Don’t know your tacos from your fajitas? Here’s our guide to dining Mexican in London. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
If you have a hankering for a burrito as well as a cheap handbag, Leather Lane is the place to be. Nestled among the bric-a-brac, cheap shoes and 'classic' CDs is this behemoth of an operation – Daddy Donkey is a self-proclaimed ‘kick-ass Mexican grill’. Started by Joel Henderson in 2005, the street food stall grew massively over the past few years, and in 2014 the operation moved into a permanent coner site. But despite settling into a 'proper' takeaway joint, has still managed to keep the quality of their offerings consistent. Whether you’re having the ‘naked burrito’ (sans tortilla, replaced with salad) or the Daddy D burrito, choose from five fillings (a step above other burrito stalls), including shredded beef (cooked with green tomatillos and lime salsa; £6.50), or carnitas (pork shoulder cooked in with garlic, cola, spiced and chili; £5.95). The combinations are endless, but there is one constant – be prepared to queue.Read more
The neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’; the mannequin in the entrance wears a PVC gimp suit. But the real excitement begins when you descend the stairs into the bowels of this nightclub-like restaurant. It’s so dark and loud you’ll need a moment to adjust (the light bulbs have been blacked out). By comparison, the homely Mexican cooking can feel run-of-the-mill, though effort is put into presentation. On our visit, soft flour tacos with a tender beef filling arrived beautifully arranged on a specially designed wooden board; a crunchy cheese and roasted tomato quesadilla was served ‘open’; pinto beans with a spicy chorizo kick came in a dinky glazed bowl. The real highlight was the dish least concerned with its own looks: a rich lamb shank in intensely dark juices. Seafood cazuela (a one-pot dish like a wet paella), containing clams, squid, prawns and mussels, was creamy, tangy and perfectly fine, though not especially memorable. Factor-in the small portions and two-hour table limits (though you can decamp to the bar), and you might wonder what the fuss is all about. But that would be missing the point. You come here to see and be seen, and for a thrilling atmosphere and exceptionally friendly service. A must-try.Read more
It’s a good thing Casa Morita’s menu is so brief – the potent cocktails don’t do much for your reading comprehension. Like the food, they’re tasty and remarkably cheap (just £5 for a smoky mezcal margarita). The bargain prices suit the setting, even if this is no longer any old indoor market thanks to the arrival of a plethora of interesting eateries over the past few years. Taco appetisers used good, chewy corn tortillas; the version with chicken mole was a little dry, but it packed a decent chocolate hit. Cochinita pibil, a Yucatán peninsula speciality of pulled pork, gave subtle notes of orange juice and achiote, and was painter’s-palette colourful, with pink marinated onions, sweetcorn-studded rice and adobe brown refried beans. Enchiladas suizas were, thankfully, not too creamy, and enlivened by a slop of tangy green tomatillo salsa. Service can be market-trader curt, and there aren’t any toilets attached to the restaurant (though there are some in the market). Do finish with the chocolate cake: laced with morita and árbol chillis, it’s a zingy dream for just £3.75.Read more
The word ‘taquería’ is traditionally associated with street stands churning out endless tacos. They do that here too, but in rather more salubrious surroundings and with a clipboard-toting greeter thrown in for good measure. It’s a charming, independent-feeling little place of two rooms, with dark wood floors and pristine white walls decorated with a few Mexican film posters. The food is equally unfussy: a dozen or so tacos (using corn tortillas made in-house daily), a handful of tostadas and a few monthly changing specials. One taco of ‘house-made chorizo’ came topped with flavoursome mince; a slow-cooked pork version contained meat as soft as cotton wool; another of steak was just the right side of chewy. A ceviche tostada had great texture – silky yet chunky pollack – but tasted too fishy, suggesting it wasn’t the freshest of catches. Service was swift if somewhat harried. To drink, there’s Mexican beer, aguas frescas (cooling fruit or nut-based drinks), an extensive selection of mezcales and tequilas and some fine cocktails. The delicious habanero hot sauce is made by sister operation Cool Chile, and available to buy. The acoustics were our only real cause for complaint – something about the main dining room amplified our fellow diners’ chatter to wince-making levels.Read more
It might sound a bit like something you’d hear Dick Van Dyke singing in Mary Poppins, but you won’t find much chimney sweeping going on at Kimchinary. Instead, this is the street food stall of Swedish burrito-meister Hanna Söderlund who fuses Hispanic street food with Korean ingredients. These include kimchi – Korean-style spicy, fermented Chinese cabbage – which features in just about every dish on offer. Hence the name. With this many nationalities involved in one wrap, you might be wondering whether the UN conflict resolution team should get involved, but that won’t be necessary. This mix definitely works, and there’s a Mexican wave of devotees ready to agree. It’s not just a load of old cabbage either. Along with kimchi-piqued rice, the burritos are filled with sweet and salty soy-braised ox cheek, or spicy confit pork belly. This is layered with own-made Korean chilli paste (gochujang), coleslaw, sour cream and grated cheddar, then wrapped in a tortilla and toasted. Veggies are also catered for with a grilled aubergine with braised greens version. While some street-food traders can be harder to pin down than Dick Van Dyke’s accent, Kimchinary can be found at Kerb King’s Cross every Friday (noon-2pm). You can currently catch them at Street Feast London, too (Dalston Yard, Hartwell St, E8 3DU. Fri-Sat, 5pm-midnight). Hanna Söderlund’s got the Mexican-Korean burrito all wrapped up.Read more
