Welcome to a series of articles rounding-up the very best restaurants in London for specific cuisines. We’re not necessarily talking authenticity here, rather the kind of food we really love to eat. Value is kept firmly in mind, and most of our picks represent this. On the flip side, of course, some places are so good that they are worth saving up for. As ever, please do let us know your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below.
This vibrant Spitalfields eatery considers itself among London’s most authentic Mexican restaurants, and it could have a case for it given the kitchen uses only recipes passed down through generations of the owner’s family. The resulting menu is harder to work out than some, but all the more rewarding for it: a tomatillo soup is sharp, refreshing and rather unusual, while grilled pork in a reduction of hibiscus and red wine is tender, richly flavoured and elegant. Among the more familiar items are tacos, quesadillas and empanadas, which benefit from slowly cooked, intricately spiced meat fillings that boast flavours which go well beyond fast food.
This long-running Covent Garden bar has been serving Londoners tequila in copious amounts for around 30 years, and has a loyal following as a result. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s the drinks which are the real attraction, but the Tex-Mex dishes are strong examples of hearty Mexican fare at its most fun. Share fajitas or tuck into quesadillas as you work your way (responsibly) through the drinks list.
Set in the still slightly shabby section of Brixton Market, Casa Morita is a slicker operation than its rustic, mismatched set-up might suggest. Homemade tacos are themselves well seasoned and pleasantly chewy, while all manner of toppings, fillings and salsas major on fresh, zingy flavours and certainly don’t skimp on lime or coriander. Well priced and well proportioned mezcal cocktails are also a high point.
La Bodega Negra
Decked out like a sex shop on street level, this hip and often celeb-ridden Soho haunt majors on style but isn’t too short on substance, either. It serves small plates of pimped-up and artfully plated Mexican classics from a shabby-chic basement where the lighting is low and the music loud. The food is crowd-pleasing rather than authentic, but the likes of pork belly tacos are indulgent, tender and richly flavoured all the same. Ask for extra spice if you like things hot, and be prepared to pay a little extra for the surroundings.
More than 50 years ago, the predecessor to Lupita opened its doors in Mexico City and quickly made a name for itself thanks to the unique charcoal-grilled tacos they served. The team brought it to the UK in 2010, opening up on Villiers Street near Charing Cross, and it is probably now one of the most authentic modern Mexicans in London, serving the same kind of food you’d find in Mexico City. The menu spans burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, soups and salads as well as their famous tacos, and there is also now a second branch on Commercial Street near Aldgate East.
The name Mestizo implies fusion, and the menu here references the blended cultures of modern Mexico and Spain, along with other regional variations in specific Mexican districts. The result is a more interesting and varied selection of dishes than at many a Mexican restaurant, though the likes of nachos, tacos and burritos are all present and correct. We’d particularly recommend trying the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet, where you can while the afternoon away for twenty quid and make the most of Mexican-style eggs alongside a rotating selection of traditional mains and desserts.
Tacos are the mainstay of this restaurant and takeaway on Westbourne Grove, and it echoes the spirit of the Mexican street traders that inspire its name in its simplistic style and fast-casual service. Fluffy homemade tortillas are filled with vibrantly spiced and carefully-sourced meat, fish and veg, with a homemade minced chorizo being among the highlights. Depending on the options you plump for, meat is chargrilled and smoky, artisan cheeses are carefully melted, and peppers are pickled in-house, showing a dedication to the cause that you certainly don’t find at every taco joint.
Originally founded by MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, Wahaca is now London’s biggest and best known Mexican restaurant group with 12 branches across the capital as well regular appearances at street food markets. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular: bright surroundings are matched by big, shiny flavours but come with a small price tag. It’s kid friendly, parent friendly, large group friendly, had-a-bit-to-drink-already friendly, and most of the dishes are genuinely bloody good. The earthy frijoles topped with crumbled cheese, substantial steak tacos and freshly pounded guacamole are personal highlights, while the margaritas are also worth a go. Save room for chocolate and churros to finish, too.
Breddos: The street food stars who made their name selling tacos at Netil Market now have a permanent restaurant in a Haggerston railway arch.
Casa Negra: A Shoreditch outpost of La Bodega Negra, where drinks play a bigger role than the dishes.
El Camion: We don’t like this Soho food bar anywhere near as much as we loved the now closed Portobello original, but bright flavours and an array of chilli sauces are still pleasers.
El Nivel: Brand new sister bar to Café Pacifico just down the road. Mexican small plates accompany yet more tequila and mezcal.
Peyote: High-end Mayfair Mexican from the man who brought us swanky Japanese Zuma. Precise cooking, but at a price.
Santo: A mix-and-match menu makes for ultimate choice at this Portobello Road stop-in where you can choose your taco-style filling and then decide how you’ll have it served.
And if you want somewhere to wash it all down…
London’s Best Bars…For Drinking Tequila & Mezcal