Friday, 16 March 2012

La Bodega Negra

Soho may have a new king of the castle already. It’s early days of course but a sniff of New Yorker-in-London headlines, mixed with a nod to the London street food craze is bound to lead to a lot of hype. My Twitter feed already attests to this also.

And as with London’s Mexican joints, it will no doubt include plenty of Americans loudly professing that it’s never as good!

Because obviously, the thoroughbred students, bankers, lawyers and media types from Ivy League schools are experts, reppin' the food trucks of the barrio.

Perhaps not, but equally La Esquina is vibes before food too. And America’s best Mexican food is not found in Chipotle or even New York, but in Texas and California. London doesn’t have much of a Mexican population, nor do limes, ancho chillies and nopales grow bountifully in these climes. So considering that, La Bodega Negra is a pretty damn good rendition.

It’s a starry line-up of Will Ricker of E&O (which I still love and is one of the only places in Notting Hill to retain an uptown buzz) and Serge Becker. Mr Becker is a nightlife and cultural guru in New York, and paired with hotelier André Balazs has created some of the best entertainment spaces in the city. Here in a complex which offers taqueria/café, a more formal restaurant and a future food truck, there is certainly a lot of choice. If you like Mexican, of course.

I could eat Mexican food and drink Margaritas for breakfast, probably daily, and I’m pretty bored of Wahaca’s assembly line feel, so I’d been very excited about this. And was not disappointed.

The cochinita pork pibil tacos with a side of green rice and cowboy beans (£10.50) was a great choice, if I don’t mind saying so myself.

Three tacos filled with shredded, tender pork, with wonderfully zingy tomatillo salsa and sweet red onions. They did not last long.

The green rice was relatively plain but nice to have, I had fun spicing it up with the various hot sauces I received.

The cowboy beans were quite the revelation, and pretty damn amazing. A meaty, beery broth, brimming with pinto beans, bacon and chorizo. The beans were cooked through but fantastically al dente. There were also some cherry tomatoes and onions for extra flavour. Not a drop remained.

Both were served in cute little cast-iron pots.

cowboy beans

My margarita (£7.50) was mixed with both Cointreau and agave syrup – a cross between a Classic and a Tommy’s. It was strong, sweet, sour and everything a margarita should be.

La Bodega Negra’s taqueria is quite a low key joint. The vibe is an understated upmarket, but with a worn-in feel from carefully placed Mexico City gig posters. The staff were great too.

I can’t wait to check out the proper restaurant, accessible through the façade of a sex shop. What better way of repurposing seedy old premises in Soho? London just gets better... 

Food – 8/10 
Drink – 8/10
Service - 9/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 6/10 (offered after my drink was served)
Staff Hotness – 9/10 (habanero hot - not surprising from such aesthetes)
La Bodega Negra on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

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