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:
During my reporting on the Manx-Mex Chronicles, I was invited to go down to London for a taco tour. There has been a huge uptick in the number of Mexican restaurants, taquerias, and mezcal bars in the last year or so, and bloggers all over are raving about them! So I packed my bags and headed to London.
I would have liked to get a breakfast taco but found nothing open before noon, so I spent the morning in a coffee shop narrowing down top 5 restaurants based on menu and distance. Soon I was strolling over to Corazón Taqueria. The building looks and feels like a beach home in Cabo – open, airy, decorated in blues and whites reminiscent of the sea.
Arriving about half past noon, I was mildly surprised that the place was entirely empty except for myself and the staff (just after opening on a Monday isn’t their busiest hour). Choosing a seat was easy thanks to the open, accordion-style window overlooking a couple of small white tables on the outside.
I looked over the menu. One page was the “Counter Offer”, which was a plate of two tacos with sides. I was more interested in getting a variety of tacos, so I stuck to the regular menu. After chatting with the bartender I knew the most popular sellers on the taco menu are the Carnitas, Baja Fish, and Guv’nor (king prawns and baby shrimp grilled with peppers, tomatoes, and onions). I ordered the Carnitas, Barbacoa, and Baja fish tacos to compare with the Mexican flavors I’m used to.
I started with the Carnitas taco, which was stuffed with a combination of shredded pork belly and collar. The pork is slow cooked in orange juice, Mexican oregano, and cinnamon then topped with bits of crunchy fried skin and flecks of pickled jalapeño. It was served with a classic roasted tomatillo salsa that had a low level, creeping heat. The orange and cinnamon were stronger and sweeter than I’m used to, which added another dimension to the rich pork, making an excellent taco. And all wrapped up in a house-made tortilla! I breathed a sigh of contentment.
I eagerly dug into my next taco, the Barbacoa. Corazón’s version of barbacoa was a combination of lamb shoulder and liver, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked for 7 hours. When I ordered it, I’d had a dreamy vision of tender, flavorful lamb paired with creamy liver for a double whammy of richness, but unfortunately, the long cooking time meant the liver had become tough and crumbly, which took away from my pleasure in eating it. The lamb was rich and had a dark red color to it, but even with the added liver, it seemed sadly one dimensional in flavor after the carnitas taco. The salsa served on the side was mind-blowing, though. It’s made with tequila, tomato, onion, tomatillo, ancho, chipotle, and honey, which created a smokey and complex sauce and gave the taco life.
The Baja fish taco was another pleasant surprise. Despite being left until last, the battered fish was delightfully crunchy. All of the tacos at Corazón are well-stuffed, but this was an enormous piece of meaty fish, with an excellent crispy batter, on top of crunchy cabbage with a chipotle mayo. I hate it when the fish gets overpowered by the creamy sauce, but the chipotle mayo was light and not too sweet, a perfect compliment. The whole thing was served on a blue corn tortilla, which had it’s own lovely, mild sweetness that’s different from a standard corn tortilla.
Taking out the camera and shooting sexy close-ups of the tacos kind of tipped off my bartenders and servers, Verena and Nick, that I wasn’t just grabbing a casual lunch. After admitting my goals for the day, we chatted about the menu and the items they like, as well as other taquerias in the area.
Verena has been a bartender for years and worked all over, including at Glastonbury. Her family is Rastafarian and Muslim, so she didn’t eat pork when she started working at Corazón. But when they had a menu tasting, she said to herself, well, I have to try it. When she first bit into the Carnitas taco, she was wooed. And when she recently sampled an item that will be coming to the menu soon (whole pig head boiled in stock, which is then reduced with booze and butter and served on a mass (pan)cake), she said it was “so amazing.” “Well, I guess I’m back [to eating pork]!” she laughed. Her description made me wonder when it would be feasible to visit London again after it made its debut.
The atmosphere at Corazón is pleasantly relaxed, and I had such a great time lounging around and eating delicious tacos near the window on this beautiful, sunny afternoon. Laura Sheffield, the boss and owner, is from College Station, Texas and worked with a Mexican anthropologist to develop the menu. No wonder that these tacos made me feel like I was back home in Texas.
I think Verena could tell I was reluctant to leave this little oasis despite the day ahead of me, because she invited me back for a margarita that evening to continue our chat. I thanked her and told her honestly I’d be happily flopping into bed at the end of the day. It was getting late so I said a fond farewell and zipped out the door to my next destination.