SPICY Mexican cuisine is the perfect antidote to freezing snow showers.
Chiquito, in the Walkergate Complex, was like a beacon on a chilly January night in Durham.
The themed eatery had already drawn in my family, who’d got together to celebrate my little sister’s birthday.
I’m not usually a fan of any restaurant which boasts a “philosophy” on its menus, but you can always skip that and go straight to the grub.
There was a “mex-cellent” range of starters to chose from – their pun, not mine – including nachos, skins and meatballs – but we had birthday cake to leave room for.
Mains straddle a general Tex-Mex theme, from burgers and steaks to quesadillas and fajitas.
Sister and her fella went for the staple of chicken fajitas and the parents chose steaks, so I felt it was up to me to strike out and try something different – pollo del fuego, a grilled chicken breast marinated in habaneros and lime salsa.
The spicy chilli-coated dish arrived at our table in a sizzle of steam and was equally noisy on the taste buds.
A cooling lime and tequila sauce softened the burn, along with a stack of sweet potato chips, which were crunchy and deliciously different.
I’ve never seen the appeal of food you have to build yourself, but my sister and her partner happily set about topping chunks of tasty chicken with salsa, guacamole and cheese, then rolling them up in floury tortillas.
The parents’ steaks arrived well-done, just as they like them, served up with onions rings, chips and mustard sauce, which wasn’t a hit.
But they scored a free upgrade to rib eye steak, as the sirloin they wanted wasn’t available.
My money-saving sister was armed with a stack of vouchers and also grabbed a bargain, so we were treated to a free jug of classic margarita cocktail and 25 per cent sliced off the bill.
Unfortunately, the first bill didn’t show our savings, but it was quickly rectified by our helpful serving staff, who also earned their tip by dishing up birthday cake with the obligatory embarrassing rendition of “happy birthday to you”.
If we hadn’t brought our own dessert, we could have chosen from sweet treats including traditional sweet dough churros.
With discounts, our meal for five came to just under £65.