Mexican cuisine has grown exponentially in influence and presence in the capital over the past 5 years – NSFW montages of stacked tacos and plump, arm-sized burritos are omnipresent and worshipped on London-based Instagram foodie accounts. A food scene that was once dire, tired and chain-dominated has burst into life with the emergence of independent street-style taquerias and restaurants attempting to replicate the cosy mom-and-pop eateries of Mexico City. But with this influx comes trepidation.
Can these new Mexican restaurants differentiate themselves and transcend food porn to become something perhaps more refined? In other words, can the taco avoid becoming the next pulled pork-filled brioche bun rolled out in identical, uninspired fashion by the BBQ bros of London? Let’s hope so. On a cold Friday night, I headed to Soho-based Corazón in the attempt to bury the sorrows of exam week under a mountain of tortillas and braised meat.
Luckily, I would not be paying for this meal and so, in what under my usual meagre budget constraints would be considered unchecked, reckless hedonism, I sidestepped tap water and set my eyes upon the cocktails. A stranger to this side of the menu, I land on the Mexican Mule; it’s sweet, sour and slightly warming from the ginger beer base. It’s a refreshingly welcome addition to the meal but for £8.25 would not be recommended under normal student circumstances.
First on the agenda are the house made nachos and guacamole as well as the three-cheese and brussel sprout quesadillas. Naturally, the nachos are addictive; they’re both warm and crunchy, serving as the perfect delivery vehicle for the accompanying tangy salsas which are delightful but could possibly do with a spice kick. The quesadillas are somewhat disappointing – lukewarm tortillas with little to no char on the outside and the rogue addition of sprouts just didn’t hit the mark. They’re a little gross.
The menu is largely centered on tacos, however there are a few larger meat and fish dishes on offer. I opt for the Oxtail Barbacoa – oxtail smothered in house made adobo; lovingly braised for 5 hours until the meat and fat are barely attached to the bone. It’s delicious. A ‘build your own’ approach, it’s served with tortillas, chopped onions, coriander (for the soap loving masochists) and an alcohol-infused salsa that cuts perfectly through the profound meatiness and luscious fat of the oxtail. To reiterate, it was divine.
My friends opt for various tacos with fillings ranging from battered fish and carnitas to an unconventional combination of celeriac and apple – I am assured that all are excellent. Warning: the serving sizes are a little small, meaning you’re likely to order at least two sets of tacos which are roughly £9 per serving – this place is not the cheapest.
To finish the meal, we order a collection of desserts and drinks. I get the Spiked Horchata – an alcoholic take on the milky, cinnamony rice/almond based Central American beverage that has recently gained traction via appearances on high street coffee shop menus. I’m not naive enough to claim I understand the flavour nor am I sure whether it was enjoyable but it was certainly interesting. The star of the show was undoubtedly the Oaxacan Chocolate Cake – a dense, decadent, deeply chocolatey affair that resembles the best brownie you’ve never had. It was borderline sensual.
Throughout the meal, the service was attentive, friendly and patient; we never felt rushed despite a long queue forming outside. The interior is relaxed with a slightly retro/vintage feel to it. Naturally, a sombrero hangs on the wall. If it’s strong, unfussy offerings of tacos and luscious, braised meats you seek, I can thoroughly recommend paying Corazón a visit.
Food – 7/10
Ambiance – 7/10
Affordability – 6/10