Cantina is located in Sinclair guest house just down the road from the Farmers market in Maitama. It has a very rustic vibe, and is somewhat a mix between a train station and an underground wine cellar. You’re welcomed into the restaurant by a huge “RAILROAD CROSSING” sign on the wall, and barrels around the restaurant. The rustic vibe is completed by wooden shutters and brown brick walls. There’s a mini outdoor seating area, two different indoor seating areas and a bar with a variety of alcoholic wines. Every corner of this restaurant is perfectly picturesque, and well thought out… down to the Elvis mural on the wall.
Barbecue and sweet mustard glazed chicken wings
The chicken wings come in 4 different flavours: sweet mustard glazed, barbecue, African spicy and buffalo. We opted for the first two. The wings were juicy and had just enough flavour. The sweet mustard glazed wings were sticky and moist, and didn’t have an overkill of mustard as you would expect. It was just the perfect sweet-savoury balance.The barbecue wings were topped with spring onions, and just as moist and delightful. The wings were cut in a way that made it easier and less messy to eat, and let me tell you, we savoured every bite of it.
Crispy Onion Rings
Restaurants in Abuja rarely offer these and those that do can never quite get it right (let us know if you’ve found a hidden onion ring paradise). These beauties were deep fried, delicious and golden brown. Plus, you get 9 rings for N1400 which to us sounds like a steal. Just make sure you have gum or mints on hand.
Fish and Chips
Our friend had just returned from England and we guess she was having withdrawals so she opted for the fish and chips. It was a fish fillet deep-fried in battered, it was served with chips and some coleslaw on the side. The presentation was poor to say the least, but what can you really expect from fish and chips. The fish was a bit dry but seasoned perfectly, and the chips were surprisingly fresh but then again they were home made chunky chips and not your regular frozen chips.
You can NEVER, we repeat, NEVER go wrong with a bowl of penne arrabiata! The pasta was al dente, and there was just the right pasta:sauce ratio on the plate. No complaints here as you definitely get enough value for your money.
So we decided to splurge a lil and go for the jumbo prawns which cost N5800. The description for these prawns read 150g battered, deep fried prawns served with thousand island sauce. Sounds good right? We were just as excited reading that, as there’s just something that makes us imagine a hefty portion of food when the meal’s weight is set out. Ermm just us? Okay 😔 Imagine our shock when the waiter came out with 2 measly prawns, LMAO look at the plate, sis the emptiness!! “Jumbo” was a stretch and now we realise why they put it in grams because 150g = 0.15kg… how jumbo does that sound now? However, despite the weight brouhaha, what the prawns lacked in size, it made up for in flavour.
This pasta was the closest thing to creamy Italian pasta we’ve had in Abuja. The chicken and mushrooms were spot on; not to talk about the creamy cheese sauce (cheese lovers you’re welcome). There was however, a slight issue with the pasta being a bit too soft/slightly over-boiled. Al-dente pasta always wins but if you’re not too technical then it isn’t really an issue to be honest…food critic moment aside, it was delicious.
Overall, the prices are very good, as most of the meals cost about N2000-3500, and the portions are very sizeable, with the exception of jumbo prawns-gate.The prices of our orders were:“Jumbo” prawns – N5800Arrabiata- N2,800Chicken Alfredo- N3,400Fish and Chips- N3,500Chicken Wings (barbecue)- N2,200Chicken wings (sweet mustard glazed)- N2,400Crispy Onion rings- N1,400Fries- N700
We visited this restaurant on a Sunday, and you know how Nigerians love their Sunday lunch at home so we were the only group in the restaurant. The staff were quick to attend to our needs (apart from the usual confusion that ensues with a larger group). The owner/ manager was also on ground to make sure everything was good and we were being attended to promptly which is always a plus.
WOULD WE RETURN?
The vibe of the restaurant is not your typical Abuja restaurant and we were pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for a spot that looks different from what you’re used to then this is your place, however we would advise to stick to simpler meals to avoid being let down. Sadly, it’s gonna have to be a MAYBE on this one.