I had some time to kill before a meeting in Soho yesterday, and as usual, was craving Mexican food.
Good Mexican is truly hard to find in London, and unless I scavenge the ingredients to whip up a dish myself, I tend to give it a miss altogether.
Last year, New York’s La Esquina opened a London location under the name of La Bodega Negra. Bloggers and critics buzzed about the restaurant, calling it London’s answer to Mexican food.
Yet, I wasn’t ready to be let down by some sloppy, average dish lacking the true Mexican flavours.
I was really craving the tangy, spicy chili packed salsas and smokey, tender meats wrapped in perfect taco packages.
I had forgotten the much talked about restaurant downstairs requires reservations and doesn’t open until 6pm. The incredibly rude manager reminded us by snapping about the reservation policy and fine dining ambience as if we had asked something outrageous.
Ignoring her attitude, we settled for lunch in the Café.
Spanish music posters line the wall and the room has a retro diner feel to it with checkered floors, wooden chairs and exposed lights.
The vibe was great due to a great Hip-Hop mix playing.
Jay-z & Kanye, Kase O, and Common ft. John Legend were just some of the endless chilled tracks being played.
On the menu, there’s a great selection of typical tacos, quesadillas and ceviches. I ordered Pork Belly Carnitas with Salsa Verde Tacos and Camaron (shrimp) Tacos with Chipotle Cream and Pickled Onion with a side of Green Rice and Cowboy Beans.
Whilst we waited, we were given an assortment of salsas to top our tacos. Salsa Verde, Salsa Roja and Salsa del Comal each gave different flavours and all packed a punch. On each table are two innocent looking bottles holding salsa created from the habanero pepper. These bad boys are pretty high up on the Scoville scale, but still tolerable with good flavour.
After tasting all three of the salsas, I tried the green habanero hot sauce. Unripe habaneros are green and this sauce packed a serious kick.
But the other, ripe habenero XXXTRA hot sauce packed a mean punch.
I dare you to take a teaspoon of this and send me a photo of your facial expression.
Or better yet, offer a taste to your dining companion.
Our tacos arrived piled high with vibrant toppings.
The Camaron tacos were divine.
Shrimp cooked to perfection with tender meat and a nice snap coated in a chipotle cream for a smokey hint of spice. They were topped with smooth guacamole and acidic pickled onion which really brought all the flavours together.
Add a little lime and sprinkle of sea salt, the perfect combination.
Next to try were the Pork Belly Carnitas with salsa verde.
The pork belly was incredibly tender and had a nice crunch from a sprinkle of crackling. The tacos were piled high with salsa verde and were made even better with the combination of salsas on the table.
To accompany the tacos, we had a side of green rice and cowboy beans.
The green rice is flavoured with cilantro (coriander) and lime and goes well with any Mexican dish.
Cowboy beans are an American creation which uses smokey BBQ sauce to bring out the flavour of the refried beans. These also had bits of bacon as an extra naughty addition.
Our lovely waiter Nelvino was incredibly helpful and very knowledgeable about the menu, even though he hasn’t dared try the habanero salsa.
I absolutely love their shirts and think that they should sell them in the restaurant, don’t you?
If you’re in Soho looking for a way to spice up your day and are in need of a great lunch spot, I’ve found the place.
If you’re looking for good Mexican food with a sexy atmosphere for dinner and drinks, make sure you call ahead for reservations here.
This, by the way, is located in the bottom of a sex shop.
It is Soho after all.