London’s Tex-Mex eateries are currently ten a peso, and the branded interior of Benito's Hat looks ripe for replication – no doubt something owner Ben Fordham, a former City lawyer, has considered. Lime and orange walls overlook functional wooden tables, with cactus pots sitting precariously among the condiments. The fast-moving production line serves some of the best burritos in town. We plumped for one loaded with slow-cooked pork, and loved the soft, floury tortilla, the freshness of the fiery salsa brava (made several times daily) and the black beans, which were authentically flavoured with avocado leaves. Chicken, steak and vegetable options are also available, as are suitably merciless margaritas.Read more
Thomasina Miers’s Mexican ‘market food’ concept is now an eight-strong chain (plus two street food vans). The restaurants all share a cheery vibe, with young, efficient staff buzzing round bright interiors, as well as a commitment to sustainability and animal welfare. The large Charlotte Street branch has a takeaway hatch (which sells a few ingredients such as salsas, chillies and fresh corn tortillas, as well as lunches) and a mezcal bar on the first floor, in addition to the ground-floor restaurant. Tortillas loom large, in soft, crisp, toasted and chip variations, and in flour and corn versions, though there are also a few grills (fish, steak or chicken served with green rice). But no one is complaining – it’s tasty, addictive stuff, with recent meals only revealing one dud – the mushroom quesadillas. Favourites include the steak burrito (which comes with a zingy chipotle salsa); the little black bean tostadas (refried beans with avocado salsa, crema, cheese and fresh tomato salsa); the spicy slaw; and the guacamole (served with either tortilla chips or fennel pork scratchings). Puddings include a version of churros y chocolate. Breakfast is served here too: indulge in huevos rancheros, a burrito filled with Brindisa chorizo, or a dulce de leche doughnut. Drinks run from mocktails to tequila.Read more
Boho Mexica’s claims to authenticity rely on its domestic labour-of-love approach – chef Tía Patty, the owner’s aunt, uses recipes learnt from her mother. While a starter of bland guacamole disappointed, painstaking care showed through in another of slow-cooked beef brisket, and crispy tostadas of green plantain topped with prawns and roasted habanero peppers had us happily glugging back our cocktails. The long, slim interior feels fresh and lively, with a bar that snakes through the whole restaurant. Cartoons of cocktail party guests on the walls reinforces the vibe of bonhomie; elsewhere it’s all mock adobe and colourful Mexican posters. The seating plan is casual, with places at the bar and even a tiny corner table for one – you could come in for tacos and a beer without feeling uncomfortable – plus a few tables set away from the chatter-filled hustle and bustle. Mains of pulled pork enchiladas with salsa roja, and puerco enchilanchado (chilli-marinated pork with plentiful side dishes) combined belly-filling substance with vibrant flavours, but pulpos encebollados (squid and baby octopus spiked with chilli, onion and lime) was far too tart.Read more
Venue says: Monday to Friday 2-4-1 margaritas between 5pm and 7pm with your meal.
¡Viva la Dalston revolución! The latest East End venue to have been hipsterised calls itself Viva Tapas & Bebidas. The small, bare-brick premises are decorated with vintage furniture and kitsch bric-a-brac. Drinking happens under the watchful eyes of the virgin of Guadeloupe – depicted on a giant mural, flickering from glass candles on the tables, even tattooed on one of the bartender’s arms. The cocktail menu focuses mostly on tequila- and rum-based Mexican classic bebidas. But, ay caramba! A Cointreau margarita was served in a tumbler instead of the traditional margarita glass. While this could be excused as a hip gimmick – we’re in Dalston after all – a handful of ice cubes clonking around in the drink, and an excess of salt in the actual drink, suggest more sloppiness than hipness. Better was a bourbon sour: tangy, bursting with lime flavour and frothy from the use of egg white. No Mexican cocktail would be complete without a portion of tortilla chips, so we ordered ours with guacamole: roughly mashed, garlicky, with sour lemon notes – exactly what a good guacamole should be like. Taquitos (small soft tacos) come filled with melted cheese and succulently moist and garlicky pork, or with chicken mole, or garlic mushrooms. Dipped into the accompanying spicy jalapeño sauce, these cheesy pockets go well with the drinks. However, we were disappointed to be served plain white corn tacos instead of the blue corn version promised on the menu. For something less mainstream, tryRead more
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 chanRead more
Venue says: 20% off all food orders before 7pm every night and all night on Monday to Wednesday.
What do you do next if you’ve built two successful furniture businesses from scratch, and want a new challenge? Open an Indian restaurant. Or at least, that’s what Aamir Ahmad and his colleagues have done. Their background in fashionable interior design explains Zumbura’s good looks – but instead of the clean, modern lines of their Ocean and Dwell shops, the look includes South Asian influences. Saturated colours, Moghul-style bird prints on the ceiling, ornate tableware and beautifully styled brass lanterns adorn the long, rustic wooden bar.The menu showcases the simple rural cooking of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh – the cuisine of Ahmad’s Purabi forebears. Ghugni is a dish of black chickpeas braised in an onion-rich vegetable sauce; it tasted like Indian home cooking, and we mean that as a compliment. Karela – bitter gourd cooked with lentils – was the best dish, attractively sour just as it should be. Portion sizes were meagre by Indian standards though, following the ‘small plates’ trend of London’s fashionable restaurants; £7.50 is quite steep for the three meagre beef patties of the chapli kebab.The desserts were a highlight: rose kulfi frozen in a tall cone around a lollipop stick in the Indian way; or rawa (semolina) stirred with ghee studded with crushed pistachios, almonds and cardamom.Penny-pinchers take note that Tooting is just three Tube stops away – where equally impressive cooking from the subcontinent can cost half the price. You won’t, however, find