Monday, 22 September 2014

A little bit(e) of Mexico in London

Mexico. When you think of that particular Latin American country, what comes to mind? Mariachi bands and margaritas? Old ruins and beautiful beaches? As many tacos as your stomach can hold? (Just me then, ok...) These days, Mexico is becoming less of a dream and more of a viable holiday destination, with increasing numbers of flights whisking Brits from grey old England to Mexico's sparkling Caribbean coast. If you don't fancy hanging out on the beaches of Southern Spain surrounded by hundreds of lobster-coloured compatriots, you can book an all-inclusive deal to Mexico these days; even package holiday operators like First Choice have added Mexico to their itineraries. But if you live in London and fancy a little Mexicana in your life you actually don't have to travel at all...


London's high streets are ever-changing things. They are slaves to economic trends, but also to cultural and social ones. And right now, London seems to be hungry for Mexican food. You can see it in the shopfronts in front of you. But we don't want any old tired burrito eaten beneath plastic parrots and sad sombreros. Oh no. We want decent flavours and an environment that feels more Soho than Tijuana. And fortunately for us Londoners, this is what we're now getting.

Interestingly though, few restaurants seem to be coming directly to London from Mexico. Some of our best-known Mexican options are home-grown. One of the most familiar restaurants across London is street-food chain, Wahaca, started by British former MasterChef winner, Thomasina Miers. Plenty of British firms are run by individuals who have spent years living (or at least eating!) in the US, where Mexican food is plentiful and popular; such as California-inspired Tortilla, and Chilango, founded by a former Chicagoan.  When I was working in Fitzrovia, a colleague and I used to head to a nearby branch of Benito's Hat (inspired by its founder's time living in Texas) for a Friday treat of slow-roasted pork burritos, and maybe a cheeky margarita to get us through the last few hours of the week.

It's not only chains aimed at the hungry office worker's lunch-break that are popular with London diners however. Plenty of one-off, independent Mexican food spots have popped up too, many of them in some of the coolest corners of the capital. Some combine food with pretty decent cocktails too - such as Bodega Negra, which lurks beneath a sex shop storefront in Soho (and its sister spot, Casa Negra, near Old Street). Also in Shoreditch is Boho Mexica, a restaurant and lounge covered in Mexicana both old and new; from vintage film posters to modern art work. Several Mexican delicacies made an appearance at Dalston's Street Feast this summer too; from Killer Tomato's vegetarian tacos to shots of tequila with pickle juice chasers (not for me!) at the Breddo's Tacos stall.

Would you rather whip up your own Mexican feast? No problem. Alongside these various eateries are a growing number of Mexican food producers too, supplying restaurants and homes with locally-produced ingredients. Gringa Dairy on the Old Kent Road, for example, makes Mexican cheeses. And even the foodie-heaven, Borough Market, now boasts a branch of The Cool Chile Company, which sells all kinds of seasonings for Mexican home-cooking and cocktail-making. The Londoner's love affair with Mexico - or its food at least! - is clearly here to stay.

8 comments:

  1. Yes I think that mexican restaurants are going to get ever more popular and are a growing trend. Mexican food is delicious, especially on a nice balmy evening with a nice margarita or 3 :)

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    1. Perfect for the summer eh, Jilly G? Or when you don't feel like stuffing yourself full of loads of great British carbs either. Don't get me wrong, I love potatoes and pasta as much as the next girl, but a change is good sometimes, isn't it?

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  2. One of my favourite cuisines is Mexican! Love Breddos and Wahaca. I think Lupita actually started off in Mexico before coming here but that's the only one I can think of.

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    1. I hadn't come across Breddo's until this year's Street Feast, Jamina, but I'm pleased to see new ventures are thriving. Ooh and good shout on Lupita - they did indeed start out in Mexico City, I believe.

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  3. Ah, Mexican food...Wahaca restaurants are a quick fix when I am badly in need of some. That said, I would love to take a flight and just go there for the real thing...If only!

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    1. Any school holidays coming up, Muriel? Ah, a girl can dream..! Til then, there will always be Wahaca...

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