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Aug 17, 2010 03:56 AM

UK Mexican restaurants

Does anyone else have trouble finding tacos at UK Mexican restaurants?? Quite often I have to make my own at home compliments of Old El Paso. My wife and I both love Mexican food and have eaten in Mexican restaurants from Cyprus to Tijuana. The only places without tacos were in the UK!! The UK chain Chiquitos does not have them nor does many others we have tried. Imagine McDonald's without burgers. I have been told there was once a Taco Bell in London that closed. I love the tacos at the Del Tacos in the U.S. One thing really puzzles me. Why do so many people in the UK seem to think all Mexican food is or should be hot and spicy?? Most traditional Mexican restaurants in the U.S. provide free and unlimited homemade tortilla chips and salsa to start your meal. Never have we found this in the UK. Normally, the salsa is the hottest and spiciest thing. Also there seems to be a tendency to confuse Mexican with Spanish or Cuban food. Maybe the fact that they are all Spanish speaking countries?? However, the best known Mexican food was derived from the Indians who were native to Mexico before the Spanish first came there.

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  1. Try Wahaca in Covent Garden. I really like their selection of tacos.

    Tortilla chips and salsa are in no way traditional. You'll have trouble finding a restaurant in Mexico that serves them. They're more of a Tex-Mex thing. Unlimited-anything is a peculiarly American custom.

    2 Replies
    1. re: r.vacapinta

      Thanks I will give them a try the next time I am in London. The traditional restaurants I referred to are actually owned and run by Mexican families in the U.S. Maybe they have adapted to the tastes of the areas. Still they do offer many traditional dishes you won't find at a Taco Bell.

      1. re: r.vacapinta

        Sorry, we thought Wachaca was overpriced and not very good. I've resorted to having my brother send ingredients from L.A. and cooking dishes myself. And I make a wicked pico de gallo!

      2. There is another thread on this board about Mexican food in the UK, so it might be worth you using the search engine.

        But you won't find much Mexican food here, as we don't have a history of Mexican people settling in this country, which is the way food cultures tend to spread.

        I agree with the reply you got on your other post - you won't find the same thing here as in the States - we are a different country, and on a different continent!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Theresa

          I agree with you but if you were living in the U.S. and went to a place calling itself an "English-style pub" wouldn't you tend to compare it against the real things? Admittedly much of what most people outside of Mexico call Mexican food is probably largely Tex-Mex. I know where I grew up in Georgia their idea of an Italian restaurant is Pizza Hut!! ;)

          1. re: mikefromgeorgia

            "I agree with you but if you were living in the U.S. and went to a place calling itself an "English-style pub" wouldn't you tend to compare it against the real things?"

            I probably would, but in my experience they are universally bad and are nothing like real English pubs. The same goes for Australian pubs in London, or Irish bars in Paris, or French bistros in Sydney. The marketeers try and package these concepts and export them to other countries but they lose everything that makes them special and the result is a pastiche.

            So I wouldn't expect Mexican food (and the the "hole in the wall" places) to migrate to London with any success, nor do I expect to find US style burgers, or good tapas bars (not tapas restaurants). A lot of these places are products of something that is deeply cultural and thus they really don't export well. OK you can move the fixtures and fittings, train the staff and buy the correct ingredients, but the culture is deeply ingrained in the staff and customers of these places in their places or origin, that it can't be exported.

        2. Echoing the posts above, you will also find most ''Mexican' restaurants in the UK are more TexMex anyway rather than Mexican. So even if they did serve tacos you wouldn't be experiencing a proper Mexican meal (there are a few exceptions).

          9 Replies
          1. re: pj26

            We passed a place on Saturday (I think it was near Dishoom and maybe on Upper St. Martin's Lane) that had a sign saying it served 'gourmet Mexican food.' I was a bit intrigued by that and wonder if it really has the kind of non Tex-Mex food I enjoyed in Arizona many times. I'll have to try and find out the name and location one of these days.

            1. re: zuriga1

              Cantina Laredo. Currently in a PR bun fight with half London's food bloggers and winner of apalling reviews from most of the mainstream food reviewers. Has anyone on this site been to confirm/deny the reports?

              1. re: deansa

                Living at the other end of the country, I almost never encounter the London blogs - but read some about this place (cos I like appalling reviews). Rather surprised me that bloggers all seem to get free meals. I sense a new hobby coming on - eating out normally costs us a bleeding fortune.

                1. re: deansa

                  Thanks.. yes, that name rings a bell. I might just try it one day, but then again I have a sensitive stomach.

                  1. re: deansa

                    Looked at the menu... certainly more gourmetish Mexican is offered.. but I wonder how it tastes. It's a bit pricey! I notice they have a branch near where I stayed long ago in Scottsdale... land of chain restaurants. :-)

                    1. re: deansa

                      I have been to Cantina Laredo, and can confirm that the food is really really awful. I went and ordered a full meal a few months ago so cannot recall exactly what I ate, but I remember the cheese pueblanos being inedible and the burrito the same.

                      It does, however, have a few good points; they bring around unlimited nacho chips (the finest in London IMO) with salsa, and their margaritas are pretty good and strong. Id definitely recommend the place for a drink, but avoid dinner like the plague (unless they've gotten better).

                  2. re: pj26

                    There's a new place on Villiers (near Charing Cross) called Lupita which just opened up.

                    Unfortunately, we got there as they were closing so we didn't have a chance to actually try anything - though we did chat briefly with the owners who were very apologetic. Still, the menu is taco-focused and they say they are from the same people who run "El Farolito" in Mexico City - presumably the well-known Taqueria in the Condesa area. If so, this should be interesting.

                    I'll probably go back and I thought I would also mention it for others here interested in the development of Mexican food in London

                    1. re: r.vacapinta


                      This sounds very interesting. Can't wait to try it.

                      1. re: r.vacapinta

                        I went on the weekend; was very disappointing. I really didn't enjoy it at all, and the chairs are very uncomfortable! Shared a lot of dishes and all of them lacked flavour. Had lots of different tacos, a sandwich, nachos, etc., and just wasn't that keen on any of it really. Perhaps an off day?

                    2. "Why do so many people in the UK seem to think all Mexican food is or should be hot and spicy??"

                      I imagine it's because our experience will be from the restaurants here that sell it.

                      I suspect few of them are run by people of Mexican birth (with there only being some 5K Mexican born folk living here the odds would not be high). 5000 Mexicans? Less than half the size of the small community I live in - hardly likely to be impacting on our cuisine.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Harters

                        It may not be traditional Mexican food but it is close enough for me!! :)

                      2. I still think the Tacos at 'Taqueria' near Notting Hill are very good. Large selection and quite tasty. They certainly satisfied my SoCal Tastebuds.