A recent trend on the East side of the Atlantic, Mexican cuisine is today a well-established component of London’s food scene. Street food joints, fine dining, drinking dens and party hubs offer a variety of options reflecting that of Mexican culture itself. Here are our top 12 Mexican restaurants in London.
In 2010 UNESCO declared traditional Mexican cuisine an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, on the grounds that its cultural model “comprises farming, ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques and ancestral community customs and manners”. Tacos, quesadillas, burritos, nachos and frozen margaritas are among the most popular expressions of such heritage, but surely there is much more to discover. A journey through London’s best Mexican restaurants seems like a good place to start.
To many this is as close to Mexico as one can get without setting foot outside Central London. Cafe Pacifico has been delivering authentic Mexican cuisine since 1982, a time when tacos and fajitas were nowhere near as trendy as they are now. Over the years the menu has managed to keep up with the times, while maintaining a strong focus on the classics. What hasn’t changed a bit are the abundant portions and the friendly, party-like atmosphere. On top of that, add a world-renowned tequila and mezcal bar.
5 Langley Street, London WC2H 9JA
Opened in Convent Garden in 2010, Cantina Laredo offers a modern culinary experience aimed at taking diners “on an unforgettable journey through Mexico’s diverse regional cuisines”. What’s more, the restaurant has recently launched London’s first dedicated Guacamole and Tequila Bar, featuring an in-house ‘Guacamestro’ and its ‘Eight Great Guacamoles’ prepared in front of the guests. A similar approach applies to the thoughtful selection of 100% blue agave tequilas and smoky mezcals, which goes by the philosophy ‘sip, don’t slam’. A tequila dinner menu is available to match spirit and food tastings.
10 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB
When the crowds of Camden Market feel too suffocating, seek refuge at Cafe Chula. Mexican produce and traditional recipes are the key to a solid selection of street food dishes, to be enjoyed in a quirky and friendly atmosphere. The remarkable list of tequila and mezcal betrays a true fondness for these Mexican favourites, resulting in a teasing range of signature cocktails and tasting options. Happy hour sessions, Taco Tuesdays and live Latin music on Thursdays are among the regular events. A £10 fee at weekends grants entry to Lockside Camden, Chula’s upstairs neighbour, which provides tex-mex food, more tequila and late-night parties.
75 – 89 Lower Walkway, London NW1 8AF
Tacos, burritos and quesadillas get a modern twist at Killer Tomato, located near Shepherd’s Bush station. The informal experience is enhanced by good value, friendly service and a straightforward approach to food. Cheeseburger Tacos stand out from the list, and recently made it onto Time Out’s list of the top 10 tacos in London. Saturday afternoons are bottomless, meaning all-you-can-eat tacos and unlimited refills of wine, champagne, beer and Bloody Maria. A second venue has recently opened in Portobello Road.
18 Goldhawk Road, London W12 8DH
Leicester Square Kitchen
Recently opened in the heart of the West End, Leicester Square Kitchen is where Mexican and Peruvian traditions meet halfway and take a contemporary turn. While ceviche (raw fish) and anticucho (beef skewer) feature on the Peruvian side of the menu, the Mexican side lists soft tacos, tostadas and grill dishes. The ambience is modern, bright and spacious, and includes an open kitchen area and an outdoor terrace overlooking the cinemas of Leicester Square; one more temptation for a pre-theatre treat.
31-36 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LH
Just by Clapham North station, the cosy and warm Mendoza Square provides a genuine Mexican and Latin American experience, delivered through a down-to-earth philosophy. Burritos, fajitas and tacos are among the main attractions, the latter best enjoyed on Tuesdays (‘Taco Tuesday’ happy hour). Burgers and grills are also on the list, while a brunch menu is available at weekends. Along with Mexican classics, the drinks list includes options from all over Latin America, such as cachaça-based cocktails from Brazil, Cuban mojito and Argentinian beer.
3 Bedford Road, London SW4 7SH
The taqueria of Borough Market, El Pastór is where tortillas are homemade and street food culture is handled with a gourmet touch. Tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and aguachiles feature on the menu, along with alluring desserts and classic drinks. Needless to say, the signature dish is the ‘Al Pastór’ taco, made with marinated pork shoulder, caramelized pineapple, guacamole taquero, white onion and coriander. The ‘El Diablo’ salsa lurking among the house sauces sounds temptingly dangerous, and so does mezcal served by the carafe. Forewarned is forearmed.
6-7A Stoney Street, London SE1 9AA
Mexico City is also known as ‘Distrito Federal’, or simply DF. This Mexican diner brings together traditional flavours and American influences, offering a proper fast food experience. The menu revolves around slow-cooked tacos, burritos, grills, home-cooked fries and revisited tortas with smashed avocado (toasted brioche buns). Frozen margaritas are the special guests of the drinks list, also served in 1-litre jugs. The Paddington branch is housed at Pergola Central, an urban garden providing a wide range of drinking and dining experiences. Other branches are in Tottenham Court Road, Bank and Shoreditch.
5 Kingdom Street, W2 6PY
With its various locations across London, Barrio is the place to enjoy street food culture and party vibes from Latin America. In the lively environment of the Soho branch, all one needs are small bites, an assortment of tacos and sharing platters for large groups, along with creative and classic cocktails. In order to enjoy the rest of the experience, get involved with the fiestas and events taking place here almost every day. Other branches are located in Angel, Brixton and Shoreditch.
6 Poland Street, London W1F 8PS
Opened in 2004, Mestizo’s mission is simple: to bring to London a place where Mexican people would go in their homeland. Meaning ‘mixed race’ in English, the name of the restaurant refers to the descendants of indigenous South Americans and Europeans who make up more than half of the Mexican population. The menu is therefore decidedly Mexican, mixing popular recipes and fine cuisine, all to be enjoyed in a modern and friendly environment. Try the tasting menus to make the most of the tequila and mezcal selections.
103 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EL
Located in the heart of vibrant Dalston, Viva is an artisan tapas and cocktail bar, with a keen focus on Mexican and Brazilian traditions. Authentic street food dishes are enhanced by fresh and responsibly-sourced ingredients. The cocktail list boasts original recipes based on tequila, mezcal, rum and gin, while classics are also available. As they say at Viva, ‘this is the place if you’re looking for good food, cool drinks, peace, love, passion and an old fashioned in the same shaker’.
2 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XN
With its no-frills approach to cuisine, Ay Caramba explores all the varieties of basic Mexican and Cuban food, filling the menu with tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, steaks and a rich assortment of tapas. Quality ingredients and local produce provide a wide range of spicy Latin specialties, to be washed down with one of the few margaritas served at the bar. A pleasant, informal and easy-going atmosphere makes Ay Caramba ideal for both parties and casual dining.
14-16 Camden High St, London NW1 0JH