Welcome to a series of articles rounding-up the very best restaurants in London for specific cuisines. We’re not 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, but of course, some places are so good that they are worth saving up for.
Great Mexican food — the sort that leaves you heart-warmed, mouth-tingling, and thoroughly satisfied, the sort that conjures up warm evenings and begs for another margarita or an agua fresca to wash it down with — was until recently hard to come by in London.
However, not so anymore. Recent years have seen a flood of stellar Mexican food arriving in London — from new restaurant openings to some long-standing favourites, our choices are better than ever.
Note: London's home to such a wealth of great taco joints now, we've done a separate article rounding them up here.
Casa Morita, Brixton
This small, unpretentious Brixton restaurant is regularly packed with punters after their mezcal cocktails and homemade tacos. Both are dangerously moreish, the latter with taut, chewy bases and fresh, zingy toppings singing with lime and herbs. They also do a strong line in micheladas: the beer of your choice, poured over tabasco, salsa, Worcestershire sauce and lime, and served in an ice-frosted, salt-edged glass — far better and more refreshing than it sounds like they should be. Finally there's the nachos: handmade tortillas fried to a crunch and topped with pork pibil. A solid spot for a summer's evening.
Casa Morita, 9 Market Row, SW9 8LB
La Bodega Negra, Soho
Inside, La Bodega Negra looks like a pretty, sun-dappled hacienda — wooden beams and floors, paint peeling on the walls, candlelight everywhere — though slightly less romantic for the pounding soundtrack. Pan out, though, and you're in the cellar of a Soho sex shop, with a street level entrance making neon promises about peep shows and hot videos. If you manage to stifle your disappointment that you're not actually going to find anything nearly so racy at this Mexican restaurant, the tostadas and tequila list are both still worth a visit.
La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF.
Ella Canta, Hyde Park Corner
What a beauty this Park Lane restaurant is. Not just for the decor, though there's that — the restaurant scattered with bursts of jewel-box colour and ornate headdresses, with cacti-filled corners and walls covered with small, faded-gilt mirrors. But the menu's a dazzler as well. The work of chef Martha Ortiz, it reads like the brilliant lovechild of a Lorca poem and a flamboyant telenovela. Mexican ingredients get a modern spin, presented with theatrical headings (Overture, Main Act...) and lyrical dish titles (desserts include 'Maria from Mexico arrives in London', and 'Maria with her violet perfume'...). In stiffer, more formal hands this could feel like hard work, but Ella Canta delivers it with massively enthusiastic verve.
Don't miss the ceviche vampiro — or a good, long stroll through their top-notch margarita menu. Fine dining with all the starchiness taken out, all the artistry left in. It's not cheap, at all, but you get a lot of surreal fun for your dinero.
Ella Canta, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY.
This NW1 restaurant brings together elements of modern Mexican and Spanish cooking in reliably excellent dishes, including some regional Mexican variations less often found in London's Mexican restaurants. While you can get your hands on the usual suspects — burritos, nachos and tacos, and all good versions of them — the lesser-spotted dishes like pozole rojo, a spicy, meaty broth, are well worth a try.
Mestizo, 103 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EL.
Café Pacifico, Covent Garden
This spot is a Covent Garden institution, though beloved maybe more for its excellent range of tequila cocktails than its Tex-Mex dishes. Still, the fajitas and quesadillas are hot, hearty and sizeable enough to soak up a fair amount of spirits, and the friendly buzz is at least partly responsible for Cafe Pacifico's loyal following.
Café Pacifico, 5 Langley Street, WC2H 9JA.
Santo Remedio, Bermondsey
We were enchanted by Santo Remedio's first restaurant in Shoreditch, sad when they closed, abruptly, a year later, and jubilant that they're back with their new, crowd-funded spot south of the river. (Read our full review here.) Star dishes include corn on the cob dusted with pecorino, and chicken tacos steeped in orange juice and topped with pink pickled onions. It's colourful, friendly, the margaritas are magnificent and the guacamole's among the best we've ever had in London. It tends to be crammed with people having a loudly great time. With good reason.
Santo Remedio, 152 Tooley Street, SE1 2TU.
We love our guacamole with a sprinkling of crickets...🦗🦗🦗 No seriously, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. They’re slightly bitter but apparently very nutritious. If you’re feeling adventurous try the Mexican food at @santoremedio_uk The cactus tacos were also v good 🌵 #mexicanfood #guacamole #londonfood #londondining #foodphotography #foodporn #eaterlondon
El Camion, Soho
Soho's El Camion is the place to get your late-night nacho game on, where you can cram spicy, cheesy, chilli-covered piles of the stuff down till the splendid time of 2am, and keep on drinking well after that. The menu takes its inspiration from Baja California, with favourites like chicken tinga quesadillas as well as a fairly comprehensive nacho menu. These come in at £9 for a substantial heap — not bad for somewhere right in the middle of Soho. The enormous tequila cabinet's an added incentive.
El Camion, 25-27 Brewer Street, W1F 0RR.
Originally founded by MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, there are branches of this Mexican restaurant chain dotted across London now. Food's reliable, prices are decent, it's family-friendly and group-friendly — so it's not a surprise that the chain's flourishing. Not all Wahacas are created equal: our favourite is easily the Southbank shipping container spot, with its narrow bar offering views across a beautiful stretch of Thames, alongside a margarita menu that punches well above its price point.
Wahaca, several locations.
Club Mexicana: 100% vegan, with a lean towards the 'sour cream'-slathered, junkfood end of the spectrum, you'll find these streetfood-mongers hawking their Mexican-inspired dishes at KERB in Camden and The Spread Eagle in Homerton.
Chilango: Of the burrito chains scattered across the capital, this one's our pick for reliably good ingredients and reliably generous portions — served at prices and speed that make it a good bet for lunchbreaks.
For when you've narrowed your Mexican dining needs down to: splendid stuff on top of tortillas... London's Best Taco Joints
And if you want somewhere to wash it all down... London's Best Bars...For Drinking Tequila & Mezcal
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.