London is now a taco town! Over the last two years, some excellent taquerias and innovative Mexican restaurants have opened. And tacos have been deemed “the food trend of 2017” by some London food bloggers.
So we sent our correspondent, Julia Walsh, to London on a taco tour. We’ll be posting her London Taco Tour updates on Taco Tuesdays!
Here is her latest report:
Despite its central location across from the Borough Market just south of the London Bridge, El Pastor feels like a hidden gem. Tucked away on a tiny side street with a very Mexican-looking sidewalk dining set-up, it’s a delightful place to drop in for some tacos between sightseeing and shopping. People are constantly coming and going in this highly populated neighborhood.. Despite all that, I never saw anyone wait for a table.
My waiter Gaëtan, from Paris, helped answer my questions as I reviewed the menu. There were many delicious sounding options, including an Ahi Tuna Tostada and a Prawn Mojo de Ajo taco, which he noted was a popular choice. I decided to keep it simple and to the point by ordering just the Chicken and the Pork Al Pastor.
The tacos at El Pastor are served in pairs on emerald colored glass plates, with tortillas made in house with a combination of white and blue corn. My first bite of their namesake taco was awash in deeply sweet, caramelized pineapple married with rich, smoky pork that is marinated for 24 hours before cooking. The pork tasted amazing, though it was “well smoked” and a little dry. Luckily, the juicy pineapple pieces and guacamole made the dryness of the meat hardly noticeable.
I hadn’t ordered any chicken so far on the London Taco Tour, and the chicken taco reminded me to give chix a chance! Sadly the chicken on my taco was dried out as well. I still enjoyed every bite of the big, delicious flavors from the chipotle, cumin and adobo rub and the onions, taquero salsa, and cilantro added lots of moisture and fresh flavors.
Maybe it was the time of day, but the proteins on the El Pastor tacos I sampled left something to be desired.
Para todo mal, mezcal. Y para todo bien, tambien. — Oaxacan saying.
El Pastor’s mezcal selection made up for their less than spectacular tacos.. There are two mezcals listed on the back of the food menu with the other drinks, and there’s an impressive list of seventeen options on the dedicated mezcal menu.
If you aren’t acquainted with mezcal, the name describes a family of distilled spirits originally made in Mexico by baking the heart of the agave plant in an earth oven, fermenting it and distilling the alcohol produced. Tequila is a mezcal produced in a specific area limited by law (much like a European AOC). Mezcals are produced across Mexico, most famously in Oaxaca.
At El Pastor, you can choose between a 35ml pour, or a carafe of either 150ml or 250ml (now we’re talking!). All the mezcal is served with a traditional garnish of an orange slice sprinkled with sal de gusano, a Oaxacan condiment made by drying agave worms in seasalt, grinding them, and mixing the salty powder with chile costeño). It’s surprising tasty stuff if you can get over the idea of ingesting insects.
I decided on the Meteoro brand mezcal, which was described on the menu as “an earthy and sweet snog.” The meaty, leathery flavor of the drink fit the poetic description perfectly.
El Pastor’s alluring outdoor dining area in the thick of London and its selection of exotic Mexican libations make it a wonderful spot to grab a few tacos and a drink. As I sat and sipped my mezcal alternating between people watching and chatting with my waiter, the sun slipped ever lower in the sky and I felt no inclination to leave my perfect perch.
As to the interior of the restaurant, well, my apologies for the lack of a description. It wasn’t until I examined my photos some time later that I realized I had forgotten to look inside.
All Photos by Julia Walsh