I feel like I owe a personal and profound debt to chef Meriel Armitage. Deep in lockdown, when my cooking had reached new shove-some-shit-in-a-roasting-tin heights of inertia, her cult vegan outfit Club Mexicana sent out soft taco kits with al pastor marinaded-seitan and charred chunks of pineapple – an influx of deliciousness and flavour that I swear must have patched up a broken brain synapse or two.
After beginnings slinging tacos at summer music festivals, pop-ups and Hackney supper clubs, Armitage now presides over a hot pink corner of Soho's Kingly Court that's permanently packed with happily seitan-stuffed diners. You can't book ahead, but the obliging staff will send you off to grab a drink nearby, texting you when your table comes up.
Do Club Mexicana's wares taste as good now it's no longer the darkest winter of my sensory deprivation? Absolutely, yes. The al pastor taco is still a must-order. But there are other highlights, like the ingenious tofish taco, which batters flaky-textured tofu and seaweed for an deliciously maritime flavour. The jackfruit 'ribs' are unctuously delicious too, their richly caramelised exteriors lovingly smothered in sweet hickory BBQ sauce and blobs of thick, garlicky mayo.
There's so much culinary wizardry on show here. Seitan, tofu and jackfruit are transfigured, Animorph-style, into accurate replicas of various (ex) animals. A moreish vegan 'queso' of mysterious origins pours like lava from a mountainous pile of nachos. Complaining about the lack of actual veg on offer feels like missing the point – but I did find myself craving a bit of cauli, a pop of sweetcorn to lighten up the umami mounds of fake meat.
But why grouse when this is good-time food, best devoured with a pack of hungry friends and accompanied by a bracingly sweet-sour frozen margarita? Armitage has dropped hints about having big plans for 2022, and Club Mexicana definitely deserves to invite more Londoners to its ever-expanding, messy, wonderful taco party.
The vibe Fun Mexican-inspired food served up from a hot-pink eatery in Soho's Kingly Court.
The food Richly-flavoured soft tacos, abundant nachos and burritos (if you're not sharing).
The drink Frozen cocktails, craft beer and imaginative softs.
Time Out tip Get extra guac on your nachos to be transported to avocado heaven.