Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A Mexican round up: My top 5 Mexican restaurants in London

This summer (if you can call it that!) I found myself living in London and my sister and I took it upon ourselves to find the best Mexican food we could!

In doing so we ate at 15 different restaurants taking us from our neighbourhood area of Notting Hill right down south to Balham, up north to Angel and everywhere in between! These included Wahaca, Chilango, Taqueria, Tequila Tex Mex, Santo, Crazy Homies, Lupita, La Perla, Cantina Laredo, Whole Foods, El Camion, Loco Mexicano, Desperados, Tacuba and Navajo Joe.

It was a good thing we did so too, because having just moved to Bangor this week I have discovered there are NO Mexican restaurants in the whole of North Wales so it could be a while before I get my next taco fix!

I thought I'd sum up what we found out and where we think are the best places to eat should you ever find yourself hungry in London and in need of a chimichanga or two! 

These are the restaurants we thought should make the top 5.  They aren't really in a particular order but our clear front runner was Santo in Notting Hill - we even ate there twice this summer which shows you just how yummy we thought it was! We had a one time only policy to try and fit in as many Mexicans as possible but we just had to break the rule for Santo and here's why...

Hands down the best nachos you will ever taste, we could quite happily go back and order only nachos all night long and have the best meal ever! but I wouldn't advise you do that because you would be missing out on the amazingly delicious burritos they serve (and remember I'm not even a burrito fan!) The service was fantastic, I think if my sister wasn't married she would have quite happily tried her luck with our cheeky little waiter! They had an extensive and interesting juice and smoothie selection like my raw tropical juice that came topped with a slice of Kiwi, and to top it all off it's located bang on Portobello Rd so it's perfect if you want to check out some awesome shops post meal! p.s did I mention you get free nachos and salsa to start? :)

Next up was Crazy Homies in Westbourne Grove.  They were a close contender for first place, but unfortunately we had some pretty bad Churros that let them down.  

 The rest of our experience at Crazy Homies was pretty cool though.  Their ambience was one of the best and I loved their decor inside.  Their menu was even called 'The Bible' and Bible it was, have you ever heard of a Mahi Mahi Tostada? That's an option freshly returned people from the Caribbean like us love to see! I had butternut squash and chorizo tostadas...both were completely inventive flavours and completely delicious!

A fun filled night at Desperados in Islington made it a firm favourite.

They had an excellent drinks menu, and you gotta love mocktails with curly straws! It was packed the night we went but the hustle and bustle didn't equate to slow service fortunately.  Their portions were pretty mega, and refried beans as a side always wins me over.  I had beef enchiladas which were pretty amazing and the colourful and decorative interior really gave it that old school Mexican feel! 

Loco Mexicano in Westbourne Grove was our first Mexican we went to way back in May, so the fact I can even remember what it was like speaks volumes!

This was the only Mexican we ate at that came with a Sombrero attached to your chair and that makes it pretty special in my book! Another huge plus was they did hard shell taco's...which is a bit of a rarity these days and they're one of my fave Mexican dishes.  They too had some rather impressive mocktails and their portions were on the hefty side which is always a bonus!

Finally, a late entry (and the last Mexican I managed to squeeze in before I left London) was El Camion in Soho.  I'm so glad we did manage to fit it in though because as you can see it made it to the Top 5 and is definitely somewhere I will be returning to in the future!

They have 2 branches, one on Portobello Rd (just a few metres away from Santo actually) and the one we ate at in Soho.  We had seen the one in Notting Hill lots of times before but it is much smaller and not quite as cool as the one we ate at so I was glad we made it to Soho.  We nearly sat upstairs but it was full, which was lucky for us, because I had no idea how cool their basement area is! and I would choose to sit there every time now I know.  Check out all those cute little tealights in the picture! Our waitress was super friendly and our fajitas and enchiladas were cooked to perfection.  The best part of the night - introducing Jade to their amazing Churros.  You may recall if you follow my blog that I have shared many exciting firsts with Jade, like Shakeaways, Krispy Kreme's, S'mores, Conch, Root Beer Floats and more recently pulled pork so I was excited for Jade to experience that Cinnamon-y goodness of deep fried Churros! It was the perfect ending to an oh so yummy Mexican! 

I also thought it would be fun to award a best starter, main and dessert.

For the starter there was really no question, it had to be Santo for their nachos as I've already mentioned...but don't just take my word for it - go and try them out - it will be the best money you can spend!

The best main was far trickier with many contenders, but in the end the mammoth sized portions of Tequila Tex Mex made me think they deserved this award! along with the fact they make a mean chimichanga and served the most enormous stuffed peppers ever!

I have a small obsession with Churros, you may or may not have noticed! Anytime we found Churros on a menu, which wasn't all that often surprisingly, we would have to order them.  We were on a quest to find the best, and whilst the rest of our evening and meal at Lupita was less than favourable, their Churros were hands down the best we've tried in London.  They were really warm and soft with tons of yummy chocolate sauce for dipping and they are lucky they make such a good Churro because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go back there for anything else! 

