Por fin! Mexican food is finally making waves in London
For years – and still today in some quarters by people who clearly haven’t done their research – London hasn’t been renowned as a foodie destination. However, anyone who lives in the capital, knows this is wrong – we have some of the best restaurants in the world… FACT.
For tourists, I could easily see why they may fulfil this ‘bad food’ myth by making poor restaurant choices. You go to Leicester Square, Oxford Street, etc and… how can I say this without setting myself up for legal trouble… the well-known chain restaurants in the immediate vicinity are not the best we have to offer. These establishments usually lack variety, character or taste. Whenever I talk to people visiting, I am often embarassed on behalf of London when they tell me about a disapointing meal they’ve had somewhere.
One tip I always say to visiting friends and family (of which I have A LOT… I have Irish ancestry!) is if you don’t have access to the internet on your smartphone to find a restaurant recommendation, is simply head down a side street near whichever tourist area you happen to be near. Not that I can guarantee a michelin-starred culinary experience, but restaurants slightly off the beaten track have a better chance of giving tasty food.
Anyway, enough of my tourist eating advice, this post is meant to be about my jubilation that London is FINALLY cottoning on to the fact that people want to eat Mexican food.
I backpacked around Mexico in 2005 and became a huge fan of their food – burritos, tacos, fajitas, churros… I love them all. But when I got home to London, it struck me how few Mexican restaurants were here. We have every cuisine going – the UK seems to be much more open to world cuisines than other European cities I have been to – but barely any Mexican restaurants. My need for decent Mexican was further fuelled during a 2008 trip to California/Nevada/Utah. I ate a lot of take away Mexican from places like Taco Bell (no judgements!) and Baja Fresh… of which my expanded waistline at the end of my holiday could attest.
After years of complaining about this, suddenly a host of both takeaway lunch places and restaurants serving Mexican are cropping up – Benito’s Hat, Wahaca, Chilango… the list goes on. Although many are ‘chain restaurants’ (which can be a dirty word for discerning Londoners), I’ve actually been quite impressed by some of them.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance in the dine in the hot new restaurant of the moment – La Bodega Negra in Soho. Prince Harry, Kate Moss and… er… Kelly Brook have all been spotted eating and/or drinking there recently.
I ate in the bar area, which has a reduced menu from the main restaurant. They had me at ‘Pisco Sour’ – a South American cocktail consisting of Pisco, egg white and lime juice, which I had drank when I backpacked in Peru in 2003. Fortunately the food turned out just as good, and somewhat of a departure from most Mexican restaurants – many of the dishes were tapas-like portions so a friend and I shared tostaditas and quesadillas. I was expecting fajitas or burritos to be the dominant options on the menu like other Mexican places I have been, so this was a refreshing change. The staff were knowledgeable about the cuisine and friendly and the prices are very reasonable. Thumbs up!
Good Mexican restaurants in London
- La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JF. Nearest tube Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road
- La Perla, 28 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7JS. Nearest tube Covent Garden or Charing Cross. One of the original Mexican restaurants in central London. I first went in 1997! Very good margaritas and tequila selection.
- Benito’s Hat, 56 Goodge St, London W1T 4NB. Nearest tube: Goodge Street. Chain of Mexican bars and kitchens. Other branches in King’s Cross, Leicester Square and Oxford Circus.
- Chipotle, 114-116 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H OJR. Nearest tube Tottenham Court Road. The popular U.S. chain comes to London. Great place to pick up a takeaway burrito for lunch. Other branches in St Martin’s Lane, Wardour Street, Baker Street and Upper Street.
- Lupita, 13-15 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6ND. Nearest tube: Charing Cross or Embankment. First UK branch of long-standing Mexico City restaurant. Second branch in Spitalfields.
- Cantina Laredo, 10 Upper St Martin’s Lane, St Martin’s Courtyard, London, WC2H 9FB. Nearest tube: Covent Garden. Modern Mexican cuisine in a sophisticated atmosphere.
- Wahaca, 66 Chandos Place, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HG. Nearest tube Charing Cross or Covent Garden. The original branch is very popular so get there early or be prepared to wait! Other branches in Stratford, White City, Soho, Bluewater, Canary Wharf, Charlotte Street and Southbank.
- Chilango. 142 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BP. Nearest tube: Blackfriars or City Thameslink (overland). Small chain serving ‘fresh, fabulously tasty Mexican cuisine’ in the City of London, renowed for their burritos. Other branches in Upper Street, Chancery Lane, London Wall and Brushfield.
- Cafe Sol, 56 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UL. Nearest tube Clapham Common or Clapham North. After dinner, you can drink and dance until the early hours on Friday and Saturdays nights.
To read more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.