Around 2016, it was declared that London was in the midst of a “taco revolution.” It was big and inaccurate talk. And yet, the reasoning behind it was somehow understandable. More than a revolution, it was simply the case that suddenly London had options for tacos, where all that had existed before were one or two standouts or the sub-par chain restaurant offerings that fed into a wildly inaccurate perception of Mexican food as “a blunt object... all mushed avocado and chilli and vinegary notes, wrapped up in flatbreads with ambitions above their station.” While LA, or even New York still has nothing to fear by way of competition, London’s newcomers have brought a nuanced look at what Mexican food means today and focus on quality that has helped to make things at least a little better.Read More
The Best Places to Eat Tacos in London
From Surrey Quays to London Fields, here’s where to get al pastor, barbacoa, baja fish — and more
1. Homies On Donkeys
London E17, UK
Homies on Donkeys is a diminutive five-seat stall in E17’s Wood Street Indoor Market that regularly attracts long queues of devotees waiting to takeaway their fresh tortillas. There’s a range of options from slow-cooked meats to seafood and vegetarian tacos, but the pro tip is the pork butt taco; served on a blue corn tortilla, with pickled red onions, which was once declared the “best taco in the city.”
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2. Sonora Taquería
This homage to the food of Sonora, in northern Mexico, had one key advantage on all its competitors: It makes the best tortillas in London. Now it has two: it makes the best carne asada in London. Rejuvenated after a six week trip back to Sonora, co-founder Michelle Salazar de la Rocha’s home, she and Sam Napier are putting out the best of the best.
Westbourne Grove’s Taqueria is, in many ways, the old hand of this list. Opened in 2005 as the brick-and-mortar evolution of a popular Portobello Road market stall, it’s also the restaurant arm of Cool Chile Co., a company founded in 1993 to import dried chillies from Mexico that has since evolved into a respected wholesaler of handmade tortillas and imported Mexican ingredients. So the pedigree is there, and so is the quality: tacos range from traditional al pastor and carnitas to others topped with milanesa (the south-American interpretation of the Italian cotoletta) or fried plantain. Now open in Exmouth Market, too.
4. Tacos Padre
London SE1 9AG, UK
Nicholas Fitzgerald’s stand in Borough Market’s buzzing new kitchen has offered some interesting specials since opening — a rich, lime-tinged pozole; a huitlacoche quesadilla. The tortillas, fillings, and salsas cover bases with aplomb, carne asada a strong suit set off by atypically grilled shallots. It’s a solid option.
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5. Santo Remedio
The SE1 evolution of a much-loved (and short-lived) Shoreditch icon, the Bermondsey Santo Remedio serves vibrant tacos (here soft shelled crab, pork belly, or beef barbacoa), with liberal application of accompanying delights like tomatillo salsas, pickles, serrano mayo, and others, alongside a range of options cooked al carbón, like octopus with achiote and pineapple pico di gallo, or ox tongue with pasilla pipián rojo and roasted peanuts. Now back in Shoreditch with a second, more casual site.
6. Tortilleria El Pastor
London SE1 3NY, UK
There are two more El Pastor sites in the city, in Borough Market and Coal Drops Yard, but with the tortilleria having reopened as a taco stand, it makes sense to go straight to the source. The corn tortillas and taco al pastor are both commendable, and salsas are available to go alongside the tortillas to take home. Open Friday — Sunday, evening only at the end of the working week and then afternoons too on the weekend, for takeaway.
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7. Bake Street
The tacos at this Evering Road favourite have gone through a few iterations. Initially borrowing corn tortillas from fellow entrant La Chingada, its offering has only improved over a year of baker Chloe-Rose Crabtree pressing the tortillas in house. As for fillings, birria is a mainstay, while the new “croque señor” made with lamb ham, béchamel, cheese, and a house habanero salsa is the next hit in waiting. Please note: these tacos are not currently available, but are set to return in May 2022.
8. La Chingada Mexican Food
Now at bigger premises close to its original location, Walter Opitz’s Surrey Quays taqueria is his personal slice of Mexico City, a community space that just happens to serve some of, if not the best tacos in the city without feeling the need to refract them through another culinary lens. Suadero — brisket confit until supine and jabbed awake by white onion and coriander — is the move, with Sunday specials including lamb birria, a rich, chile-tinged stew with melting meat in its depths. Now open round the corner in
Eating Kol’s tacos requires submitting to a canny, interesting tasting menu that draws heavily on Santiago Lastra’s time at Noma Mexico: the idea that time and place (here, London, or more accurately for its ingredients, Britain) is what has bearing on cuisine. The social media stars are the lobster taco course, and the octopus centrepiece, but the real hit is going for the “carnitas”: slow-cooked pig cheek, tossed with herbs and hidden in a pot under a glass-like pig skin like ice on a lake. With corn tortillas, a pear and gooseberry salsa, and beans cooked with seaweed, it’s as satisfying as it is intriguing: a quality where many tasting menus fall short.