Meet The People – Who’s behind the Mexican food scene in London Part I

We are constantly talking about the amazing Mexican food scene in London, however, this time we want to talk about the people that are making this happen. For the longest time the only Mexican food available in London was limited to an interpretation of it, inspired in Tex-Mex. There was no real knowledge about Mexican cuisine and the ingredients were scarcely available. With these issues, the prospect of offering authentic Mexican food wasn’t seen as a potential business. Over the last years, there has been an awakening. The ingredients and products are now available and new food offers seem to be everywhere. As people tried new things the interest grew with demand. Today, virtually anyone can find everything that is needed to create authentic Mexican food.

London has been so kind to us. It is the perfect stage for amazing things to happen. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do, when you do it with passion, London opens its arms wide and embraces. This is the case for Mexican food.

Let us present you the lovely people that worked (and still work) hard to make Mexican food the delicious thing it is today.

Marisol / Mestizo

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Marisol is a force of nature. This is the first impression we got from her as soon as we sat to talk. It was only 9 am and she had already ran in preparation for her following charity run and her day at Mestizo had started. She is equal parts inspiring and charming. If you ever see her around Mestizo where she can easily spend 15 hrs a day, go and say hello. There is nothing she likes more than treat Mestizo’s clients as family. When asked about who she admires the most, she says it’s her husband, Roberto, a well known and experienced business man and restaurateur who provides unique insight to Marisol and Mestizo’s projects. It’s not difficult to see that Mestizo is a labour of love and family work.

The Beginning – Mestizo is one of the first authentic Mexican food restaurants in London. This year they are celebrating their 11th Anniversary. It wasn’t easy! Marisol says one of the things she is most proud about is the way they started Mestizo. Mestizo opened in a corner that is not anywhere near anything touristy. It replaced a Venezuelan restaurant and that was it. Nothing else but authentic Mexican food and passion for giving the best and only the best. Their menu was and still is inspired in food from back home. The chef is the same from day one and together with the staff, Mestizo is like a big happy family. They are there to listen and pamper their clients, new and returning. Speaking of clients, Mestizo’s hall of fame customers include Sienna Miller, Tim Burton, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and many more.

What Sets Them Apart – Mestizo is a place to enjoy authentic Mexican food. They are constantly organizing food festivals such as their upcoming Enchiladas Festival and many more through the year. They care and work hard to meet each one of their customers needs. They are well known for making special dishes if you request them. Since Marisol and team are always there, the feedback is immediate. Visiting Mestizo is very much like visiting someone’s home where you are welcomed and pampered until you leave.  Their Sunday Brunch is perfect for sampling and tasting a wide variety of authentic dishes that people wouldn’t try on a normal basis. They also count with their famous Downstairs at Mestizo which is a place dedicated to having a great time and great food with music, dancing and amazing drinks. Mestizo not only brings great Mexican food to London, they are authentic ambassadors of Mexican culture in London and they have been recognized as such over and over again.

You Should Try – Their Mole Verde. A delicious mole sauce made with tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, poblano pepper, coriander and many more ingredients.

Future Plans – Mestizo is expanding. They are working to extend their restaurant space and will offer not only more seating space but a lovely lounge area with a bar.

Bonus Facts

  • Marisol favourite dishes are: Mole, Molcajete and Sopa de Tortilla.
  • Marisol craves Papas Adobadas and Papas de Habanero from Mexico
  • Marisol’s Guilty Pleasure is Crepas de Cajeta
  • Marisol has set up a website where she gives information about the next half marathon in London. She will be running to support The Prostate Cancer Research Centre. All the information on this website is in Spanish as a guide to all the people coming from Mexico. You can see it here.

 

Mireya & Paz / Mexika

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Mireya and Paz are the lovely ladies behind Mexika, an online Mexican food shop that offers more than authentic Mexican products. Paz was born in Mexico and she’s been living in London for over 20 years. Mireya was born in Texas and she’s been living in London for over 5 years. They met because of their love of Mexican culture and became friends and business partners because of their love of Mexican food. They can both transform the simplest ingredients into the most delicious dishes. We can attest this first hand. We met up at Paz house and the first thing we felt as we came inside was the feeling of being back home. After we had a lovely chat, they invited us to the kitchen and before we finished the interview Paz had made from scratch Tlacoyos (a long tortilla filled with refried beans and toasted on both sides) with freshly made refried beans. Her expertise in making the Tlacoyo dough is amazing! At the same time, Mireya put together the most delicious Cactus Salad we have tried on this side of the world. We are looking forward to the day they sell their food or start a cookery school. We would be the first one in the line.

The Beginning – Mexika started as a way to offer authentic Mexican food, ingredients and artisan Items. Mexika is a place where you can get salsas and amazing Huichol art.

What Sets Them Apart – Mexika offers something nobody else does: Tamales and they are amazing! We have tried them over and over again and we are very confident when we say this are the best tamales you’ll try in the UK. They are made to order and delivered to your door for you to enjoy right away or to store them in the freezer. Their tamales are a hit with the American expat community and very rightly so. They also offer vegan tamales!

You Should Try – Their tamales of course and any of their Seasonal products. These ladies make amazing food, so anything that they offer should be something worth trying.

Future Plans –  They are working really hard to expand Mexika and they will continue to offer delicious food.

