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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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