A trip down memory lane
Stanley Street’s Tilting Heads takes Louise Liebenberg down memory lane with Mexican food that’s filling and fun
I’VE had a soft spot for Mexican food ever since my American godparents, Bill and Jerry Price, introduced our family to the delicious and spicy cuisine of that country, where they had lived for some years.
I was just a kid and this was at a time, probably around the mid-1980s, when few people in Port Elizabeth even knew what a taco or tortilla was. Forget margaritas – all we were familiar with Mex-wise was nachos from the Spur (these are still a favourite, I must confess!)
There were no ready-made taco shells or flour tortillas available in town, so we made our own, and if you wanted salsa you had to chop it up yourself.
My godparents introduced us to tacos, tostadas, tortillas, burritos, fajitas and the like . . . even the dreaded tamale pie – a relic of the US’s first love affair with Mexican cuisine and a spongy mess I never took to.
But I remember the first time I ate guacamole – now that was just wondrous!
Every time they returned from the States, Uncle Bill, a geologist, and “Ant” Jerry, his wonderful, free-spirited sidekick with Navajo ancestry, would bring us Mexican spices and every type of chilli imaginable. We kept the seeds so we could grow our own.
They even taught me and my sister a little Spanish, which came in unexpectedly useful many years later when I married into a Spanish family!
I still enjoy Mexican food though many are unaware it is a lot spicier than Spanish food, which my husband, Salvelio, and I eat much more often.
That said, I used to enjoy popping into Chingada’s little burrito bar at Walmer Park on a weekend for lunch on the run, though sadly it now seems closed.
Tilting Heads in Richmond Hill is another great go-to when the chilli cravings start to hit. Salvelio and I recently went around for a quick dinner and really enjoyed their small but tasty menu.
This chilled and intimate little cafe has been there for months, so it’s surprising we hadn’t got there sooner.
The concept is super simple – it’s essentially a taco cafe with killer margaritas served in jam jars. Not my receptacle of choice, but it does add to the fun if you’re there with friends and the margaritas certainly are ice cold and lip-puckeringly zesty!
If you prefer you can have Mexican beer, served with the obligatory slice of lemon or lime in the neck, instead. These are very different in taste from our South African lagers – I found the Sol lighter, smoother, blander, even, although it was a marvellous thirst quencher and did go down well with our nacho starter (R62).
Salvelio’s Corona Extra was crisper and more refreshing. The waitress couldn’t say what the purpose of the lime was, but some under-the-table Googling suggested it adds tartness and flavour.
The nachos is a big portion even when you share it, as we did, so finishing our mains was easier said than done. I usually just make nachos with bottled salsa (c’mon, who doesn’t?). Tilting Heads does it with fresh, raw tomato and I realise now how much nicer this is.
My mains, the Taco Langostino (R111), included three soft tacos topped with tempura prawn, shredded radish, fennel alioli and slivers of explosively hot and crunchy, deep-fried green chilli.
I adored the flavour combinations and unusual colours, and would have heartily enjoyed eating it too had the kitchen not slipped up and fried the prawns practically to a crisp.
I’m sure this dish is a stunner when the prawns are treated with a little more care.
Salvelio devoured his lamb enchilada (R115) – tortilla layers with lamb, recco sauce (I don’t know what this is and forgot to ask), kidney beans, rice, crispy corn kernels, cheese, coriander and a delicious drizzle of cooling sour cream.
Dessert? Out of the question, though the churros with chocolate sauce would’ve been a fitting finish, I’m sure.
Owner Aiden Pienaar will be introducing an additional tapas-style lunch menu from Thursday and I can’t wait to try it.
ý Tilting Heads is at 3A Stanley Street and open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday. Contact them on (041) 582-1566.
This review visit was anonymous and the meal paid for in full.
“The concept is super simple – it’s essentially a taco cafe with killer margaritas served in jam jars”
FRAGRANT LAYERS: The lamb enchilada is drizzled with sour cream
EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE: Nachos – the best antidote to a cold day
FLAVOUR FIESTA: Taco Langostino is topped with prawn and radish