La Taqueria takes pride in being, above all else, a simple little taco store at heart.
Nestled in Notting Hill, there's a haven for anyone who's looking for the real Mexican experience. La Taqueria effectively channels the spirit of a street vendor in Vera Cruz: nearly everything they serve is made daily on the premises from traditional ingredients, many of which must be imported directly from Mexico.
There are quite a lot of ingredients which simply do not exist in cooking outside Latin America. Chillies from this region are often a bit milder than their Asian cousins, though exceptions such as the habanera do exist. Other indigenous plants make it into the cuisine: the cacao plant, from which chocolate is produced, is native to the region and has been made into the traditional mole poblano sauce for generations. All of this drives home the point that Mexican cuisine, like any region's local fare, is taken very seriously by those who love it and, without the right ingredients, will always fall far short of its potential. La Taqueria is founded on this and has even created its own line of foodstuffs called Cool Chilli.
Real Mexicans say rude things about the Anglicised flour tortillas. Thankfully, most of us don't understand Spanish and so can ignore these insults. In any case, don't come in looking for the thin white tortillas seen so often in Westernized versions of the food. La Taqueria tortillas are small, hearty and baked from corn meal on the premises using La Taqueria's very own machine. Pradip Romay, the manager, shrugs his shoulders as if doing otherwise is nigh unthinkable. It'd be easier to make a massive batch of salsa and store it in the cooler, he says, but that wouldn't be the way they do it in Mexico. "We try to stick to those principles so that we can call ourselves real Mexican," he says. "Tex-mex is a fast-food version. Mexican is cooked with fresh ingredients, no canned sauces."
Of course, all of this would be pure bluster if the food didn't back him up. Kick things off with the avocado. It comes with pieces of their totopos (that's the official Spanish name for tortilla chips) embedded in its side like spears in a mastodon. Avocado alone is pretty tasty, but La Taqueria takes it one step further with the perfect compliment of lime, cilantro and onion to accompany the clean, fresh taste of the nut. And, yes, it is technically a nut.
While you're waiting for the main course, go for a shot of tequila? La Taqueria has a rotating menu of the liquor, running the gamut from standards like Jose Cuervo and Patron to more savoury fare such as Cuervo's select label, Reserva de la Familia. Only 1000 bottles of this are produced each year and, compared to normal Cuervo, this is ambrosia. Even better is the fact that, for good tequila, it's not terribly expensive.
In regards to the main course, why not sample the interestingly-titled Tacos Vampiros? These are made with char-grilled beef skirt steak, the meat from the flank and are well marbled and remain tender through grilling, making them ideal for tacos. Combined with refried frijoles negroes (that's black beans) and grilled onions, these are excellent. Another solid contender are the Tacos Pescados, beer-battered sea bass cuts with a light chipotle mayo sauce. They didn't name this place the Taco Store for nothing.
Finish everything up with an interesting sort of sundae: the Platanos Con Cajeta. This dessert is made with plantains, a heavier cousin of the banana, with vanilla ice cream. Topping off the whole thing is a rich toffee made from goat's milk. This dessert is traditionally served at festival times in Mexico, so make your visit a special occasion and indulge yourself.
Prices at La Taqueria are reasonable: expect to pay somewhere around UKP40-50 for a dinner for two.
- Nicholas Carter