets lonely sometimes when parked away from home in an unknown place full of suspicious strangers. Anyway, not a good night out.

  • Food: 1.5
  • Ambience: 1.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 1.88