Let me just get this out quickly. OVERATED. There, I said it.
Before proceeding onto the real problems, I’ll focus on the positives.
I chose the café/diner part of this Mexican ‘hot spot’ instead of the restaurant. I thought the menu looked a little friendlier and when I saw the restaurant had Veal Tongue on their menu, the pretence of this unappetising ‘food’ told me I’d be better off in the less poncy, more casual, above ground part of this joint.
First impressions, it was light and airy, really well spaced out, nice décor – the bar being the focal point and the variety of tables and booths gave off a really friendly vibe. The ceviche bar when you walk in gives a take away essence to the place and almost puts you a little at ease as it all seems so very casual. I was approached straight away and our waitress throughout the night was so sweet, really friendly and did her job really, really well. This was quite refreshing actually as I find service lacks considerably in London restaurants on the whole. The buzzy atmosphere is lovely, it’s busy, but not too bustly and the music level is perfect, you can hear it and gives an authentic ambience to the place, but it doesn’t overpower the meal by being too loud.
The waitress recommended the Pineapple Spiced Daiquiri which was really good. It was mixed well and the flavours complemented each other. It wasn’t amazing, by any means, but it was a good cocktail. Aky had the non-alcoholic Passion Fruit Mojito, it was fresh and looked great, however too much lime that was too bitter, either they needed sweeter limes or more sugar. On the whole, pretty ok though.
Now, here’s the problem. Mexican food is relatively simple, you have a mix of ingredients that apply to quite a lot of their dishes. It’s usually the same mix in a different order and magically at somewhere great, each dish has it’s own, very special highlights.
I have been to some corkers of Mexican places in my time, places that serve guacamole that is made right in front of you, so it can’t get any fresher. Guacamole that is not bright, almost fluorescent green, but that dull, nutty green complemented by red onion and finely chopped tomato with a hint of lime, salt and coriander. Being the dish/dip that Mexico is famous for, along with salsa, this is something that is going to be the first impression and if you can’t get this right then you should stop, go back and try again. The guacamole came with chips and pico de gallo. Not salsa. Why no salsa? I don’t know. There was no salsa in sight, anwhere. Corn chips made fresh (I’m thinking Dos Caminos here) should have that (I hate the next word) ‘moreish’ affect on you, the one that means no matter how hard you try, you just can’t stop picking, dipping and basking in the salty, fresh goodness. These corn chips were cardboardy, flavourless and I stopped after only a few…and I was starving hungry! So far, not impressed. It wasn’t fresh and didn’t taste good. I could pop down to Sainsbury’s and by some Dorito Dippas and some guacamole and that would have been a lot better and wouldn’t cost a fiver for the experience.
Next…a Chicken Tostada. There didn’t seem to be so much chicken on the menu, so thought this would be a good taster. It was ok, a little bland, nice, but nothing special.
Steak Tacos with Green Rice and Cowboy Beans. The tacos were too hot, with chunks of pretty much plain, raw, chewy steak on a processed mini tortilla that broke because it was so soggy when you lifted it up. Not good. Tortillas are made of pretty much flour and water…and these are so small, why not make them fresh? The meat should be a little smoky, marinated really well in Mexican spices, none of this applied to this meal. The best part was the rice and beans. These were delicious. Best part of the whole meal. Fantastic, well mixed, original, really fresh tasting and a great accompaniment. If only the thing it accompanied was any good…you wouldn’t have to eat mouthfuls of beans and rice on their own.
Chorizo Quesadillas were up next. These were ok. That’s kind of all I can say. The chorizo didn’t taste of anything really. I can think of hundreds of fabulous market stalls and vendors of great chorizo with all different kinds of flavouring and none of them got a look in as Bodega Negra has chosen a run of the mill, bland, nothingness as their main ingredient. The cheese was good, but they only way I managed to jazz them up was by dipping them in the beans that came with the tacos.
For dessert we went for the chocolate mousse served with berry compote. It didn’t look particularly appetising when it arrived…you’ll see by the photo. The mousse was too thick, almost as if they had a great consistency and then decided to add gelatine and cornflour to it. It was stodgy and the berry compote was embedded within it, this was very bitter and would only have complemented the mousse if it had been light and smooth tasting.
The rating for this one will be a little different as the service, ambience and decoration was good, but the food was so distinctly average. Also, if I took a New Yorker here and told them this place had been written about as THE place to go, they would laugh in my face.
New York Rate: 1.5
London Rate: 3.5
See what I’m getting at?
Worth a visit if you want a drink maybe…not worth it if you want some really nice food.
Overrated and disappointing. Oh and Time Out refer to this place as a speakeasy. Wha????? Oh please.
16 Moor Street London, Greater London W1D 5NH
020 7758 4100