Fleur Britten is author of the 3rd Edition of Hg2 London and a writer at the Sunday Times Style magazine. If anyone knows what’s hot and what’s not on London’s ever-shifting culinary scene, it’s Fleur.
London might seem like an unlikely destination for good Mexican food, and, until recently, that was undeniably the case. But London’s new crop of Mexican restaurants banish memories of the low-rent Tex-Mex – a bastardised mix of Mexican and American that often translated as grizzly, gristly chilli, flabby fajitas and nachos smothered in insipid, sweaty cheese and watery sour cream. With the emphasis very much on burritos and tacos, the new-wave Mexicans have returned to Mexico for inspiration to deliver affordable food that is light, fun, fresh and delicious, and not just something to mindlessly soak up lime-garnished bottles of beer or endless shots of cheap tequila.
London’s new Mexicans come in all shapes and sizes, from Daddy Donkey’s lunchtime-only ‘burro-mobile’ parked in Leather Lane Market, Clerkenwell, to the rapidly expanding Wahaca, fronted by the telegenic poster girl for Mexican food, Thomasina Miers, which now has three branches across London. Notting Hill has its own Mexican parallelogram with the pioneering Taquería, with its own corn tortilla machine, sustainable fish and free-range eggs, chicken and pork, Tom Conran’s successful if pricey sanitisation of street food at Crazy Homies, Santo, London’s only Mexican-owned Mexican, and from the erstwhile bad boy of the Conran dynasty, son Ned and wife Sage’s El Camion (formerly El Camino), with a late-night licence and wicked cocktails, and now a second Soho branch. Head east, and Shoreditch has the hip Jaliscan-inspired cantina and late-night bar Green & Red.
Then there are the flashily branded takeaway joints, Benitos Hat, Tortilla and Chilango, all jostling for taco and burrito supremacy. But you know that London’s Mexican love-in is being taken seriously when Chipotle, a behemoth with 950 branches across North America and a cult following, have just set up shop in the West End – the first of many, apparently. Even Mexican tequila stands a chance of being drinkable nowadays, now with more aged, and smooth, varieties available, and with the likes of Patrón being pitched as being as prestigious as Grey Goose, Tanqueray and Stoli, is actually intended for sipping, not shotting.
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