If you had to make a list of the kind of restaurants you might find yourself in on a Friday night, what would they be? Italian? Fine dining? French? Possibly Thai or Asian? But would you pick Mexican?
Until we’d discovered the gem that is Mestizo we might have said no. Sadly, a Mexican meal out in this country all too often involves inauthentic Tex-Mex fajitas or a greasy burrito. But when Belle stumbled across Mestizo – a restaurant that’s been named the ‘best Mexican in London’ – we hoped we might have come across the real thing.
A short walk from Warren Street, Mestizo doesn’t automatically get the footfall which other areas of central London might. But this place doesn’t seem to need a good postcode to draw in its customers.
Marysol Alvarado, who set up Mestizo in 2005, proudly tells me she’s been in the restaurant business for 20 years. After moving from her home of Mexico City, she opened Mestizo’s sister restaurant in Madrid.
Mestizo followed shortly after in 2005 and stocks more than 200 types of tequila – more than anywhere else in the capital. If you’re after a good Margarita ladies, this is the place to go!
Marysol explains the meaning of Mestizo – a term used to describe the integration of Mexicans with Spaniards. She also tells me how their aim is to bring traditional Mexican food to the forefront of the London food scene. Greasy tacos are out, fresh and authentic South American cuisine is in.
Oh, and we forgot to tell you, Mestizo is a bit of a favourite among the ‘Primrose Hill’ gang. Sienna Miller and Tim Burton are among their regular customers. So, in honour of Sienna, we asked Marysol to serve us her favourite menu.
After a sharing appetiser in the form of the Taco tray, our starter consisted of two steamed corn husks filled with corn maize and ‘Puerco con salsa verde’ (pork in green salsa).
The novelty of peeling the corn husks back to reveal a meaty texture inside was as exciting as opening a present. I can’t say I’ve ever tried cactus before so the Ensalada de Nopales was equally as intriguing. Verdict? Similar to gherkins but with a much fresher taste! And a great appetiser for the next course.
Sienna likes it so we went for it. It was the Enchiladas Verde – two corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and green chillies, and garnished with feta with rice and beans. A simple yet perfectly proportioned dish and the warm feta melted in the mouth.
But the winning dish was the Molcajete Mestizo – a volcanic stone bowl filled with chorizo, spring onion, cilantro, and avocado, served in a green salsa verde on flour tortillas. This dish was so flavoursome, my taste buds couldn’t keep up. And finding melting blobs of cheese in amongst the bubbling cauldron added to the excitement. Unforgettably fresh and indulgent.
With a figure like Sienna’s I’m not sure she’d go for a dessert but we did, in the form of the Mestizo crepe and the coconut cheese cake. The cake was light but quite dense and the crepe was firm and should come with a warning – for sweet toothed people only. Luckily, that’s me.
The Margarita – both frozen and on the rocks were the perfect accompaniment to this knock-out meal.
There’s a reason that Mexican footballers, actors, and even the tallest man in the world have eaten in Mestizo. Because it’s good honest food presented with pride. Tex-Mex, this wipes the floor with you.
Mestizo, 103 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EL, 020 7387 4064
by Lucy McGuire