Despite the wealth of delicious inspiration in Mexican cuisine, London has only recently caught up on making the most of it.
Gone are the days where takeaway burrito spots and unadventurous Tex-Mex are the only Oaxaca offerings you can find in London. Instead a string of recent openings show the taco trend is in full swing and the public keen for smoky aztec spices and slow roasted meat and vegetables.
Here are some of our favourites:
With Tacos Padre, a new arrival in hungry labyrinth of London’s Borough Market, chef Nicholas Fitzgerald has put his experience at Pujol in Mexico City (12th on the World’s 50 Best list) to very good use. During the day, the open air taqueria’s focus is largely placed on tacos – no surprise there, and we’ll get to them in a second – but the weekend’s evening menu opens up to include a wide variety of larger plates, We’re talking whole grilled brill with English peas and jalapeños; cauliflower al pastor with avocado, toasted coconut and pumpkin, and smoked suadero short rib with burnt onion and pomegranate.
We can’t vouch for those dishes, seeing as we slotted up in the day-time – but if those meals are anywhere near as flavourful and succulent as their taco selection, you’re onto a winner. The smoked suadero short rib taco with burnt onion and pomegranate was our favourite, but we need to give a big shout out to the pork cochinita. Three considerably-sized tacos come in at £9.50, but we urge you to opt for the grilled corn on the cob in chintextle (smoked pasilla mixe chile paste) mayo too. We urge you to use your hands, and we also urge you to ask for plenty of napkins beforehand.
The beer selection, like the location itself, is small but impressive (Two Tribes Electric Circus Pale Ale and Gypsy Hill IPA, alongside a cider), but if you aren’t opting for a frozen margarita with your tacos, then you just aren’t doing it right.
Tacos Padre, The Borough Market Kitchen Padre, Winchester Walk, Jubilee Pl, London, SE1 9AG
Corazón has been stealing the attention of Soho foodies for years with their remarkably good value and utterly delicious offerings. The Baja fish tacos are our personal favourite and we'd wager the best you can find this side of the Atlantic. And, hallelujah, you can book. Menu highlights include plantain and black bean tacos with pico de gallo, tajin and queso, as well as the Baja fish effort. Or you could bring your appetite and dive into the formidable lamb barbacoa: shoulder of lamb rubbed in housemade adobo, slow braised in banana leaves with a tequila-honey salsa and braising liqueur.
Corazón, 29 Poland St, Soho, London W1F 8QR
Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney started serving tacos from their wooden shack in Netil House Market back in 2012, and have had a host of pop-ups since. You can currently catch them at Dinerama in East London serving delicious tacos like Yorkshire Wagyu brisket and octopus with bone marrow and avocado.
Or if you're more a fan of seated meals they have two locations at which you can munch on their tacos and toastadas with toppings that range from classics (fried chicken, beef tartare) to adventurous (Chicharrón pig skin, Yucatan grilled fish). At £2 to £5 a pop you can loosen your belt and try them all. Bigger plates feature wood grilled dishes like Ibericho Pork or sharing dishes like mutton barbacoa and beef rib. Best start queueing now.
Breddos Tacos, 82 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7DB
Sam and Eddie Hart are the brains behind the ragingly popular Barrafina tapas bars and Soho's much-loved private members' club, Quo Vadis. In 2016 they opened El Pastór in now-trending foodie spot Borough Market and they've followed it with Casa Pastor in new Kings Cross development Coal Drops Yard.
At the original the house special is a tangy treat of pork belly and shoulder, marinated overnight and served with onion, pineapple and lovely warm chilli flavouring. And if you ask about the prawn tacos, you'll get excited responses about the effort that goes into the marinade, which is made from the stock of the shells – the resulting taste is quite incredible, and you'll understand the enthusiasm.
Tacos El Pastor, 7a Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AA
La Bodega Negra
Take a little walk down Dean Street, and you won't be able to miss the high-end, bright turquoise Mexican restaurant that is often talked up as the best in town. Sister restaurant to New York's La Esquina, La Bodega Negra has a "done this before" confidence in the dishes, service and decor. Although tacos and quesadillas do grace the menu they're expertly done, think soft shell crab or lamb with drunken salsa.
The real stars of the kitchen are grilled dishes, like the pork belly with mezcal and salsa verde which is both sharp and soft in equal measure. The half roasted chicken shows how attention to seasoning and spices can transform something simple into something write-home-about-able, and their ceviches pack whole fruit bowl of citrus flavours. Expect to part with a lot more than you would for your average Waterloo station steak burrito, but you'll understand why.
La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JF
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