SINCE OPENING up at the heart of Call Lane in 2009, Neon Cactus has seen much more tequila-fuelled, dancing-on-the-bar debauchery in its time than most seven-year-olds.
You’ll soon realise this is the same old rascal, it’s just picked up some new tricks
Part of the Leelex family that includes respectable members of the local & national food community such as Cielo Blanco and Pintura, Neon has come across, in comparison, as a bit of a tearaway - the sibling that turns up to family gatherings and gets the shots in.
It’s great fun, of course, but it takes its toll. So Neon has decided to grow up a little bit, or at least decided to look the part. Suited and booted with a fresh interior and some slick branding it certainly looks like a reformed character.
But don’t let it fool you.
Look past the shiny, footprint-free bar towards the shelves buckling under the variety of premium spirits they hold. Look beyond the bold colour scheme of the new menus and read what’s on them. You’ll soon realise this is the same old rascal, it’s just picked up some new tricks.
“As Neon approaches its seventh birthday, we wanted to give our customers, old and new, something fresh and exciting to try,” says Craig Kennedy, the new General Manager.
That 'something fresh and exciting' includes a huge range of Mezcal (ancient spirits distilled from Agave, of which Tequila is just one variety) and Sotol, one for Tequila lovers who want to explore new but familiar flavours (just don’t ask for salt and a wedge of lime). Alongside a load of new cocktails to ease in those uninitiated to agave.
Before you accuse them of selling out and going too refined, bear in mind the new cocktails include the Frozen Pineapple Margarita on tap from Neon’s slushy machine, the Vimto-tinged Electric Daisy, and the Pisco Disco, served with a flying saucer and glow-stick. Even I Love You Like XO - their take on the chic Espresso Martini - comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.
With a compact kitchen on show right next to the bar, food has always been a big part of Neon’s identity, so it’s only right that the menu of street-food inspired Mexican sharers has been given a bit of a facelift as well. We tried dishes like duck breast fajitas, lamb pibil tacos, fresh-made guac and salsas, and charred corn quesadillas that wouldn’t be out of place on the menu of one of the new-fangled "modern Mexican" restaurants, like big sister Cielo Blanco.
As well as the more upmarket dishes, there’s some frankly salacious baby back ribs and chipotle hot wings on offer that got us in a right mess. Luckily though, the Call Lane basement has seen people in far more scandalous states - and judging by the new cocktails we'd tried, it'll be seeing plenty more.
Neon Cactus’s new food & drink menu is available from August 31st, in the bar, and on Deliveroo.