Eating is Apparently Cheating

La Malquerida l l Centauro Sur s/n Loc. 1, Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico l +52 984 111 4133 l Visited June 2017

Opposite La Malquerida, on a lively street of the main road in Tulum, is a cocktail bar called Batey. You’ll spot it immediately as it’s a hive of activity. The sounds of live music echoing out onto the streets creating a buzz. Most importantly, there is a shell of an old Volkswagen Beetle painted in bright technicolour outside it.  

Far from just a hood ornament for the bar, however, it’s the centre piece of the cocktail menu. A guy stands roadside running fresh sugar canes through a press located inside the chassis, collecting the sweet nectar underneath. The sticky liquid then forms the basis of their speciality mojitos. You can order the classic take with mint or one with a ginger kick. Or just do what I did, and go for the habanero chilli version.  

I was forewarned by our waitress over the sounds of the soulful Latin voice covering chart hits with a live band. I assured her this wasn’t my first time. What was presented a few moments later looked innocuous enough. A light green coloured drink with some mint and a sugar cane peering out the top. But a few sips in and the secret leapt out, there was nothing shy and retiring about this concotion. An initial sweet mint syrup refreshing you, giving way to rum following by a fiery punch of habanero. It grows in intensity as the drink progresses. It’s a brilliant mix. 

Habanero Mojito at Batey's

The One I Left Behind –
Batey’s out of body experience of a habanero mojito

The reason I wax lyrical about Batey, in a review about La Malquerida, is not necessarily for how enjoyable that mojito was (although it was), it’s more from a longing of regret that I wish I had stayed. You see we eventually had to try and escape to our dinner reservations without having another. Before the decision was made to avoid skipping dinner altogether.

So why the regret? Well as you sit on the outside tables, staring back across at the bright vibrancy of Batey, you realise that that emptiness isn’t remorse, it’s hunger. You start to realise that you were quickly seated but it’s been over 40 minutes since you arrived and the best you’ve been offered is a Tecate Light. Even that has long since run dry. Waiters come and go and the place is certainly busy, but once we’re in with a bill running, no one seems that interested in coming to take our order. 

It nearly gets too much, but then you realise that you’re in this for the inch and the mile. The food has been recommended, so maybe it will all be worth the incredible wait. Alas, it is too much to hope for. After finally ordering from the usual choices of traditional Mexican grub, we wait a little longer and then a little longer. Finally, I manage to find someone to ask where our food is. It arrives a few minutes later, a sure fire sign that it’s been sat on the side, neglected.

La Malquerida terrace

A Deceptively Pleasant Terrace – Not Pictured: Horrendous Food

Unfortunately, it shows as well. Mexican staples don’t necessarily lend themselves to dainty presentation. Allowing for that, these dishes just look thrown onto the plate.The fish is smothered in garlic butter that’s slightly astringent and raw. The butter does its best to hide it but the white markings where the protein is escaping show how over cooked it is. The beef fajita is greasy from a heavy dose of oil coating the mix. The chicken tacos are a conjoined mess of coagulated cheese requiring a knife and fork or potentially surgical instruments to eat.

By this point, having waited over an hour and two Tecate Lights, we eat what we can manage as frankly, we would have eaten most anything by that point. A lot is left, by a man that doesn’t often leave food. We ignore dessert and take another lifetime to flag our waiter and settle the bill. By this point, we’re just willing to be out of the chairs we’ve been in for the last few hours.

As we stand, the glow of Batey glares back at me. I could tell you about how much the meal cost, or talk more about the decor of the restaurant but all of that would waste your time and lead to you thinking you were weighing up positives and negatives. Instead, I urge you to forgo the dinner and greedily tuck into some of the habanero mojitos instead.