MEET THE PEOPLE – WHO’S BEHIND THE MEXICAN FOOD SCENE IN LONDON PART II
This time, we had the opportunity to meet up with some fascinating people. Every one of them was a lesson on passion, hard work and a lifetime of love for Mexican food. Meet the people who are keeping us informed, feed and supplied with Mexican food in London.
Cesar / Mezcal Cantina
Cesar is someone who has provided a little heaven for Mexican food lovers in Dalston. He’s not only offering us authentic Mexican food but a place where people can go and feel a little bit of México. Inspired by his Father’s love for London and by his Mother’s fantastic cooking skills, he came to London with the idea of creating a place where he could share his love for Mexican food. Cesar is very proud of where Mezcal Cantina is now. He’s proud to be able to support the Mexican community in London and the many awards they have under their belt. He’s made Mezcal Cantina a place where everyone can go, from locals to personalities such as Jeremy Corbyn, to enjoy great food and have a good time.
Mezcal Cantina started as a school project while Cesar was studying a Restaurant Management degree. He thought of a place where he could provide an authentic Mexican experience. He thought of the logo, decoration, food, drinks and more. When the time was right and after gaining experience working in many restaurants, he opened Mezcal. Cesar is the best example that hard work can turn ideas and dreams into reality.
What Sets Mezcal Apart
Cesar has made sure that Mezcal is a lot of what he first hoped on that school project. An informal venue with great food and great ambiance. Mezcal has become a reunion point, a place to hold events, and a favourite to have parties in. The menu changes seasonally and is always inspired by people from all over Mexico. Cesar embraces the changes on the menu and sees it as an opportunity to show the immense variety of Mexican food. They put special attention to their drinks menu too, they offer over 30 types of Margaritas. With the new delivery service, there is no excuse to not enjoy of their food.
You Should Try
Their Margarita de Toloache! Toloache is a plant with many properties, one of them, according to Mexican mythology is to have the power to control and induce love! Sadly or luckily, this Margarita doesn’t contain actual Toloache, however, is made with roses and hibiscus! Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Also try their Pozole, a traditional Mexican dish made with hominy. Some say it’s the best there is.
We will let Cesar tell us more about their future plans when the time is right. For now, we just want to say, his plans sound amazing and we think they can give a new turn on the Mexican food scene in London. Make sure you follow him on social media for updates.
- Cesar’s favourite Mexican food dish is Tacos al Pastor which are pork tacos cooked in a similar way to a kebab but with 100% Mexican flavour.
- Cesar’s has a new found love with Turkish food. He believes some of the dishes are very similar to Mexican food.
- He thinks that one of the most important ingredients in Mexican food is to put a lot of heart in everything you do.
Karla / Mexican Food Memories
Karla comes from a family, like many in Mexico, where everything revolves around the food. She grew up in touch with people that had specific roles in the daily food making. From the aunt who’ll make syrups for raspados or shaved ice, to the uncle who’ll make home made chorizo. From her father who was adventurous in the kitchen to her mother who makes the most amazing tamales. Recipes in her family have passed from generation to generation, staying authentic but enriched by the hand of everyone taking part in them. She grew up as an organic girl. She would eat sea food taken from the shores of Enseanda that same day. She would eat the fruits and vegetables from the family garden. She remembers the avocado tree, the olives that would be used to make their own olive oil. She remembers foraging water cress when going out camping. Food was available everywhere. Today, Karla is one of the most important Mexican food bloggers in London with a strong Instagram presence. Her blog is updated constantly with recipes based on the food she grew up with. Even when she likes experimenting with food, she has a profound love for the traditional cuisine. After all she’s done, what she’s most proud of is the fact that her kids love the food she makes and that they are perfectly capable of making a taco and eat it without making a mess. In a modern world such as the one we live in, with so many activities and distractions, she tries to give her family a little of the normality she lived while growing up. Cooking from scratch is a way of doing this. Karla proves with every recipe she shares with us, that it’s possible to make authentic Mexican food with ingredients available here.
Karla starts working on her blog after her Instagram started to get followers that loved the food photos she shared. Right now, her blog is a way to preserve and share the recipes she grew up with. She was always encouraged to cook at home. She tries to share recipes that can be done in an easy way for busy people like her.
What Sets Her Apart
In a world where food photos are everywhere and it’s easier than ever to blog about food, Karla provides easy to follow recipes tailored to the modern working people made with ingredients easily available in the UK. With every photo she shares, she opens her house and invite us to her dining table. With every story she shares, she makes us part of her family.
You Should Try
Her Sopes just the way her Mother makes them! Make sure you check her seafood recipes where she shares many traditional dishes from Ensenada.
Her priority right now is her family, however, she likes the idea of being involved in projects where she could make food for people. She would also love the possibility of sharing her knowledge and recipes to magazines. Right now, she’s enjoying working on her project Cooking Comadres where she shares he passion for food with friends. She has big plans for this project so make sure you follow her on any of her social media sites for updates.
- Karla is a big fan of the amazing things happening right now in Baja. She is a big supporter of people making a difference in Mexican cuisine such as Diego Hernandez Baquedano and Enrique Olvera
- Karla is a big fan of Italian food
- Karla’s favourite dishes are sopes and oysters
- Her favourite Mexican restaurant in London is Mestizo, however, the best place to enjoy Mexican food is at home.
