David Adamson hopes for more from a Mexican neighbourhood spot

You might have heard that Stockport is on the up. It's all change in the town that for many years, despite its beautiful buildings and slightly shabby charm, just couldn't quite make itself a weekend destination to rival the likes of Altrincham. 

It's always been renowned for its pubs, the hulking Robinsons Brewery and its healthy litter of little boozers keeping the town centre sufficiently sozzled. But you can't survive on beer alone. Towns need solid neighbourhood restaurants to rely on, and those places in turn need people coming through the door. 

La Capilla ('the chapel') looks extremely inviting on a dark winter evening, the warm glow from inside especially alluring from a cobbled, lamplit street when you've got the appetite of a street urchin.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Exterior
Outside La Capilla Image: Confidentials

I sat down on a Saturday evening with friends Ant and Ali, and we swiftly ordered three Coronas and a portion of chicharrones -  jalapeno pork scratchings (£4). The scratchings very swiftly flew onto our table, the Coronas less so. 

The scratchings were sadly lacking in any fat or chewy texture, the stuff of vegetarian nightmares but just what you're after from pork scratchings. They were dried out to the extent that they were effectively slightly spicy quavers. A snack of sorts, but just a little too lightweight.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Beers
A rare sighting of pints of Corona Image: Confidentials
2024 02 19 La Capilla Scratchings
Jalapeno pork scratchings Image: Confidentials

We decided to start off with some small plates, for me the more interesting expression of what Mexican food has to offer outside of the various guises a tortilla can take on. First up was seabass ceviche (£8). 

Although technically Peruvian, ceviche has entered into the lexicon of Mexican menus and for me is a welcome addition when well done. What's better than fresh fish given a dowsing in lime juice and allowed to show off its own flavours? This was a solid, sufficiently limey effort but no more than that. With a great ceviche the lime and chilli lift up the notes of the fish and give it an addictive quality. I returned to the healthy portion but wasn't elbowing the others out of the way in the process. 

2024 02 19 La Capilla Ceviche
Seabass ceviche Image: Confidentials

The salt cod croquettes with green aioli (£7) were a much stronger effort. Plump, well-breaded and deep fried to a golden hue, the crispy outer coating contained a well-seasoned wallop of salt cod that went well with the aioli. If more of the menu was executed like these croquettes I think La Capilla would be treading a much more interesting path. More of the same please.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Cod Croquettes
Salt cod croquettes Image: Confidentials

The ubiquitous hispi cabbage is a godsend for menu makers. Simply slice the little green craniums in half, give them a griddle with some garlic and send them out to the tune of about £9. La Capilla's are a much more reasonable £6, and could feasibly be most of a main course for someone with less of an appetite. While certainly another example of a commendable pricing of their menu from La Capilla, this could have been done with a bit more courage. When the leaves are well dressed and lent a vinegary tilt by a punchy dressing hispi cabbage is a joy. Here the carpet of breadcrumbs hid the flavour of the leaves and made something that could be bright and tasty just a bit, bready.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Hispi Cabbage
Hispi cabbage Image: Confidentials

With that we were onto the mains, and while Ant and Ali opted for burritos, I was interested to see the mettle of their tacos, and so ordered a portion of the baja fish (three for £10) along with the pork carnitas (three for £10.50). 

The baja fish, while enticingly well battered, was sorely lacking in seasoning. I couldn't get a whiff of what this was meant to be all about, instead left with something closer to a slightly sour creamy fish finger butty. Disappointing, even when seasoned, which is a pity as the quality of the goujons was promising.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Fish Tacos
Baja fish tacos Image: Confidentials

When I ordered the pork carnitas tacos I missed the three chillies symbol nearly burning a hole in the menu, and should really have paid more attention. They were lip-numbingly spicy, at first deceptively so and then with the subtlety of a slap in the face. I don't doubt the level of chilli here will be a plus for plenty of people, but I would have preferred a balance of flavours with the pickled red onions and salsa. The pork was again a little under-seasoned for me, making this too dominant with chilli to be as enjoyable as I hoped they'd be.

2024 02 19 La Capilla Pork Tacos
Pork carnitas tacos Image: Confidentials

I really wanted to be impressed by La Capilla, and to have a place to add to my growing rolodex of go-to restaurants. It could still be that place, I just think it could be so much braver with the menu. The small plates, especially the croquettes, suggest a kitchen and menu with the potential to take risks and lean less on the tacos. 

Stockport is crying out for a great neighbourhood restaurant, and the easygoing nature of La Capilla lends itself perfectly to this, it just needs a menu to match.

La Capilla, 28-29 Market Place, Stockport, SK1 1ES

2024 02 19 La Capilla Interior
La Capilla, 28-29 Market Place, Stockport, SK1 1ES Image: Confidentials
  • Food 7/10

    Jalapeno pork scratchings 6.5, Ceviche 7.5, salt cod croquettes 8, hispi cabbage 7, baja fish tacos 6.5, pork tacos 6.5,

  • Service 3/5

    Friendly and very well-meaning, if a little chaotic.

  • Ambience 4/5

    More can be made of a beautiful building, including dimming the lights.