Once upon a time, I used to think all Mexican food was like the stuff served up in the Wahaca chain of restaurants. It turns out I couldn’t be further from the truth. After visiting Mexico in all its glory and splendour and being shown around by a native, I discovered the true flavour of the country. The street food stalls serving up chicharrón tacos, chicken tostadas and cheesy empanadas. Little pots of chillis, herbs, sliced onions and sauces a plenty. Oodles of fresh fish chopped up and served ceviche style. Delicious is an understatement.
It turns out, though, if you know where to look, there are plenty of places to test your tastebuds in this fair city. You just need to know where to look. And if you wanted even more of an excuse to dive headfirst into Mexican cuisine, it’s Mexican Independence Day tomorrow. This big old fiesta celebrates Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1810, and London’s restaurants, bars and cafes are pulling out all the stops and salsas.
This cute little bar is inconspicuously nestled in Dalston, but don’t be deceived, this place packs a flavour punch. The bar places itself as a connoisseur of tequilas, mezcals and agave spirits. Start by sampling the signature tipple, The Mirror Margarita, then move on to a tasting flight to test your tastebuds. To keep your belly from rumbling order some authentic snacks from kitchen partners Maiz Azul. They serve up the most delicious dishes, including camote tacos (made from sweet potato) and cheese chicharron bar snacks (think cheesy pork crackling).
Where: 378 Kingsland road, Dalston, E8 4AA
They serve up camote tacos (made from sweet potato) and cheese chicharron bar snacks (think cheesy pork crackling)
2. La Piñata
This month, sees the arrival of a mezcal and tequila festival at Tobacco Docks. The festival is a Mexican celebration of agave spirits, culture and tequila tasting brought together by 20 different producers. For those who think you know your stuff, prepare to be tested. You’ll be led through the different terroir of each pińa, the roast, fermentation, and distillation details by each producer as well as the stories behind each bottle. If tasting flights aren’t your thing, there will also be the very best cocktails to swig down, including Margaritas, Palomas and Boilermakers. Feeling hungry? You can also dive into the street food stands that are set to whip up something a little extra.
Where: Tobacco Quay, Wapping Lane, E1W 2SF
3. Printhouse x Mezcal Verde
Printhouse x Mezcal Verde serves up all things mezcal from every Friday and Saturday from 7pm – 11pm in the heart of East London. Not only that, but there’s live music and a selection of tacos being served up. All of the spirits come from Mezcal Verde an artisanal brand built from seed to sip, using organically grown 8-year-old agave Éspadín. Plus, there’s a really great courtyard to make the most of the weather before we head into winter.
Where: 133 High Street, Stratford, E15 2RB
4. Madera at Treehouse London
Want Mexican food with a view? The panorama at Madera at Treehouse London is almost as good as the food. The fancy Mexican cuisine here will melt in your mouth. Think British ingredients served up in traditional tacos. There’s pan plano, Mexican-style flatbread featuring wood-fired baked organic wheat, served with tequila prawns or black Angus sausage. There are also chorizo bowls, enchiladas (soft corn tortillas served with beans, coriander and chicken or beef), and madera churros for dessert. There are a whole load of vegan options too. Whether it’s weekday lunch, brunch or a private party, you’ll definitely get your flavour fix.
Where: 14-15 Langham Place, Oxford Circus, W1B 2QS
5. 1910 Cantina
The founders of 1910, Jose and Mauricio, were born and raised in Mexico so they really know their stuff. Jose brings his expertise in mezcal and tequila to the table, while Mauricio brings his incredible cooking skills. It’s the perfect match. Think authentic recipes, delicious drinks, and friendly service. With sustainability at the heart of everything they do, they serve up a range of soft tortilla tacos and dishes: Cochinita Pibil (with slow-roasted pork), Baja pescado (battered white fish with lime and red cabbage) and classic enchiladas.
Where: 3 Ramsden Road, Balham SW12 8QY
6. Mezcalito Chelsea
Think of this place as the Bunga Bunga of Mexican restaurants. Silly sombreros, late-night dancing and endless bottomless cocktails are thrown into the mix. Oh, it doesn’t stop there, they’re pulling out all the stops for Mexican Independence Day; there will be a live mariachi band, reggaeton and mexican classic tunes… from 7pm until 2am! There’s also a terrace to soak in the last few warm days we have. Lap up burritos, quesadillas and tacos the whole night.
Where: 119 Sydney Street, Chelsea SW3 6NR
Lap up burritos, quesadillas and tacos the whole night
7. Upstairs at La Bodega Negra
In Soho, Upstairs at La Bodega Negra is a vibrant taqueria based on the ground floor (ironically). It serves up street-style Mexican food and margaritas alongside a seriously hefty tequila and mezcal collection. The restaurant is above La Bodega Negra’s wild, notorious subterranean tequila den for dancing and raucous activity (which you can dip into if the need arises).
Where: 16 Moor Street, Soho, W1D 5AP
8. Santo Remedio
Santo Remedio is another Mexican restaurant with Mexican founders. They serve up the food that they grew up eating at home, in markets, taquerias and at celebrations. They source speciality ingredients from Mexico and use traditional cooking techniques to serve up meals to remember. Even the décor is created by Mexican artisans and craftspeople.
Where: 152 Tooley Street, London Bridge, SE1 2TU
They serve up the food that they grew up eating at home, in markets, taquerias and at celebrations
Like all good Mexican food, Taquería started life as a market stall – only not in Mexico but on Portobello Road. In 2005, Taquería opened in Westbourne Grove, where they have stayed ever since. Their authentic tacos are served with traditional and modern fillings on soft corn tortillas, using free-range chicken, line-caught fish, organic prawns and locally-farmed pork and steak. They also serve a selection of ceviches and tostadas, and a changing specials menu. Naturally, they offer all the cocktails, agave spirits, tequilas and mescals you should ever need.
Where: 141-145 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, W11 2RS
Naturally, they offer all the cocktails, agave spirits, tequilas and mescals you should ever need