Fernando / Santo
Talking to Fernando was an amazing experience. The man is a lesson on how to live a life full of adventures all over the world. His knowledge and passion about life is something worth listening to. He comes from a nomad family where moving from place to place was the norm. With strong roots in Sonora and Baja California, he travelled the country North to South in what became the way he would live his life for the following years. San Francisco, Australia and Mexico in between are some of the places where he lived, tried and learned everything he could. Mexicali Rose was the name of the family restaurant where Fernando had his first experience working on a kitchen. With curtains by the entrance, electric blue carpets, walls made with reclaimed wood (from old train tracks) and adobe. Such an exotic place needed an equally eclectic menu such as French food and steaks Sonora style. From selling burritos in Guadalajara, to making pizzas in Australia and inspired in the amazing food he grew up with. His approach to food is a passionate and lively one. Fernando, together with his brother Carlos would implement this free style spirit in Santo Londres.
He came to Europe thinking about settling in Berlin, however, London captured his and his brother’s mind. After working in several Mexican restaurants and learning the London lifestyle, he decided to open Santo in the equally vibrant and eclectic Notting Hill area. The area has welcomed this small place (that has big personality) with open arms .
What Sets Them Apart
Santo is an independently owned business. The team are like family and visitors become part of that family. They do their very best to make everyone feel welcomed the moment they come through the door. Fernando has an immense passion for good food, especially good Mexican food.
You Should Try
Their ceviche which has been enriched by a lifetime of culinary adventures.
Santo will continue to embrace and offer what they do best by keeping this place running on amazing food and great ‘feel good’ ambiance. We can only hope that it continues for a long, long time.
- Fernando’s Family has moved 50 times all over Mexico.
- Fernando’s Mother was an excellent cook and at one point one of their houses had 3 kitchens!
- Fernando was 13 years old when first worked in the Kitchen of the family restaurant Mexicali Rose.
- Fernando had a catering business with his brother Carlos in Mexico where they would serve food inspired by their mother’s cooking.
Luis / Mextrade
Since we are talking about people working hard to make Mexican food something amazing in London, we thought this was a very good opportunity for you to meet our boss. The first thing you should know about Luis is that he doesn’t really like the limelight. Taking his photo for this interview was a real challenge (was rescheduled several times). He believes that what you do is more important than what you say you’re going to do. Even if you haven’t heard a lot about Mextrade, you might have come across its products on your local Deli Shop or in delicious food made by almost all Mexican food restaurants in London. Mextrade has been providing the best quality ingredients and products that Mexico has to offer over the last 5 years. Luis is at the front of a very small group of people who share absolute passion for Mexican food and Mexican culture. Luis grew up in Guadalajara, where he enjoyed delicious food (at home and in the city). Guadalajara is one of the most important culinary destinations in Mexico, it’s where many of the most traditional Mexican dishes come from. When he came to London, 10 years ago, he noticed the lack of good quality ingredients to make the food he missed so much. This is how Mextrade was born, out of necessity.
Luis and team started delivering their products by bus to the few people that gave them the chance to buy from them. As the demand grew the need for variety grew with it. Corn flour and dried chillies were added to the catalogue and while they tried to hold as much as possible to their first and very small warehouse, they soon realized they had move to a bigger place. Restaurants such as Mestizo and Lupita and shops such as The Spice Shop were some of the first to give Mextrade a chance. This opportunity will forever be cherished. Mextrade managed to obtain the exclusive distribution of La Costeña, one of the most traditional and iconic Mexican brands with presence all over the world. This support was all they needed to keep knocking on doors and keep growing. The journey has never been easy but it has always been steadily upwards. Clients such as Wahaca and Cool Chile are part of this big family of clients among most of the Mexican food restaurants in London plus Deli Shops, online shops and more.
What Sets Them Apart
They go to crazy levels to get speciality products that are not in the catalogue but are requested by clients. As was the case with obtaining ‘Hoja Santa’ for Thomasina Miers or ‘Baby Corn’ and ‘Guajes’ for Enrique Olvera’s Supper Club during Wahaca’s Day Of The Dead extravaganza for example. They bring products straight from the producers in Mexico, this means the team go up the mountains in Oaxaca to small producers in Jalisco to get very special ingredients.
Luis & team plans are to continue to be the leading Mexican food products supplier in London and the rest of the UK. Expansion and branching to other much needed great Mexican products is definitely on the future. Stay tuned!
- Luis favourite dishes are: Goat’s Birria, tacos al vapor (soft steamed tacos) and camarones sarandeados (grilled shrimp on mesquite wood fire with cascabel chilli salsa, orange juice and butter)All Guadalajara style, of course.
- Luis misses Mexican crema which is a very special cream that can’t be found anywhere else, similar to a mixture of crème fraiche and soured cream. He also misses Tejuino, a drink made of fermented corn, very popular in Mexico.
- The most difficult items to get from Mexico are Pasilla de Oaxaca and Chilhuacle peppers. They are both rare chillies that are mostly unknown even in Mexico. Also the corn flour because is made specially for us.
- Most of the corn flour found in Mexico has added ingredients and sadly, some of its corn has been genetically modified. By having the corn flour made for us we guarantee that the ingredients are only corn and lime traces that remain from the nixtamalizado process. We also guarantee that the corn we use is GMO free.
Our list of people constantly grows. Check this space for more amazing people making the Mexican food scene interesting, fun and delicious.