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Mexican food - London/Essex

I moved to Essex in January from Arizona. I am craving Mexican food, preferably Sonoran or New Mexico style. Living near Southend but will jump on the train for the real thing. Would appreciate some guidance - most menus I've perused are a real mixed bag, and contain very little of what I would expect to see.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. Casa Morita in Brixton Market is probably about as good as I've encountered in London, but they're not Sonoran or New Mexico.

    4 Replies
    1. re: limster

      I just ate at Lupita for the 1st time last week and would have to say its one of the better Mexican restos in town.

      I only tried totopos, a soup and carnitas tacos, the salsas were great, very fresh, with bright strong flavors and for tacos you had a choice of corn or flour tortillas. The soup was also a pleasure with deep smokey chipotle flavor - though I was cold and wet so maybe just right place, right time.

      The menu is very broad, tortas included, so worth givng it a go. They are opening a branch in Spitalfields which might make up for the crowded space they have in Charing Cross. Will report back on the new location - might be there for the soft opening - regardless its pretty much walking distance

      Dave

      1. re: NYLONDave

        I went there when it first opened and it was pretty good. I wonder if they still have Tomato Margarita's - they were sublime.

        As below, the number of authentic Mexican restaurants in the U.K reflects the sparse number of immigrants from Mexico into the U.K - it all comes down to that really.

        1. re: Nii

          If thats the case I'd say Mexican is over represented here!

        2. re: NYLONDave

          ditto - LOVED Lupita! it changed my mind about Mexican food!
          (admittedly, i had only been to 2 crummy 'mexican' places in london before, including wahaca...)

          we asked the mexican waitress what was good, and she recommended the Gobernador taco (which our entire table loved, and we ordered more of it), the Volcan (good, but prefer Gobernador). we also took a sharing platter (Lupita platter) and everything there was tasty and delicious, but the highlight was really the Gobernador! also, she told us to avoid the burritos, unless we were hungry, because other dishes on the menu are better, but my boyfriend took it anyway.. and our conclusion was that we should trust our mexican waitress!

      2. there's a couple of threads already on this, you may struggle to find anything up to your standard

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/728045
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/670030

        I liked the Conchinita Pibil at the buen provecho stall, but nothing else stood out
        http://www.buenprovechomc.com/newsite...

        if all else fails there's always the DIY option- the art of of mexican cooking by diana kennedy + the cool chile co deliver quite a selection
        http://www.coolchile.co.uk/categories...
        http://www.alibris.co.uk/booksearch?q...

        1. It's now a chain but Wahaca is fairly good - bills itself as Mexican street food? (Excellent pork pibril)

          1. Buen Provecho has been in my experience terrible. You're going to have a very hard time getting legitimate Mexican food here, but Casa Morita is worth a try. They go the extra mile and at least they have tortas.

            12 Replies
            1. re: JFores

              BP is my go to for authentic Mexican food. I think you're the first person I know that doesn't rate them.

              1. re: Nii

                I went there with high expectations but it is literally worse than every (and there are abut 50) 1.50 to 2.50 taco cart on Roosevelt Ave in Queens. Buen Provecho serves nothing Mexican beyond his admittedly well made tortillas.

                1. re: JFores

                  I've always nothing but great food from Buen Provecho (and have had it A LOT). And is definitely one of the more authentic places in London (admittedly there is not a lot of competition).
                  What exactly did you think was not Mexican (which I'm sure the Mexican guy Arturo who runs the stall would be intrigued to learn!)

                  1. re: pj26

                    That is very amusing.

                    Or are you serious? Do let us know.

                    1. re: pj26

                      It is not Mexican food. Every single thing that guy sells is some sort of Anglicized adaptation of what he thinks people want.

                      I gave it two tries and everything was bland or overly sweet with overcooked meat (the chicken and pork.) His tortillas are good, but everything else is mediocre bordering on blah. I've also been a bit annoyed with the place ever since I asked if they had pickled chilies, limes, etc (the usual fixings at any taco cart) and the guy told me I wouldn't need it because of the flavor. I started eating it and just thought "are you joking?"

                      I've been saying this since I moved here, but I think the UK/Ireland board needs to establish some sort of scholarship program for Mexican chefs to come here. The situation is that dire.

                  2. re: Nii

                    I'm with JFores on this one. BP is just horrible. I wanted to like them but the stuff is bland and low-quality. He wouldn't stand a chance in any place within a couple thousand miles of Mexico.

                    For what its worth, my family is Mexican.

                    1. re: r.vacapinta

                      totally agreed. I would lOVE to find some really good Mexican here. Maybe, we can all chip-in and take all proprietors in London on a road trip south of the border?

                      1. re: senorkeen

                        I have a Mexican chef friend now working in Brooklyn after growing up near L.A. I have begged him to come over here, but so far he refuses.

                      2. re: r.vacapinta

                        Damn them and their Gulf of Mexico oil spills and bland inauthentic taco fillings. BP that is.

                        I just want a taco con lengua with a pickled chili, a squeeze of lime and nice homemade salsa verde. Is that so much to ask for? It's infinitely easier and quicker to make than these weird pibil and mole tacos that British places do. When something is virtually indistinguishable from bad Thai food, that's probably a sign. Tacos do not have these weird stewed fillings. Carnitas, sure. If you get a goat taco it will be a stewed filling a lot of the time. Everything else is simply grilled and the entire cooking process is something like the 5-7 minutes that it took to order and then stand alongside the cart drinking a bottle of tamarind Jaritos.