Bonus Facts

  • Paz refuses to use an electric mixer when making the tamales dough. Mireya keeps trying to make her use one but so far, not very successfully.
  • Mireya’s best compliment was when her Dad told her that her food tasted just as her Mother’s food. This is dear to her because she thinks her Mother is the best cook ever.
  • Paz’s best compliment was when she made a cactus salad for a party in London and one of the Mexican ladies that ate it liked it so much than when she went back to Mexico told Paz that she was making cactus salad based on Paz’s recipe that she tried in London. Talk about going 360 degrees!
  • They admire and respect each other in the kitchen. We think this is one of the reasons they work so well together.

 

Monica / Maria Sabina

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Monica & Tom are the lovely guys behind Maria Sabina, one of the best Mexican street food places at the very heart of Brixton. Before Maria Sabina, Monica had worked at the family owned restaurant back home in Mexico. After that she had experience working in several places in the hospitality industry and even when most of it was in front of house, having contact with food was always something she enjoyed. From Playa del Carmen to Tepoztlan, Liverpool and London. Her passion for food and the fact that she missed dishes from back home, were the main reasons to open Maria Sabina. Inspiration comes from Monica’s grandmother. “Our houses are next to each other so we would always eat at my grandma’s house. It would be my Dad or Granny doing the cooking. It never stopped. Her house would always be filled with scent of amazing food and family” she says.

The Beginning – Maria Sabina’s journey started on a street market not very far from where she is now. Their guacamole and authentic tacos were so popular that they soon had to move to a place of their own. Maria Sabina is now one of the most popular and vibrant Mexican street food places in London.

What Sets Them Apart – Fresh and great food are a key factor for people to love Maria Sabina. They make everything to order, cooking as they need on their premises. Their famous guacamole is still something people come back time and time again. They are constantly looking for more ways to get their food out such as Pop Ups and Supper Clubs. They are now making their own tortillas too which is still a rarity in London. We had the chance to try them and they are delicious! Artisan tortillas are amazing!

You Should Try – Their quesadillas! They are made with their own tortillas and their hibiscus tacos!

Future Plans – Expansion is definitely in the future. For now, they are working on an amazing Supper Club on the 5th of May for an epic Mexican Fiesta! Stay tuned for more details, it will be amazing. We have seen the menu, you really don’t want to miss out, follow her and us on social media for updates.

Bonus Facts

  • Monica’s favourite 3 dishes are: Fresh tuna tostadas, torta de tamal or chilaquiles (a Mexican sandwich filled with a tamal or chilaquiles) and birria.
  • Monica’s best compliment is when  someone told her: “you reminded me of back home, it tastes just like my aunt’s cooking”
  • Monica hates bananas but loves Chilli-Lime Chickpeas. She usually craves Cajeta with Galletas Marias (a Mexican biscuit very similar to Rich Teas)
  • Monica admires Thomasina Miers. “She did an amazing job promoting real Mexican food in the UK. I’m not sure if we’d be here if not for the work she has done. With her passion she helped people to open up to these new flavours. Also she is a successful businesswoman and this is something worth admiring”

 

Rafael / Lupita

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Rafael is a young and talented businessman and has been living in London for over 10 years. During his student years he was asked to create a project and his project was a Taqueria. He liked the project so much that he contacted a famous taqueria in Mexico City and they helped him to start Lupita in London. He is very proud of what Lupita has become and he’s right to be, Lupita is one of the best places to eat authentic Mexican food in London. Their famous tacos are delicious and with 3 locations there’s really no excuse to not pay them a visit or go back.

The Beginning –  When Lupita started, there was plenty of Tex-Mex restaurants in London. Mestizo was going strong and Wahaca was also starting. Part of the motivation to open Lupita was the desire to bring the food he grew up with back in Mexico. Rafael wanted to create a space that was casual, with small dishes so people could try several at a time, tapas style. He focused on bringing prime ingredients,  a great team to work with him and the rest is history.

What Sets Them Apart – Lupita offers authentic delicious Mexican food in a nice, casual space where people can have great drinks and have a fantastic time too. Their menu changes at least twice a year to add seasonal ingredients while leaving the favourites around.

You Should Try – Their Gobernador Tacos and Tacos Al Pastor are amazing! They will be introducing two new items to their menus this April so you have to make sure you try: Tortas Ahogadas (a traditional Mexican sandwich that is soaked in a delicious salsa made with chilli de arbol and tomato) and Rajas with Cream and Corn (a classic of Mexican cuisine made with Poblano pepper strips, cream and corn kernels). These are two classic Mexican dishes that are not seen very often in London and we are very excited about checking Lupita’s take on them.

Future Plans – Rafael plans to close 2016 with 4 restaurants in total which means they will disclose a new restaurant location very soon. For now they continue to offer fantastic food in Lupita East, West and Central.

Bonus Facts

  • Rafael’s favourite dishes are Papadzules and Panuchos, both traditional dishes from the Yucatan Peninsula. He thinks we should see more dishes from Yucatan and Sinaloa. We couldn’t agree more!
  • Rafael misses the most Arab Tacos from Mexico. These are very similar to Kebabs and Tacos al Pastor but never the same as the ones found in Mexico’s streets. He also misses Rocaletas and chamoy! Both classic Mexican sweets with lots of flavour and chilli.
  • All food at Lupita is approved by him so even when he’s not the chef, he is the one deciding what goes on the menu.

 

Check this space for more on the people shaping the Mexican food in London.