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Taqueria

139-143 Westbourne Grove, London, W11 2RS, United Kingdom

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Taqueria is in Westbourne Grove, established in May 2005, with its simply decorated dining room in two sections. It is a casual place with no tablecloths, the cutlery in boxes on each table. It serves Mexican food, which is something that London rarely does well. The menu offers a range of tacos, tostados and quesadillas, and there are some specials that change each month too. The head chef since August 2009 is Adam Pawlak, who previously cooked at places including the Alexander House Hotel in Sussex and the Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone. Although the dining room was fine, the restaurant has the distinction of having the smallest toilet I have ever encountered in all my years of travel, the door practically touching the toilet seat when you close it; not a triumph of interior design. There are a few wines (all but one under £20) and cocktails available, and Pacifico beer was £3.95. The soft corn tortillas are made here on the premises.

Guacamole with tortilla chips (£3.75) was very pleasant; guacamole is hardly a complex thing, but you need to get ripe avocados and keep the flavour in balance, which was done well here (12/20). Tacos de fideos (£5.50) with a filling including chorizo, spicy tomato sauce, crumbly cheese, coriander and onion had a good quality filling, but I wasn’t convinced by the texture of the tacos. In this case it was made by deep-frying angel hair pasta, then a second stage of ten minutes airtight-cooking in a heated pan. The resulting texture was neither crisp nor really soft, instead a not entirely satisfying compromise between the two, at least to my taste (11/20). 

I preferred cochinita pibil (£6.50), slow cooked pork that had been marinated in citrus juice and achiote (also called annatto, seeds that have a peppery taste made into a paste), served with Scotch bonnet chilli and pickled pink onions on a trio of soft tacos. The tacos texture was good, the pork had enjoyable flavour, the onions adding a hint of sweetness (13/20). Service was well meaning and with two soft drinks the bill came to £24 per person. If you had something alcoholic and a dessert then the bill would be a bit higher than this. 

At a second visit I was able to try more dishes. Flautus is a pair of rolled flour tortillas filled with chicken, tomatillo salsa, onion, lettuce and crumbly cheese. This was pleasant, the salsa good but not very spicy, the flour tortillas fried so they were crisp (11/20). Much livelier was tinga tacos, shredded chicken, onion, tomato and spicy chilli chipotle with a little avocado (12/20). Conchinita pibil, this time as a quesadilla, was very good, the texture of the quesadilla very enjoyable (12/20). Huevas rancheros consisted of a pair of fried eggs on griddled tortillas, with a spicy onion, tomato and green chilli sauce that was surprisingly lacking in spice (11/20). Refried beans were much better than the slop that passes for the dish in most Mexican restaurants in London (12/20).

To finish churros were enjoyable and suitable sugary (12/20), while deep fried plantain was rich but very pleasant (12/20). The bill came to £24 a head, with friendly service from our Paraguayan waitress. Overall Taqueria was very pleasant and ambitious by London standards, clearly a step up from the Tex-Mex chains that infest the capital. Indeed it may currently be the best Mexican food in London. However I am still waiting for a really high-end Mexican restaurant to open in the UK of the calibre of Punto MX in Madrid.

 

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