A boring performance in the Novotel led us to the Mexican restaurant in the premises - La Cantina. With three options for seating - indoors, al fresco and terrace, it sets a lovely ambience with the pool shimmering around it. The weather in Hyderabad being unpredictable nowadays, we choose the well-roofed al fresco area, so that our tacos wouldn't be swimming in rain water, if nature decided to play truant.
The dim lighting and the semblance of Mexican music added the necessary touches - but I wish the lighting was not so low such that we could neither read the menu card comfortably, not could we see the colours on our plate.
The chef came around to see us, asking if he could recommend something. With some inputs, we finally ordered quesadillas, mini pizzas and crisp mushrooms for starters. While the first two were decent, I did not find any of the bold flavours that is so characteristic of Mexican food. The crisp mushrooms were a mistake, heavily breaded and fried, it is the best way to disguise freshness, it was completely lacking in flavour.
The chips provided complimentary with sour cream and salsa were smelling of rancid oil which was still sticking to them, telling us that they were drained in a hurry. The sour cream and salsa tasted fresh though. The waiter when told about the 'funny' smell on the chips, promptly replaced them with baked corn chips, without putting up much of an arguement - which was a nice thing. The guacamole again was lacking in kick, I could not taste any cumin, garlic or chillies - it could well have been salted mashed potatoes with a bit of avocado added for colour.
After quite some starters, we went for a light main course, just a corn salad and vegetable fajetas between the four of us. The salad was okay I guess, I didn't have a taste of it - the fajetas came with the soft tortillas and a sizzler plate of fresh vegetables - barely salted.
Comparing with some other real Mexican food I've had, this was a disappointment - as the very tastes and flavours that Mexican / Tex Mex food is built on, was found completely lacking - oregano, chillies, garlic, cumin, there's so much to work with and yet not used as liberally as it should have been.
The chef did not return a second time for the feedback. We did not order any cocktails or dessert, but they had a fair selection of beers and tequilas, which I found overpriced even by 5 star standards.
Plus points for the ambience, the service and the initiative, one big minus for the flavourless cooking. I don't know if they are hesitant to unload a new cuisine on the masses, but someone who has eaten authentic Mexican food will know that this is a half hearted attempt.