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.
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
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 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
Venue says: New food and cocktail menu on its way!
¡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
Venue says: Try our exciting new Baja fish tacos or tasty steak tacos! And take advantage of our two-course weekday lunch menu starting at just £9.65.
This Mexican dining room and bar on Commercial Street is the sister branch to the flagship Lupita over in Soho. Much like its sibling, this laid-back east London restaurant brings an authentic slice of the taquería to London, with a traditional Mexican vibe to match the food and drinks. The menu ranges from tacos and tostadas to burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas and specials, such as a a selection of ceviche plates, arrachera steaks and panuchos de cochinita pibil - a dish of slow-roasted pork marinated and cooked to a technique dating back to Mayan times. It comes served on corn tortillas with refried beans and red pickled onions. Churros, a Mayan chocolate cake and flan de cajeta feature on the dessert list. There's an impressive subterranean bar for those looking to settle in. Cocktails boast a Mexican bent - not least the many margaritas - but there are mojitos, caipirinhas and cuba libres, as well as the Lupita take on a bloody mary - the vodka is replaced with mezcal. A suitably extensive range of tequilas is available, too.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
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
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
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
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