DF Mexico

Restaurants, Mexican Spitalfields
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
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DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico
DF Mexico

¡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
Address: 21 Hanbury Street
Old Truman Brewery
E1 6QR
Transport: Tube: Liverpool St
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £35.
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Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:4
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  • 1 star:1
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1 of 1 found helpful

I really enjoyed this place. We rocked up on a Thursday night around 6:15 and immediately seated. The nice hostess explained the ordering to us and even then when I was confused at the screen someone came up and helped. I enjoyed my horchata immensely whilst my husband had a beer. Our nachos with guacamole came out quickly and was delicious. Decent size portion for two people and a good amount of guac. 

I had the make your own fajita with steak and cheese and ohhhh man was there cheese. The meat itself was deliciously tender and the smokey chipotle sauce a perfect accompaniment. I was quite happy with my selection. I had a bite of the chicken burrito the husband ordered, and although it looked a bit dry, it was tasty. 

Food came out quickly, staff were friendly and not pushy, and prices were reasonable for the area. Sure Lupita's might be more authentic, but they are also more expensive and the service is always asi asi :)

Diana T
1 of 1 found helpful

Really good if you want a New York and Mexico fusion bite. The tortas (brioche burger type things) are a great size. And I eat here for the Bottomless non-alcoholic drinks alone. They're so yummy. The fried cod fish is amazing in a torta or a taco, but the steak is a great option if you're a meat lover. I don't recommend the sweet corn side dish, it tastes like it just came out of a can. The only way the mains could get better is if there were more guacamole!

1 of 1 found helpful

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

Hannah K

Recently tried out the Tottenham Court Road branch of DF, and this definitely lived up to expectations. We shared the tacos and a burrito, and drank 2 raspberry & hibiscus frozen margaritas. It was amazing - so fresh and served so quick. I love the ordering system here, it adds to the relaxed vibe & the staff make you feel at home. The old school hip-hop is just a bonus really, and I will definitely be back.

Gavin P

Hugely disappointed ! Ordered a Burrito and my honest review is that it was bland. To put this in perspective, my burrito was lacking the following: rice, chilli sauce and sour cream. I'm used to having to add guacamole as an extra but not the entire list of ingredients that define my favourite Mexican offering. This is less a burrito and more a "wrap". Preserve your untainted image of this beautiful meal and go elsewhere.

Bonnie W

I was expecting a full service restaurant but at D/F Mexico you order at the front counter and get your drinks and then sit down. The flavours were great - we ordered tacos, sweet corn and fries. The frozen margaritas were also good and quite cheap. The margaritas are serviced from a big slushie machine but there was a good amount of tequila in them despite this. This place makes for a good pit stop before going out in Shoreditch or if you're exploring the brick lane market on a Sunday

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.

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.

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