Tequila Taqueria: Review
Mexican was arguably the only great world cuisine that London lacked until very recently. For too long – far too long – the unbelievably complex and diverse food of this vast country, from the pork pibil of the Yucatan to the fish tacos of Baja California and every molè, quesadilla and huitlacoche in-between, was represented here by Old El Paso fajita packs in the supermarket and diabolically bad Tex-Mex chains like Las Iguanas and Chiquitos on the High Street. It’s deeply unfair that, for most of the country, this is pretty much still the case.
But in the capital, we can thank top taco-peddlers Breddos and Borough Market’s El Pastor, amongst others, for finally opening our eyes to just how exciting and enjoyable good Mexican food can be. True, we don’t yet have a fine dining Mexican ambassador in town — no Lima (Fitzrovia) or Tetsu (Farringdon), which did multi-course and Michelin stars for Peruvian and Japanese respectively — but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Perhaps one day we can persuade our favourite Mexican chef Javier Plascencia (who did a brief residency at a Selfridges pop-up a couple of years back) to open up shop here. We can but dream.
In the meantime, there’s tacos to be eaten. Tequila Taqueria is a new resident in Tooting’s Broadway Market, joining a diverse and generally excellent set of traders doing for South West London what Brixton’s Market Row did for the South East. Even before you settle down to dinner, it’s an exciting place to hang out and explore — you’ll find little nooks and crannies serving local gin and craft beer, interesting arts and crafts and various fishmongers and greengrocers. Yes, it’s all slightly self-consciously hipster, but undeniably fun.
Anyway, the food. First ordered was guacamole and tortilla chips — a control variable for any Mexican restaurant. The guac could have done with a bit more salt, and a bit less of the pickled(?) cucumber chunks they’d rather pointlessly scattered on top, but after applying seasoning it was a fine example of its kind. Even better was the house hot sauce, dispensed from cheekily-rebranded Tabasco bottles, which had a fantastic rich taste of smoked habaneros and livened the guacamole very nicely.
The prices of the tacos — £4–£5 per piece — seemed quite steep, until they started to arrive and we realised each was one giant load of ingredients loaded onto a single tortilla. This approach is entirely up to them, although experience would suggest that people may be happier with dividing the same amount of filling between three tortillas, or alternatively just reducing the amount of food per serving and charging less. Still, this vast lump of braised ox cheek was undeniably lovely, given sharpness and colour from some house pickles and bound by interesting blobs of garlic mayonnaise.
The tortilla/filling ratio for the duck egg & chorizo taco was even more off-kilter. We soon resorted to eating it with knife and fork like a kind of Mexican brunch, and though it tasted great — duck egg and chorizo always going to be a combo that makes us smile — it didn’t feel very taco-y.
Perhaps part of the reason we’d like the amount of filling reduced is that the tortillas themselves were so nice — not made in house, admittedly, but clearly from a good supplier, and full of that soily, soft masa flour character that’s so evocative of authentic Mexican food. A buttermilk chicken taco made a perfect foil to the bread, herby and moist and softened with another superbly generous dollop of fresh guacamole. Of course, like much of what had come before, it was nearly impossible to eat and rather unbalanced, but made up for its failings with generosity of size and flavour.
Tequila Taqueria, then, isn’t a revolution in Mexican cuisine in London, and probably doesn’t quite do enough to get fans of Breddos or El Pastor travelling across town to Tooting Broadway. But taken on its own terms, as a bright, vibrant, charmingly friendly little spot to drink tequila (served in mini glass skulls and accompanied by dried grubs, natch) and knock back (well-made) Micheladas alongside fresh tacos, it will no doubt serve its local audience very well indeed. And that seems to us more than enough to celebrate.