Food Review: Ojo Rojo, sombreros off to you boys!

The Ojo Rojo story began during a foodie exploration in the animated boulevards of Mexico. Owner Trevor Hill was captivated by the intense flavours and vibrancy of the local street food and saw potential for something very special. Pronounced ‘Ock-o Rock-o’, meaning ‘red eye’, this phrase originates from the effects of consuming fiery hot chili, to the point of eye-watering intensity.

We arrived for a little afternoon delight, one Monday, only to be met with a truly stunning and quite unique venue. The interiors feature a heavy wooden structure, with exposed brickwork foundations, thoroughly rustic and bang on-trend. Not one chair or table is alike, adding plenty of quirk and charm. Towards the rear of the restaurant, stairs lead to the floor above and it’s well worth a peek. Twinkling lights and winding vines make for a truly enchanted atmosphere. Fun fact, both ‘The Canopy’ installation (a twinkling copper tree that hangs over the entire ceiling) and stunning bespoke door handles were created by AUB student ‘Phyllida Swift’ – a truly talented local artist.

Ojo Rojo also offers interesting agave cocktails, predominantly made with a traditional combination of tequila and spices – that’ll heat things up! But if cocktails don’t quite tickle your fancy, how about some single origin Mexican coffee; How’s that for authentic?!

They believe in keeping food fresh and exciting, apparent not only in their unique flavour combinations, but also in their quirky crockery, enchanting décor and their experimental drinks menu.

Some of us are deterred from dining Mexican, due to its proceeding reputation for seriously spicy grub, but the masterminds at Ojo Rojo have a unique system whereby you control the heat. Every table is given three punchy sauces: ‘Caribbean Chili’, ‘Mango Chilli’ and the sinisterly titled ‘The Reaper’ (don’t underestimate this one guys).

We began our meal with the ‘Trio of Dips’, for such a simple dish; the quality was second to none. The homemade guacamole, salsa and frijoles were absolutely delicious, served in generous portions and harmoniously paired with the flatbread and tortilla chips.

For the benefit of our readers, we felt it necessary to try at least three of their delicious taco flavours, including: the ‘Pork Belly’, ‘Quinoa Delight’ and ‘Shawarma’. Each unique filling a burst of flavour! The ingredients are masterfully matched and encased in a soft taco shell, ideal for mopping up any escapee fillings. My personal favourite would be the pork belly: lathered with apple purée and apple coleslaw, it was well balanced and truly delicious.

The chicken wings that were offered were sublime with the house sauces, along with the crunchy sweet potatoes fries (drizzled in a lip-smacking chipotle mayonnaise), definitely a couple of staple sides.

Our meal concluded with an expertly crafted bowl of nachos; salsa, more homemade guacamole, finely sliced jalapenos and a hefty sprinkle of creamy feta. The cheese had been worked through multiple layers of the tortilla chips, a small difference only known by those such as head chef ‘Mark Yates’, who appreciates that cheese should be throughout, not just halfheartedly thrown on top.

For dessert an unusual and, quite honestly, unlikely item caught my eye, the ‘Fruit Tacos: a delicate mixture of rhubarb and apple, with homemade whipped cream and crumble, all resting inside a soft taco shell. I took my first bite into one end of the taco. WOW. The sweet fruit, along with the delicately spiced crumble fused wonderfully. It was a brilliant and inventive take on the classic apple crumble. The locally sourced ‘Lemon Sorbet’ was also quite special; Superbly sour and concentrated. Last but seriously by no means least, was the ‘Rojo Brownie’. A rich and decadent chocolate square, blended with avocado (adding a luxurious silky texture) and with just a pinch chipotle chili, this rather naughty but nice treat really hit the spot, but if I’m being picky, could do without the chipotle heat.

The staff were great: very attentive, and were happy to provide recommendations on which items to try.

Ojo Rojo is definitely an experience to enjoy with friends, journeying through a vast variety of flavours, and a wide selection of Mexican culinary delights. Finish off in true, Mexican style by sampling some (or all) or their ‘Mezcal’ liquor, or simply depart with the spice and flavour of Mexico, lingering on your tongue until curiosity nags you once again.

a. 106 Commercial Rd, Bournemouth BH2 5LR
t. 01202 555282

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