NYLONDave (see link below) suggested the new Mestizo and we (the Passionate Eater team) rushed out to try it, being a little saddened by the state of 'Mexican' food in London. I'm not completely dismissing the Tex-Mex concept, but what prevails in London (large plates of cheese-covered enchiladas and chimichangas) hasn't been very exciting. As we headed out, we were hoping to find a restuarant that was attempting actual Mexican food with the assortments of soft tacos, lovely complex moles and various salsas and so on that I remember from non-touristy, Mexican-run places in San Diego and Baja California and my Rick Bayless cookbooks.
Eureka! We done struck gold at Mestizo - Restaurant and Tequila Bar (okay, potential gold) at 103 Hampstead Road (the northern continuation of Tottenham Court Road when it crosses Marylebone Road), near tube stops Euston Square or Warren St. Tel: 020 7387 4064.
You can have a bite of everything on the 'tapas' (sic) menu which gives you a whole list of soft taco fillings with approprite salsas. (Theere are lots of other nibbly things, can't remember what they all were). We had that nice Negro Modelo beer and a starter of two carnitas tacos with a nice tomatillo salsa. The carnitas were a little dry to my taste, but the tacos as a whole were good. The soft corn tortilla against the tart salsa verde and rich pork, yum.
The rest of the menu is a mix of mains, soups and salads. For my main course, I had a chicken mole poblano. The mole was spicy and complex, excellent. It was garnished with white crumbly queso fresco and small refried bean patties (rather than a huge dollop of beige sludge). We think they should switch to a chicken thigh rather than the (somewhat) dry chicken breast that was used, but again, the mole was delicious. My husband had a steak dish (sorry forgot the name) with an agave cream sauce and a side of rice. Tasty, but it really perked up when we asked for some hot peppers and were served a wonderful vinegary, jalapeno, carrot, onion and baby new potato relish. Awesome!
Next time we will sample several more kinds of the tacos and perhaps go on a Saturday when they make posole, that hominy stew.
The manager is Mexican (as are the owners and the chef, with a Bolivian sous-chef) and they are trying to reproduce central Mexican cuisine as authentically as possible. There is a nice bar and perhaps we would sample the selection of tequilas next time.
I must admit I may have given them a little extra credit because I was so excited to be eating real Mexican food in London, but I think a second visit will be necessary to explore the menu more.
Decor is nice, modern and not kitsch-Mexican. It would be a nice place to have a snack and a drink, with the attractive bar area and the 'Mexican tapas' menu. (Not tapas, but trying to convey that there are small bites of things).
Extra credit for culinary ambition and very nice staff--we heard them very patiently explaining the entire menu to other guests (so novices, don't be put off!).
I'll be back and see if I gave them too much credit in my excitement. I'm definately going on a Saturday for the posole and some more tacos!