A review of Neon Cactus, a thoroughly nice place to eat and drink lots

Neon Cactus has long been a favourite haunt of mine. Nestled midway down the busy and teensy bit too trendy Call Lane, it’s a fantastic place to enjoy a cocktail or tequila or seven thanks to the friendly bar staff and DJs. In fact, one of my fondest Leeds’ memories is dancing on the tables here at a Hot Chip after party with the members of Hot Chip taking turns on the decks. On Friday and Saturday nights the place is typically rammed with twenty and thirty-somethings on the lash, but if you manage to make it down through the day or even early evening, it’s a cracking place to get a feast at a reasonable price.

Neon Cactus, Call Lane, Leeds

Neon Cactus, Call Lane, Leeds

Aware of the plentiful portions and the nice glowy lights, I headed here for a midweek meal with a friend straight after work. We had intended to go to Reds BBQ, the new super-coolest place to eat meat in Leeds,that is, if you have the luck of the gods and can actually persuade the staff to be anything other than dismissive and rude. I’ve tried to go to Reds four times now, FOUR, during different time zones on different evenings, each and every time the staff have said they don’t have room – even though there are tables standing empty – and the wait will be between one and a half and two hours, with no offer of a drink because there’s no waiting area, or a call back, which I’ve heard on the grapevine they supposedly offer. So, on this fourth and probably last attempt to go to Reds, I instead went to Neon Cactus where I was welcomed with a smile, prompt service and a refreshing ginger beer that warmed me from the inside out on a proper cold night.

A refreshing ginger beer to warm my inners

A refreshing ginger beer to warm my inners

Feeling greedy and in need of lovely comforting carbs, my friend and I opted for the Feast menu, which gives you two lots of nachos, a choice of taco, any enchilida or quesadilla and a fajita of your choice. That’s a good whack of food for £9.95 each and it’s all cooked and served fresh to order, which you know because you can see the chef beavering away with your beans at the end of the bar. The plates were brought to us as soon as they were cooked, which meant we were treated to a constant flow of spicy delights and didn’t have to fight each other for the last morsel of each dish. First up were the nachos and I was surprised to find I preferred the vegetarian option, which was Mozarella and Black Bean. The salsa on this particular pot was very tasty indeed and the beans (which I usually hate) were actually nice! I still couldn’t face any kidney beans though.

Chilli beef and chorizo nachos (back) and  black beans and mozzarella nachos

Chilli beef and chorizo nachos (back) and black beans and mozzarella nachos

Next up were the tacos of the day, which we worked out were pulled pork and squash and sweet potato. They came with a lovely lot of sauces, including refried bean, which I couldn’t get enough of – either I’m coming round to liking beans or I’m pregnant with bizarre cravings. The fillings themselves had a hint of spice and I could taste coriander in the squash and sweet potato filling, everything tasted nice and fresh without a hint of grease.

Pulled pork tacos, sweet potato and squash tacos, sweetcorn salsa, sour cream, guacamole, refried bean sauce

Super tacos, salsa and sauces

These two courses alone would probably curb the average lady’s hunger, but we were on a mission and next on the list were the enchiladas (cheesetastic). We’d opted for the butternut squash, veg and sweet potatos, they came bubbling with cheese and smothered in a rich tomato sauce and cheese, sour cream and a sweetcorn salsa.

Butternut squash and sweet potato enchiladas, from Neon Cactus, Leeds

Butternut squash and sweet potato enchiladas, oozing with cheese

They brought the fajita out at the same time and in our eagerness to try the succulent looking pork belly with cumin seeds and crackling we had chosen, I forgot to photograph it until we were part way through, these are therefore the half-consumed components, which were more than generous!

Slow cooked pork belly with cumin crackling and sauces

Slow cooked pork belly with cumin crackling and sauces (half-scoffed)

We had two fajitas each so I actually had a little pork spare thanks to the oodles of onions, peppers, sauces and tiam of red and white rice

Tortilla wraps with guacamole, sweetcorn salsa, sour cream, rice and refried beans

Wraps, sauces and rice ready for assembly

Not surprisingly, we were pretty full after this little lot and with the whole shebang costing us only around £11 each (drink included) the verdict is Neon Cactus is a tasty, warming and filling spot for an after work meetup. Not too busy but plenty of atmosphere. The food was fresh and well-cooked with plenty of flavour, though individual elements were not as hot as i’d like, but I love spice and they are clearly cooking for the average diner. It would be nice to see some hotter options added to the menu in the future. The sauces and refried beans in particular were all lovely and it’s quite something for me to compliment the evil foodstuff that is beans. I would also like to add that I woke up feeling  far happier than after a night on their tequila!



  1. January 4, 2013 / 3:21 pm

    That meal sounds really tasty. I’m a big fan of mexican food but constantly disappointed by poor offerings in most restaurants. Sounds like you hit on to a winner there.

    • Fay
      January 6, 2013 / 3:12 pm

      Hi Chris, it’s a lovely little bar, far too many ‘Mexican’ places do tex-mex food. There’s a really nice Mexican over in Chapel Allerton called Pinche Pinche, which has a bit more spice on the menu.

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