Mexican food done with style. New boutique taco restaurant, Molé has just arrived in Marylebone, and brings with them some serious gastronomic flair. Start with the guacamole done with pomegranate seeds (trust us, this is likely the best guacamole you will ever taste), and move onto as many tacos as you can handle. All the classics are there, from pulled pork to grilled cactus and queso, but there’s also braised oxtail with blackberry, Baja fish with shark fillet tempura and Mexico’s incredible (but underloved UK-side) chicken Molé, a rich, spicy dish made with chocolate. While the tacos are the main event, there’s also a raw bar (hello seabass ceviche), Antichuchos (skewers loaded with king prawns, pork belly and more) and a hell of a cocktail menu. Try their updated margarita, done with vanilla-infused tequila and smoked salt orange foam.
16 Picton Pl, London, W1U 1BP, +44 2074 861 995
Worth going to if just to say you’ve breathed the same air as Kate Moss, La Bodega Negra lurks under the streets of Soho. To find it, you’ll need to find the sleazy sex shop it’s hidden in, and ask to be shown downstairs (make sure you’re in the right place or this could have dire consequences). Despite the out of the way location, this Mexican joint is immensely popular so booking is essential. People flock there for the incredible buzzing ambiance, which feels like a nightclub, but with more tables and quesadillas. FYI, if you know of a nightclub that actually serves quesadillas, please let us know.
9 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JF, +44 2077 584 100
Housed in Brixton’s trendy Market Row, a veritable treasure trove of brilliantly priced, brilliantly tasty restaurants, Casa Morita’s menu is short but sweet. Making it very much worthwhile to order the tasting menu, to ensure you don’t miss any of the culinary treasures on offer, a tragedy if ever we heard one. A snip at just over £20 for 6 dishes plus sides, it features fresh, vibrant enchiladas, gooey quesadillas, plus mini chilaquiles, a dish of chorizo, fried egg and crunchy tortillas that manages to stand out despite residing on a menu full of big hitting dishes. The cocktails are likewise excellently priced and satisfyingly lethal. And remember, no matter how full you are, save room for a slice of chilli chocolate cake. Not too sweet, incredibly textured and with a medley of complex flavours, it’s like an Aztec party in your mouth.
9 Market Row, London, SW9 8LB, +44 20 8127 5107
At Boho Mexica, it’s all about tradition. The dishes come from the owner’s aunt’s mother who also happens to be the Head Chef of the place. This makes for some beautiful food, with crispy plantain tostadas topped with prawns, tortillas with lime marinated sea bass, and “painfully slow” roasted beef brisket that falls apart in your mouth. The interiors are similarly homely, with earthen red walls and old school Mexican propaganda posters on the wall, making the whole experience feel comfy and welcoming. Finish off with some of the gorgeous rosewater flan. Served with Mexican vanilla cream, it’s sweet and floral, and surprisingly light.
151-153 Commercial St, London, E1 6BJ, +44 2073 778 418
The UK’s oldest Mexican restaurant, Café Pacifico is a whopping 33 years old. Set up by Tomas Estes, the International Tequila Ambassador for the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry (a.k.a the best job title we’ve ever heard), the food is great but it’s the tequila that’s truly special. Laid out like a cantina, the setting is informal and energetic, with a huge wooden bar on one side of the room. Housing an incredible selection of tequila, many of which are Tomas’ own brand, Ocho, you need to make sure you ask for a tequila tasting alongside your quesadillas. There’s no salt and lime to mask the taste, and you’ll want to sip these high-quality spirits rather than shot them. By the time you’ve made it to a finishing glass of sangrita (imagine a Mexican bloody mary), you’ll have experienced a full tequila paradigm shift.
5 Langley St, London WC2H 9JA, +44 2073 797 728
At Mestizo you need to forget all the surrounding elements and focus on the food. The menu is a little lengthy, so let us help you out. All you need to order are the flautas to start, corn tortillas filled with chicken or potato, deep fried and topped with queso fresco and green tomatillo salsa, and the incredible Molcajete ‘Mestizo’. A sharing dish, it comes to your table in a volcanic stone bowl shaped like an elephant, still bubbling away. Inside you’ll find tender chicken and beef, cheese, chorizo and avocado in a salsa of your choice, and flour or corn tortillas to spoon it all into. To order anything else would be a crime. With that out the way, feel free to have as many margaritas as you like. If you’re lucky, the margarita festival will be on, with 20 different variations to choose from.
103 Hampstead Rd, London NW1 3EL, +44 20 7387 4064
Located on Villiers Street, Lupita is rarely without business both from the constant stream of tourists that flow from Embankment to Charing Cross, and the hungry workers residing in the area. Tacos, toastadas, burritos, this place has it all, and while you won’t find any wild fillings, the classic Pibil pulled pork, Tinga chicken and beef and Baja fish are all done to very high standard. The ‘Volcan’ house speciality is a must-try, grilled steak or chicken oozing with melted cheese and served on crispy corn tortillas. Be sure to pair it with a (very good value) pitcher of margarita or sangria.
13 Villiers St, London WC2N 6ND, +44 2079 305 355
Another gem from Tomas Estes, El Nivel lies hidden above La Perla restaurant (also owned by Tomas) in Covent Garden. Where La Perla is a rambunctious good time, El Nivel is slightly more grown up, with some serious drinking on offer. The atmosphere is still laid back and chatty, but the agave spirits selection is the best you’ll find in London, and the bar delivers cocktails that sit comfortably amongst Soho’s finest. As their license only covers drinks with food, guests sitting at the bar are served a pulled pork taco guaranteed to make you want to move to a table. Whether eating or drinking, make sure you try La Poderosa, a cocktail made with mezcal, agave syrup, cardamom and lavender bitters, topped with sparkling wine. Floral and delicately smoky, it’s testament to why mezcal needs to get on your spirits repertoire, fast.
28 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7JS, +44 2072 407 400
Taqueria is a name for taco street food stalls, so you should be unsurprised by what the menu mainly consists of (yes, you guessed it, tacos). Albeit, tacos served in a far more lovely setting than a street corner, with a café-like restaurant and pictures of Zapata, the famous mustachioed Mexican, on the wall. The food, however, stays true to its street origins. Unfussy and simple, with a few changing specials among the tacos and tostadas, the prices are spectacularly good value, and the dishes all sized for sharing. If you want something a little off the cuff, opt for the Milanesa taco (breaded fried chicken and browned cheese) or the Veracruzana (smoked cod, green olives and jalapenos). Otherwise, the slow cooked pork is always a success.
141-145 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS, +44 2072 294 734
Arguably the branch that made Mexican street food mainstream, Wahaca comes from former Masterchef winner, Thomasina Miers. These days, you can’t think ‘Mexican food’ without Wahaca coming to mind, with branches popping up all over London. The key to its success lies in a combination of shareable tapas plates, cheerful décor that manages to not feel too much like eating in a chain, and an easy-going, friendly atmosphere. Dishes often have a slight British twist, making this Mexican food for even those who don’t eat Mexican. Rather than a negative, Wahaca’s chain status means that if you ever fancy Mexican, you’re now likely within distance of one of their easy, high-quality, Mexican restaurants.
66 Chandos Pl, London, WC2N 4HG, +44 2072 401 883