                        You can make good tacos using a chemistry hot plate as a grill. It's just that no one in London has thus far wanted to. I think a huge part of the problem is the fact that people "want" "Mexican food" but they have absolutely no idea what it is. It just serves to perpetuate bad food. You even have Colombians trying to make thoroughly mediocre tacos in Brixton now just to cash in on this trend. This is the kind of culinary fad that murdered Thai food across the Western World.

                        "Oh I want xyz food! It's too spicy though! Ah yay! Now it's sweet! Can't you change this little thing too? You can? Great! Now it's sweet and the only meat you ever see is chicken breast!"

                        Get my drift?

                        I also totally agree with Harters. You posted that statistic a year or more ago and I've quoted it to people ever since.

                        Looking at Mestizo's menu, I have to say it looks relatively on form. They do a lot of the stuff that I would actually want not to mention that I would kill for good tacos al pastor here. The prices are a joke though. 8.80 for a barbacoa taco made with lamb instead of goat? That's a serious piss take.

                        1. re: JFores

                          I'm loving this thread : ) Now what about Lupida?.. I think the same can be said about pricing. One great thing about Mexican cuisine is that it's quick, cheap and freshly prepared. You don't need your tacos fiddled around with and priced at 8 quid. Just slap 3 fresh tacos down, take an aqua fresca, pay a nominal fee and be gone in the time it takes to gobble it down. I feel it's that kind of food, and in the first place when 'restaurants' gets involved and try and make it a dining experience it loses it's appeal and authenticity quite quickly. The same can be said of another favourite of mine, south Indian cuisine. You don't ever want to pay more than a few quid for a dosa or idli.

                          Anyway, back on point, lets start our own place guys..(and I'm partly serious, here) it's a glaring gap in the market of the London food scene. It's not like you can't get the stuff. The wholesaler at Maltby street has the lot from tomatillos to nopales. I even know real-live Mexican that knows his food chomping at the bit to show people a real Mexican food experience too. Just so bizarre why it hasn't been done already.

                          1. re: senorkeen

                            A single real taco cart at a market here that is of the quality one would find in Queens would be revolutionary. Hipsters adore this stuff. It would make a killing and all it takes is the same sort of grill you see at a lot of Brick Lane Market stalls. In all seriousness, the owner of Buen Provecho is Mexican, but I could definitely make better tacos.

                            1. re: JFores

                              I'm sure he'd disagree - lol! JFores, you're very passionate about this. I have to agree however, that we have no Mexican street food vendors or restaurants that can rival even the NYC scene - I've had it and it's phenomenal, but I still think BP is good. Like I've said and you concur with a similar response from Harters - Mexicans in London are few.

                  3. As anywhere, "foreign" food follows immigration patterns and, for Mexicans, the UK hasnt exactly been top of their list. The 2001 census notes that there are just over 5000 people of Mexican birth living here (many of them students).

                    1. There's the relatively new La Bodega Negra doing Mexican street food. It's had some good, some tepid reviews but is pretty trendy and a great venue apparently. I've not been so can't comment but worth looking up I think.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ManInTransit

                        It's okayish, good for cocktails and people watching, food is inconsistent - some very good, some very poor.

                      2. Mestizo: http://www.mestizomx.com/ is the best in my opinion. Nowhere's great over the water here, but certainly not Casa Morita, Buen Provecho, and as for Wahaca..

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: senorkeen

                          I'm impressed by the menu. I spent a lot of time in Arizona, and this might just help when I get a craving. I didn't think Buen Provecho was bad for street food, but sometimes I miss the truly Mexican, more sophisticated dishes that are not Tex-Mex.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            went to Mestizo last Friday, during the "Mole Festival" week, so we missed the chance to try their Taco platter who our Columbian (yes i know... not Mexican) friend said was really good.

                            Except for Lupita, I haven't had Mexican I like. And I'm obviously no expert.
                            Really liked the Queso Fundido (what's not to like about a bowl of melted cheese?).
                            Thought the pastry wrapping around their Empanadas were a bit too thick for my preference (don't think it's meant to be so thick).
                            Ambivalent about their Tamales.

                            I liked their Moles, although it's apparently not usually on the menu... I tried lamb cutlet mole (cordero en mole carretero) and a beef and lamb mole (mole coloradito mixto).

                            overall, i enjoyed Lupita a lot more than Mestizo, but would be keen on going back to try out their Taco platter.

                        2. The women at Toma Mexicano might be worth a try. They are now a member of Kerb, at Kings Cross, I believe and have a very small menu - steak tacos and flautas.

                          There is a Mexican street food thing at East Dulwich Northcross Road market on Saturdays, don't know their name though. There is also another cart at Herne Hill Sunday market which is worth a visit if you are in the area. Again, haven't tried their food, but there are quite a few places to check out. It's a mixed market, with fish, meat, baked goods,vegetables and bric a brac. Some traders are only their once or twice a month.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cathodetube

                            I've posted on this before (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861652), but am going to put in another plug for the weekday lunches at Angels & Gypsies in Camberwell. When I was there a couple of weeks ago they had started serving burritos, in addition to a small selection of tacos. Unfortunately the sea trout I mentioned in my original post is no longer on the menu, although the new seafood one is also very good. I've tried the street food cart in East Dulwich, and although the food is nice, it is miles better at Angels & Gypsies.

                            (And no, I really don't work there or have any financial interest in the operation. I'm posting out of pure selfishness, because I want it to be worth it for them to keep doing this menu. The times I've been they haven't been as busy as they deserve to be, given the quality and price of the food and how nice the staff is. I only wish they were able to offer the street food menu on the weekends occasionally as well, but apparently there is a bigger market for their usual tapas menu then (which is also very good, just not as difficult for me to secure as a good burrito).