Zapote opened in Shoreditch in February 2023. Its head chef Yahir Gonzale was originally from Mexico and was executive chef at Aqua Nueva in London, where he had worked since 2010. The large 65 seat dining room had well-spaced tables but also a lot of hard surfaces, which meant that it was noisy even when there were just a few diners, as was the case at this lunch. The menu offered a long list of dishes “for sharing” though when we tried to order some dishes we were told that they could not easily be shared and so would really need to order two of them, which I guess is good for upselling and profit margins, if not for actually, well, sharing.
There was a short wine list of 35 labels and ranged in price from £24 to £175, with a median price of £52 and an average markup to retail price of 2.9 times, which is not bad at all by London standards these days. Sample references were Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Pontemagno 2021 at £29.50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £8.40, Humo Blanco Vina Hacienda Araucano Lolol Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021 at £46 compared to its retail price of £17, and Rioja Reserva Viña Bosconia, R. López de Heredia 2009 at £71 for a wine that will set you back £41 in the high street. For those with the means there was Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV at £175 compared to its retail price of £85.
Scarlet prawn tostados with tamarillo (a fruit sometimes called ”tree tomato”) and crisp Iberian ham had quite decent prawns but a wildly acidic dressing. Having something sharp with the prawns in principle would be quite sensible, but the acidity here was out of all proportion, as if no one had ever tasted the dish (10/20). Spicy chorizo with potato and burnt cheese was pleasant enough and was quite a colourful dish (12/20). Cauliflower quesadilla with endive and tomatillo salsa was a tiny dish that minimal cauliflower filling and a mildly spicy salsa. It was a relatively cheap dish for sure at £6, but must have cost just a few pence to make and had little flavour (10/20).
Beef tartar (sic) taco with roasted bone marrow had limited flavour and needed more seasoning or spice (11/20). Yellowfin tuna and spicy crab tostada was the best dish of the meal, the brown crab meat having good flavour and the little piece of tuna having decent texture (13/20). Lamb barbacoa with spiced chickpeas and tortillas had lamb that was cooked all right but the one served to me had a couple of quite gristly pieces of meat within the slab of lamb. The tortillas were served warm and were decent enough, and the chickpeas had a bit of chilli kick, but the meat was just not very good (11/20).
A dessert of “cactus” was just a nondescript chocolate mousse in the vague shape of a cactus, covered with some green food colouring; harmless enough but a dish where more effort went into the naming and presentation than the quality of the slightly grainy mousse (11/20). Apricot and goat cheese flan was inoffensive, the fruit acidity working well enough with the mild goat cheese flavour (12/20). Coffee was Lavazza, an industrial brand. Service was pleasant. The bill came to £63 a head with just water to drink, so with some modest wine a typical bill might be more like £90 a head. This is just way too much money for food of this distinctly ordinary calibre. Basic errors like the over acidic prawn tostada are just unacceptable in any professional kitchen, let alone one charging this price level.
I don`t think I`ll be spending my money there. That`s two less than enthusiastic reviews I`ve read. Best mid priced Mexican food in London is without doubt Cavita on Wigmore Street.