There’s an old Billy Connolly joke about him ordering dinner in a Mexican restaurant. When his dish arrives, it’s the wrong one, so the waiter just refolds it into the correct shape. That’s too often the perception here of the country’s cuisine: the same old ingredients, just in different formats. London’s many many burrito chains are some of the worst culprits, but Mexa in the Arcade Foodhall beneath Centre Point is aiming to cut through the undistinguished mass of refried beans. Using mainly lime juice.
Because, while I liked a lot of the food at Mexa, there was an overwhelming prevalence of citrus on some plates, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else. A seabass ceviche and a prawn aguachile verde were both cheek-puckeringly acidic. The ‘aguachile’ (a liquid infusion of chillis and lime juice) was too sharply one-dimensional and lacked proper chilli claws, though the prawn was super-fresh. At £13 for a small uncooked dish, it was also pretty pricy.
Mexa is the offspring of Netil Market’s already-being-lamented Sonoria Taqueria (currently closed and embroiled in a legal dispute over its right to use the term ‘taqueria’, which is… odd), so its taco game is predictably strong. A richly beefy suadero version was satisfyingly succulent and there was a deliciously well-balanced veggie one with grilled cactus and sweet caramelised onion. Top marks, too, to a slow-cooked lamb birria quesadilla, accompanied by a pot of umami-dense jellied consommé. Lamb rarely gets a look-in on London’s Mexican menus, so this was a real payday treat.
Eating at Mexa is fun: there’s a counter you can sit up at and watch the staff refolding the dishes (I’m joking). On my visit, I was sat next to two performative bros who used ‘mate’ in every single sentence and looked like they were hoping for a floorshow of donkey erotica. Them’s the breaks, no matter how much you try and posh up Mexican food. But these are subtle and sophisticated dishes and deserve to put Mexa in a different league to this city’s generic wrap peddlers. If they just take it easy on the neat lime juice.
The vibe A high-end Mexican spot in Arcade Food Hall.
The food Super-fresh, imaginative dishes, with an emphasis on tacos.
The drink Pair the food with cocktails from Arcade Food Hall's formidable drinks menu.
Time Out tip Sit up to the counter to watch the masters at work.