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Apr 20, 2010 11:39 AM

Are there ANY proper Mexican restaurants in London??

I did a round-up on my blog a while ago featuring everywhere I've tried (Mestizo, Wahaca, Chilango, Benitos Hat, Green & Red, Mercado) and am yet to find anywhere up to the standard I've experienced in California.

Does anyone know anywhere that does authentic Mexican? How about street stalls or burrito shacks?

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  1. You're unlikely to find anything up to the standard of Mexican food in California, simply because there isn't a large Mexican population in Britain as there is in the US.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Theresa

      According to the 2001 Census, the number of people born in Mexico living in the UK was 5049 - which is about the population of my village. There are probably more folk born in Cheshire living in California.

      1. re: Theresa

        Any news on whether Buen Provecho will be at E and C today? Eager to try, less eager to have a wasted trip.

      2. On the whole, I agree that Mexican food here is shoddy. The population is an issue, as Theresa pointed out, but it is also to do with the quality of the imported products (probably a direct effect of the lesser Hispanic population in the UK). The limes, chillies and corn sold here aren't as good as those sold in the US. Places like Cool Chile Co. do an okay job, but it's not quite up to scratch.

        Anyway, as I posted in another thread, Buen Provecho is the only place I know worth going to for tacos:
        Maybe if a culture develops we may see more places like this, serving authentic Mexican street food, but I am not holding my breath.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

          I LOVE Green and Red and Taqueria in West bourne Grove, I think they are pretty authentic.

          But trying to find Mexican food of Californian standards in London is like trying to find decent Indian food in LA.

          1. re: Nii

            Actually there's pretty good Indian food in L.A. and I'm an American born Indian. There is a huge Indian community in LA but obviously not as big as in the UK. The restaurants are good because they are run by Indians but it doesn't seem like many Mexican restaurants in the UK are run by Mexicans

            1. re: tofulady4181

              Which just further proves my point - in the main, the type of non-indigenous cuisines readily available in a country are due historical patterns of immigration (in Britain, this has obviously been influenced by colonial days). You don't have to be Indian to clook good Indian food, but it helps if you are someone who has settled here after having been brought up with that culinary tradition, or if you are second generation Indian, who has parents who have maintained those traditions in the home. It also helps if you have a decent number of others from your country as potential customers, particularly if you are aiming to sell authentic food which is more like home cooking.

              There aren't many Mexicans living here because there is no particular history between Britain and Mexico, so there are few, if any, real Mexican places to eat, and the rest is mostly Tex Mex - probably because of cultural influences and travel and backwards and forwards between Britain and the States.

          2. re: Ibrahim.Salha

            Interesting point about the ingredients, and that stall looks amazing. Will be definitely paying them a visit for my blog so thanks for the heads up. My main problem is that we just seem to get taken for a ride here. Benito's Hat, for example, are so stingey with the ingredients. 50p charge for guacamole seems totally against the spirit.

            1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

              I can second the quality of Buen Provecho, the stewed pork (can't recall the Mexican name) is amazing. I actually just got back from LA and was astounded by the quality of Mexican from the all night vans there, much better than any late night food you can find in London in my opinion!

            2. The fact that there are not enough Mexicans to keep these restaurants in check is a big part of the problem.

              My wife and I ate at Wahaca, which is not bad actually, but our beans were way overdone - even slightly burnt - and inedible. We brought this up with our waiter who implied that since these were the same beans they were serving to everyone else there could not possibly be a problem. Our thinking though was that everyone else there mistakenly assumed this is what they were supposed to taste like!

              I am a Mexican-American, raised in San Diego. The San Diego restaurants Juanitas and El Especial are owned by family friends. I also lived in San Francisco for over 10 years. And most of my extended family is in Michoacan, Mexico.

              I usually avoid Mexican food in London and so do the Mexicans I know here. Many of them are here temporarily, make their own food at home or, like me, are in California and/or Mexico a few times a year anyways. So the reaction to the dismal attempts at Mexican food here tends to be apathy, I am afraid.

              Also, this may be a post for another time, but I am fascinated by the concept of "authenticity" as applied to Mexican food. Primarily because Mexican food is for me the ultimate fusion cuisine and it is also highly regional. NorthCal-Mex is different from SoCal-Mex is different from Tex-Mex. Within Mexico, foods are extremely regional. My Michoacan grandmother has never had cochinita pibil in her life, but she can tell you all about tamals de dulce, ochepos, chongos and morisquetas.

              The best thing I had when in Mexico City a couple years ago was tacos al pastor on a street corner in Condesa. As everyone knows, Al Pastor probably came from Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Mexicans are amazing at absorbing new things and somehow making it their own - they are an inventive, borrowing culture. Which is why the question of authenticity is so ironic.

              1. My husband and I are from Texas. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and I grew up in Houston. Mexican food is our favourite and after trying several Mexican establishments in London within the last year, we had decided our best Mexican fix would have to come from our own kitchen because we couldn’t find any place that was even close to our favourite taqueria's at home. We visited Green and Red last night and definitely feel as if it is the most authentic Mexican food we have had in London.

                We started off with the queso fundido and ceviche. We then ordered the carnitas and carne asada for our mains. The carnitas made us feel like we were back in the valley at our favourite taqueria. The carne asada was not quite as impressive, but still leaps ahead of any other Mexican dish we have had at other "Mexican" establishments in London. We had churros for dessert which were a treat.

                The service was marginal. Our waitress, although very nice, was inattentive until the bill was to be paid. The hostess, however, was much more attentive and made up for the lack of service a bit. The hostess got our waitresses' attention when we had been attempting to do so for 20 minutes. At that point we had been sitting with empty drinks for 20 mins, no water had been provided, and we had not ordered our food yet.

                We will visit again soon now that we know that Mexican food does exist somewhere in London.

                1. I can't help much as I've never had a decent Mexican meal in London, but you might want to keep an eye on Cantina Laredo which is opening in Covent Garden this summer. Not sure how 'authentic' it will be but the menu looks good, if expensive.


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: DollyDagger

                    isn't that a franchise? am I cynical for thinking that'll mean it's probably not particularly good?

                    1. re: skut

                      I'm not holding my breath but who knows, it may surprise us.

                      1. re: skut

                        Yes it is a franchise. There are locations in Texas and Colorado that I have been to. It is good Tex-Mex but not good Mexican. The prices are fairly pricey for "Mexican" food but the portions are rather generous (at least in the US they are). I am excited they are coming here because I need a good Tex Mex!!