DF Mexico

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
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Spitalfields

¡Ay, caramba! A Mexican restaurant with not a sombrero in sight – just lashings of tasty and fashionable fast food, in a stylish setting just off Brick Lane.

 The ‘DF’, in case you were wondering, stands for ‘Distrito Federal’ – what Mexicans call the conurbation of Mexico City, a vast sprawl bigger than Greater London. Not that you’ll find many Mexicans in this Whitechapel namesake.

Plenty of attentive graphic designers and off-duty DJs, maybe, but not many Spanish-speaking North Americans raised on corn, beans and chili. For DF is very ‘London’. It’s a fashionable and affordable modern Mexican diner created by the Wahaca chain. They are dabbling in something even more mass-market and affordable than Wahaca’s cool Mexican cantina format. DF still bears a lot of Wahaca signatures –  strikingly modern design, cheery staff, reservations not taken – and will be a long-running popup (until 2015 at least). It feels and looks like a pilot for a new chain in the making.  

How can DF be cheaper than Wahaca? No table ordering keeps staffing costs low. You sit down, leave your bag and jacket behind for opportunistic thieves to eye up, then queue at the counter to use the supermarket-style touchscreen. There are real humans working behind the tills too though, and they can take your order if the touchscreen drives you loco. But this part of the experience is about as much fun as being told you have an unidentified item in the bagging area.

Then a human brings you your booze, you collect your soft drinks from the self-service coolers, and wend your way back through the forest of awkwardly-placed chair legs – the bag snatchers don’t have a chance, not even a couple of chihuahuas could get across this room without a headlong collision.

So far, so what. But the Wahaca crew have done a clever thing: conflated their expertise and experience of Mexican fast food with London’s current fetish for burgers, finger food and US-style grills, a penchant which Mexico City also shares. So if you order the exotic-sounding ‘pork bibil torta’, what arrives looks like a burger. But the toasted brioche bun is filled with slow-cooked pork in a citrous Yucatan-style marinade, and comes with a spread of refried beans, sharp pickle and avocado – me gusta mucho.

More recognisably Mexican are the tacos, served open, so that inside the face-flannel flatbreads you can see the colourful dressings of refried beans, yogurt, coriander leaves and – in our case – crumbed cod, like fish fingers. The fish is Marine Stewardship Council approved (hurrah!); the Wahaca chain also consistently gets top ratings for sustainability from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

A dietician may take a dimmer view of our meal order though. I left feeling as if I’d eaten a week’s quota of salt, saturated fats and sugar in one meal. This, of course, is not just true of DF Mexico, but could equally well apply to a thousand other fast food joints in London, especially the burger joints. This is the catch with damn tasty food; it’ll cost you in other ways, maybe by taking years off your life, if you eat too much of it. Still, you’re going to die with a smile on your lips.

By Guy Dimond
 

Venue name: DF Mexico
Contact:
Address: Old Truman Brewery, entrance on Hanbury St
London
E1 6QR
Transport: Tube: Liverpool St
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

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Samantha H

Wahaca mixed with Nando's is the best way I can describe this.  Food comes out quickly and you are often on long sharing tables.  Great for a quick bite to eat before heading off elsewhere.  Can be in and out within 45 minutes easily.  Is a safe, reliable choice in the area.

Nat P
Staff Writer

Mexican-accented eats served in so-now surroundings (industrial with splashes of yellow, signage highlighting the DF in the name everywhere: Dirty Fingers on the napkins, for instance) that make you forget this is essentially spruced-up fast food. The burritos are lighter than the average nap-inducing carb-fest, thanks to being lighter on rice. The mushroom torta (in a burger bun with chipotle mayo) is a better veggie option than the tacos, which lean too heavily on lettuce to fill them. The serve-yourself drinks station of aguas frescas (soft drinks) is a fun part of the experience, but it's the fries that keep you coming back for more – crisp and slightly oversalted, they'll make you a junk food junkie and you won't care.

writtenbyfitton
Tastemaker

You can forget Wahaca, DF/Mexico is cheaper, better and chicer.  Located just off Brick Lane in the Old Truman Brewery, you load up on modern NYC-influenced Mexican food for less than a tenner. There are tequila-heavy frozen margaritas too :D