Cardiff’s Mexican oasis

By Ale Medellín

For all bad mezcal, for all good, also and if there is no remedy, a litre and a half.

Is the poor translation of one of Mexico’s proudest proverbs. Mezcal is a traditional Mexican drink which comes from the agave, the same plant that gives us tequila. Mexicans have been drinking mezcal and tequila since before the Spanish conquered. And today, you can drink some of the finest in Cardiff’s own, La Pantera. 

Photo by Danni Graham

La Pantera has been open since January 2020, right before the pandemic hit and they have truly thrived. As soon as lockdown began, the team including Josh Roberts, the general manager, decided to open for take away “the plan was to try and get like a grand per week just to tie everyone over their wages and we ended up making 800 pounds on the first day!” says josh. In their story, which is published in their website, they say “There were days where we’d have queues of people going down the street, waiting to grab some tacos and a slushy, and go and sit in the park with their grub.”

After the great success, the owner of the downstairs of the building told them “have the entire building guys like you doing really good here” and they’ve kept on growing ever since. 

The Cantina is filled with Mexican culture. As soon as you step in, you could be in Mexico until you speak to the very british workers and hear their very british English. However, you can be transported back with a Mexican beer and the great agave spirit collection they offer while you gaze upon a bunch of famous Mexican wrestlers. 

Photo by Danni Graham

The home of the inauthentic taco is one of the other ways La Pantera defines itself. Yes, you may not be able to find tacos al pastor or tacos de carnitas, but with their ever changing menu, you will be delighted. One of the things I, as a Mexican, particularly love about La Pantera is the fact that they don’t claim to be a Mexican place, they are paying tribute to my home country while putting some British culture in it as well. It is not cultural appropriation at all. It’s a group of people who “wanted to create just a nice little place where people can come and learn more about, like, agave spirit and the culture behind Mexico and why it’s important. So it was more bringing something to Cardiff that’s not really been done before.” as Josh puts it.

Photo by Danni Graham

Agave spirit bars have become more popular in the UK over the last few years. Not only with La Pantera, but there’s also Piña in Sheffield, Ojo Rojo in Bournemouth “and then London’s it’s own little thing”, as Josh said. 

It’s a delight to see Mexican culture become more popular in the UK, but it’s even better to see it be treated with the respect La Pantera is giving to it. Remember to visit the cantina and as Josh said, “drink more mezcal!”

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