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
‘Tonteria’ means ‘nonsense’ in Spanish, and this Mexican-themed Sloaney hangout has silliness in spades: think fire-eating women in latex, live lucha libre wrestling and booze poured from a miniature Mayan ziggurat. If that’s not ‘loco’ enough for you, there is even a toy train to deliver shots to your table. Yeah. In one of Guy Pelly’s stable of west London bars, the clientele are predictably well-heeled (legend has it Prince Harry uses his own secret entrance), but there is delicious tapas and it’s a prime spot to mingle with the high-born and high-cheekboned. To blend in you may as well quaff a champagne cocktail: the Tonte Spritz’s heady fusion of sweet and citrus will have you merry from the initial sip, while the frozen margarita is deceptively drinkable while packing a serious punch. Special mention to the stonking tequila selection, most notably the Reserva de Alma, one of only two bottles of its kind in the world and a snip at £5,000. ¡Ay caramba!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
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’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
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
Venue says: Lunch and pre-theatre menu – two courses for £20 and three courses for only £25. Add a casa rita margarita for only £5. Noon to 6.30pm.
This Covent Garden Mexican comes from an American group with a few branches over in the US. The concept – a high-end take on Mexican cooking – has proven popular here too, with cocktails a further draw. Tacos, enchiladas, flautas, empanadas and quesadillas all feature, alongside guacamole made at the table. Other options include guajillo-glazed baby back ribs with spring onions and fried leeks, rib-eye steak with yellow habanero butter, lamb cutlets with amarillo curry mole and chicken skewers with an agave chilli glaze. Keep an eye out for good value pre- and post-theatre menus, as well as tequila dinners for tables of ten or more, where each course is paired with tequilas from the bar's 30-strong selection.Read more
Venue says: Margarita Festival, August 1-31. We will be showcasing 22 margarita cocktails that you can try, using either blanco, reposado or añejo.
The English translation of this Hampstead Road spot is 'mixed'. But with its resolute focus on authentic Mexican cuisine as it's eaten in the homeland, perhaps the name comes from the equal billing given to the bar - it comes with a vast array of tequila and a party vibe. Dishes on the food menu range from burritos, tacos and enchiladas to pozole rojo, mole verde, filete arriero and the house special, molcajete Mestizo - a sharing dish of beef or chicken (or both) served in a volcanic stone bowl with cheese, chorizo, grilled spring onions, coriander, avocado, chipotle chili and tortillas. The cocktail list benefits from all that tequila, with tequila sours, various margaritas, a tequila sunrise and a tejito all on offer. Mexican beers also feature.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
Café Chula was riffing on a festival vibe the night we visited, with a two-piece band playing Latin-flavoured Bob Marley and Oasis covers. Decor is atmospherically distressed (scuffed paint, flaking mirrors, adobe-effect walls) and there are good views of the canal, but the loud music sent us scarpering to the outdoor seating. A jug of weak margarita was out of step with the party atmosphere; more disappointing was that the most unusual taco topping – lengua, described as cow tongue – had run out. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, we supposed, with such a specialist ingredient; it was less understandable that mushrooms were off the menu too. We plumped for braised pork tacos instead, and the meat was delicious if lacking the described crispness. A generously sized main of enchiladas suizas (chicken with salsa verde sauce and cheese) was a little bland, and there were no bottles of sauce on the table to spark it into life. A plate of camarones borrachas (‘drunken prawns’, with chilli and tequila), went the other way: flavoursome but too salty. One last unhappy festival parallel – the single unisex toilet really didn’t smell so good.Read more