So there you have it! What did we learn from our Mexican quest? that Wahaca and Chilango didn't make the cut! Are you surprised? I'm not.  I've learnt that branding is everything, people love names and so Wahaca has grown into this super popular Mexican (that does a decent meal don't get me wrong) but you can eat at far better Mexicans than Wahaca that's for sure and hopefully now you all know where they are! and all you had to do was read this blog! Simple!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Pulled Pork Loving!

This week has been a week of farewells as we say our goodbyes and head off to Bangor.  On Thursday night it was a St.G's girls night of pulled pork fun at Red Dog Saloon with...

Nats and Caz...

Jay-dee and Jo...

and Lauren and Amys.

I was pretty excited that everyone decided to join in and order pulled pork, even those that were slightly hesistant at first (Amy!) eventually admitted it was really tasty! 

How can it not be? it's pulled pork! 

These are mine and Jade's 'we loved pulled pork' faces.  Clearly I was a little more excited about it all than she was! 


This summer living between London and Milton Keynes has been the nearest I've lived to Harpenden for 7 years!!  so it has been really nice to be able to see lots more of these girls than usual and we have had alot of fun.

I'm sure going to miss them.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

An anniversary staycation

August 25th, 2007: Reading (where it all began!)

August 25th, 2008: Littlehampton.  We spent an anniversary weekend at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa venturing into nearby Brighton eating lots of cupcakes and drinking milkshakes!

August 25th, 2009: Koh Tao.  We celebrated our 2nd anniversary in Thailand! in this amazing little hilltop villa overlooking the ocean.

August 25th, 2010: Milton Keynes.  We celebrated with a spot of my favourite food, Mexican, before heading out to the Caribbean a few days later!

August 25th, 2011: London

The 25th August marked 4 years of being married to my favourite person! How 4 years has flown by so fast I have no idea, but I know they have been the most fun and happy of my life and there is no one I'd rather spend time with then Byron! 

So we celebrated by trying out Shaka Zulu, a South African restaurant located inside the Stables Market in Camden.  We had been wanting to try it for a while because of our South African ties but it was a little on the pricey side but thanks to all our generous anniversary gifts from our parents we were able to make it a date! 

It is the most extravagant and ornate restaurant I think I've ever been to and really quite an experience! 

There were statues of Zulu warriors everywhere and all the tables were intricately decorated with mosaic tiles.

We had the most amazing non alcoholic cocktail consisting of caramel, pineapple juice, lemon juice, pomegranate and apple - it was absolutely delish!

and then we move on to the food!! which of course was the whole reason we came and we were certainly not disappointed! I had an amazing starter meat board full of all my favourite South African meats: biltong, droewors and even some chilli snapsticks! I could have just gone home happy right then! 

By, rather daring as usual, had an ostrich carpaccio which he said was pretty tasty too! 

For my main I had boerewors with peri peri fries and By had his favourite, a fillet steak, with triple cooked fries.  They were some fat fries!

and my favourite course of the night, as always, dessert! 

We finished off the night with some very traditional South African desserts.  I had Koeksisters (a fried doughnut covered in lime and lemon syrup) and By had Melktert.  You don't have to speak Afrikaans to understand that one which is basically 'milk tart'.  We grew up being baked those kind of desserts by our grandparents so it was fun to eat them in this snazzy restaurant!!

It was an amazing night, definitely a great pick for a special meal and I just had to snap a pic of this giant Zulu as we left!

The next day we headed down to the Southbank, which has become one of our favourite London spots, and I just had to have a picture of me and the Gherkin in the background.  I love it!

I took By to the viewing deck of the Oxo Tower so he could check out the view from up there too.

It was pretty good despite the clouds! 

As usual the street entertainment was awesome and we found this crazy bubble blower who had the most amazing contraptions for blowing massive amounts of bubbles at once! 

and the most enormous bubbles you've ever seen! 

He was delighting all of the kids!

I had never seen anything like it before! we were mesmerised! 

I found this sign and it was so true! 

We tasted all day long, it's our fave thing to do! and the Southbank has so much amazing food it is kind of criminal not to!

We waited for hours for Pitt Cue Co to open...but it had to be done because every blog or time out article you read they are getting rave reviews! 

and it is easy to see why - this pulled pork was completely amazing! 

We headed to the Real Food Market after, which is just behind the Southbank Centre.

It was buzzing! and the sun came out for a brief while too! 

By opted for a homemade cheese toastie with homemade chutney too!

The smile says it all!

Of course there were plenty of cupcakes and baked goods involved too, you can check them out on my cupcake blog.

and we topped off a lovely bank holiday weekend with an amazing trip to Everyman Cinemas in Hampstead to see One Day.  Can you believe they sold cupcakes that you could take into the cinema!! I think it may just be my favourite cinema ever...

and not only for the cupcakes but because we got our own private sofa to sit on and a foot rest...it was pure luxury!