Monday, September 13, 2010

Lupita: Mexico City in London town, Charing Cross

Following London's obsession with Mexican imports (yes burritos, i'm looking at you) I approached the opening of Lupita with trepidation. It claimed to be London's first truly authentic Mexican restaurant, quite a claim with so many other protaganists claiming authenticity within the capital. The difference lies in its provenance. Brought to London by the same team who run El Farolita in Mexico city, a well regarded taqueria, they use as many authentic Mexican ingredients as they can lay their hands on to produce food as good as you can get back in Latin America. So in order to test out such grand claims, I turned to my fountain of Latin American food knowledge and probably the harshest judge of anyone I know, and headed on down to Villiers street to see what it was all about.

Lupita, Charing Cross

The menu is very much focused around Mexican street food, tacos, quesadillas and other hand held bites, with each plate designed for sharing. Whilst we pondered the choices, margaritas aided our decision making as well a as plate of tortilla chips and salsa (good salsa, chips unfortunately out of a bag). I gave up on the menu shortly after and left Carla to it.

Lupita, Charing Cross

Tacos arrived first, corn and not flour (apparently flour tacos are for heathens). The taco pastor were sweet and juicy, with a delicious mix of slow cooked pork and bacon marinated in a huge variety of ingredients, ending up in a fruity concoction. These did not last long. The taco nopales (or cactus to the uninitiated) had the taste and texture of okra, not something I am particularly fond of, so didn't really rock my world.

Lupita, Charing Cross

We went for an interesting mix of quesadillas, with one choice of chorizo erring on the normal, whilst the other of huitlacoche being downright odd. As with all the greatest delicacies in the world, the Mexicans saw their corn being destroyed by fungus and curiosity (as well as hunger) drove them to eat it. The chorizo was perfectly pleasant (if not cheesy enough), but the huitlacoche (also known as "corn smut") was quite an experience. An unpleasant looking black sludge, it had a herbal taste with a muted nuttiness. Not all that unpleasant, but I found it quite rich after a few mouthfuls.

Lupita, Charing Cross

The alambre was described by my dining partner as close to fajitas as you would get in a Mexican restaurant, and mighty fine they were too. We were flagging at this stage and we began to chat with one of the managers Rafael as there were a few unanswered questions. I say we, the conversation was very much led in Spanish, but at the end of it, I think he passed the inquisition. One stickling point was regarding the rather expensive guacamole, which seems to be following the trend of having it freshly made at your table and then charging you £7 for the privelege. Rafael agreed that it wasn't a decision they took fondly, and that he would much rather his staff were taking orders and serving, than wasting time at each persons table. He then told us that this was going to be removed in the next menu and replaced by a cheaper, not-made-at-your-table version. A good move. He also proceeded to send some over for us to try, and we managed to shovel a few mouthfuls of excellent creamy guac into our pieholes.

Lupita, Charing Cross

This brought an end to our food binge, and coming to just over £15 a head for the food, it was thoroughly excellent value. I looked over to the harshest judge of them all. She had been quite muted for most of the meal and I was unaware of her verdict, but she smiled and said that she would quite happily come back again. I need no further proof, Lupita is excellent value and definitely bucking the trend. A Mexican restaurant actually run by Mexicans.

Lupita - 13-15 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6ND

Lupita on Urbanspoon


An American in London said...

Sounds interesting, though the corn tortillas in your photos look like they'd been sitting around a while. Will give it a try, though!

catty said...

That does look yummy indeed. I don't think I'd pay £7 for made at my table guac but that one you received (awesome serving bowl to boot) looks great!

Grumbling Gourmet said...

Now that doesn't look arf bad.. and I'd definitely pay £15 a head for a decent Mexican in London.


Dave said...

A Mexican joint run by Mexicans, well at least we are heading in the right direction now.
Now all we need to do now is get passed tacos, burritos etc etc ...
Good review ....

Unknown said...

Don't be taken in by the label 'authentic' - if you've ever been to Mexico, you're going to be disappointed as the food is nowhere near as good as you'd find in a real Tacqueria. Plus, with the small size of the portions, not sure how this can be called good value. And finally, the less said about the service the better... the day we went it was truly awful.

Joshua said...

Need to get myself down to try this out, looks a welcome addition to the (small) Mexican dining scene.

tehbus said...

@ American in London - They tasted pretty fresh. No complaints here.

@ Catty - I definitely wouldn't but the guac we were given to taste was very good.

@ Grumbling Gourmet - £15 well spent

@ Dave - Definitely think this scene is developing. Unfortunately, I think thats what the London public wants, anyone selling food outside of these parameters would struggle

@ TSL - I think you would struggle to have a decent filling meal for less than £15 in London, and seems to be the best option for this type of cuisine in London at the moment. Well worth a second visit, hopefully it may redeem itself.

@ Josh - I'm not Mexican but definitely enjoyed it!