Now where are my sunglasses? The reason I ask is that just thinking of Mezcal I’m reminded of its glare, its resolute neon illumination that makes it stand out like a beacon from the stonily grey Glaswegian corner it inhabits. This visual bombardment continues within, although the light is now violet in hue, more club-like, much blurrier. Here we see tiles, in chevrons, in lines of contrasting colours, the hot, throbbing colours we associate with Mexico and friezes of those mismatched, idiosyncratic hand-painted tiles- day of the dead skeletons, suns, stars, flowers, insects- that seem to be a must-have for any establishment branding itself as Mexican. Inevitably Frida Kahlo puts in an appearance; she must now rank alongside Che Guevara as one of Latin America’s most reproduced faces. Further ornamentation and visual distraction is supplied by a Latino Catholic vibe, the Holy Virgin herself stands beatifically within her tubular light frame. Are those actually neon crosses over the bar, or is this cocktail- SOS Margarita, ‘lime juice, agave, orange oils, saline solution’- inducing hallucinations?

We’re sitting right in front of the pass, with a female kitchen team working away in a calm, focused manner behind it. I’m tutting at the redundant plastic straw in my cocktail; viewed through the lens of planetary breakdown, this is taking the authentic Mexican thing a bit too far. But instantly the food distracts. This ceviche of chunky prawns, cucumber, red onion, in a green citrus marinade flecked with fresh red chilli is a palate-cleansing appetite- teaser. Every element of these beef tacos works: flavour-dense, grill-smoky flat iron steak that’s probably owes its tenderness to a chilli marinade, guacamole like green velour, pickled vegetables for contrast, and soft caramelised onions in floppy homemade tortillas that have that addictive flavour of nixtamalised (lime treated) corn meal.

One of my usual gripes about Mexican establishments is that I get bored with eating the same ingredients even if they are served in different configurations, but here, I’m not jaded. There’s something different and distinctive about these sweet potato and courgette tostados with their topping of fresh corn and tomato relish, their slick of coriander salsa, their blobs of creamy yogurt that temper the heat of the spices.

And there’s something deeply moreish about these muddy Oaxacan style black beans that look deadly plain but keep you coming back for more. They’ve been cooked with avocado leaves and epazote- pungent leaves, likened in taste to oregano, anise, citrus, mint, even tar or turpentine. It must be the epazote that’s making these legumes quite compelling. Wisdom of the ancients, and all that, epazote is thought to have anti-flatulent properties. And by luck rather than good judgement, the beans go down well with a spoonful of this pico Mezcal salsa of fresh pineapple, red onion, coriander, and fruity, floral, fiery habanero chillies. This watermelon, its sweetness laced with chilli, lime juice, and salt in a cooling salad is an idea that I’ll definitely nick for domestic use.

Desserts? ‘Cinnamon flavoured nachos with ancho chilli chocolate sauce and lime chantilly’ sounds like a stretch and tastes like it too. The chocolate sauce is fine; ditto the cream, but the greasy dryness of the nachos, appealing perhaps in a savoury context, is at war with them.

Tequila-soaked caramelised pineapple with dark chocolate mousse is about as interesting as it sounds, that is, not very, although each element would have potential in its own right if it were placed in a more sympathetic line-up. We could have chosen instead a classic churros and chocolate sauce, but as the ‘Nutella quesadilla with hazelnut praline’ suggests, sweet offerings here otherwise seem to suffer from a forced Mexicanisation that isn’t somehow convincing.

READ MORE: The Post Box, Perth. Restaurant review by Ron Mackenna

The front of house team seems laid-back in a good way: urbane, helpful, nothing is too much trouble. After a well-paced service, our desserts arrive after a wait that’s borderline too long and they’re deducted from our bill before we even formulate the idea that we were ill-served. As I say there’s a bright, zingy positivity to Mezcal that’s eminently likeable.

Mezcal, 104 Hope Street, Glasgow 0141 378 8207

Food: 8/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Value: 9/10

Joanna Blythman

Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018