I had my first little peek at Mestizo last year. Just a cocktail and some nibbles but it was enough to give an indication that this was a spot to linger over and enjoy. A real meal was in order so off I went with guest in tow to see if that first impression was accurate, or merely an illusion encouraged by one too many of Mexico’s famous beverage. You might say you like “Mexican” food. You might have had “Mexican” food on trips to the US, and Taco Bell might be your favourite fast food but, dear reader, your experience is probably a faint shadow of the real extravaganza awaiting you at Mestizo.
Mestizo Restaurant and Tequila Bar has a convenient location just around the corner from Euston Square Underground station, and a few minutes’ walk from Euston main-line station. Its atmosphere is of dark wood charm but the impressive bar hints at fun times to be had. This establishment has a collection of Tequilas (over 130 at last count) enough to make any London-based Mexican quite home-sick. The restaurant has a cult following amongst the local Brits and, evidently, expat Mexicans. That has got to be an indication of this restaurant’s authenticity. It already has the vote of those in the know.
Mestizo offers food that is hard or impossible to find outside Mexico. I wonder why these dishes haven’t had the exposure of other ethnic cuisines. It must be that Europe has only a slight cultural exchange with those countries that rest south of Texas and California. Mexican food has migrated to its neighbour to the North, but has often been adulterated in transit. Tex-Mex food might be vibrant and zesty but it isn’t a patch on food to be found south of the border.
We started our evening with cocktails. Mestizo Spice got our attention. This was an amazing concoction of Casco Viejo chilli-infused reposado tequila, cherry brandy, crushed strawberries, diced red chilli and lime. It’s a tall delicate pink drink with a kick. I am not a cocktail habitué but this particular recipe evoked all that’s impressive about Mestizo – good taste and style.
Our starter was a Mixed Antojitos Platter which was an assortment of flauta (crispy fried rolled tortillas filled with chicken and topped with lettuce, sour cream and green tomatillo salsa), quesadilla (corn pastries filled with cheese, served with sour cream and salsa roja), jalada jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese, served with sour cream) – don’t miss these -, and tamales (steamed corn husks filled with masa and pollo con mole) – an authentic taste of Mexican comfort food.
The Mestizo staff are charming and helpful. Several of them are Mexican and all of them can steer you through what will likely be an unfamiliar menu. Mole Poblano was my co-reviewer’s choice for main course. This is a classic dish of boneless chicken breast served with a traditional mole sauce made of dried chillies, herbs, spices, almonds and chocolate, served with beans and rice and some flour tortillas. Mestizo make all sauces, beans, condiments and salsas in-house. The tortillas, however, are produced by a specialist bakery, although Mestizo do make their own moreish tortilla chips. The chocolate sauce was savoury and well flavoured with a silky texture. An introduction to the subtleties of Mexican cuisine.
Mole Huasteco (a traditional dish from the state of Hidalgo, Mexico) was new to me. It’s a boneless chicken breast served with a huasteco sauce, made from over 32 ingredients, including dried chillies, tomatoes, onion, almonds, garlic, sesame and pumpkin seeds. This is a rich and aromatic dish with an almost liquorice or aniseed finish. This must surely be a signature dish. If you only expect to make one visit to Mestizo then order this.
Mestizo is a restaurant for convivial gatherings as well as intimate soirées. Many other guests had ordered the Taco Tray. This is for two or more and is evidently the meal of choice for groups or couples. It looks spectacular, like so many of Mestizo’s dishes, as well as being fun to eat. Perhaps a good ice-breaker on a first date.
The Mestizo desserts are worth saving a chink of space for. We ordered Flan Caresro which is the Mexican take on Crème Caramel. Light and sweet in a pool of caramel sauce. Pastel de Quesco y Coco is a cheesecake perfumed with coconut served with mango coulis. An exotic end to a memorable meal. I am sure it will turn out to be the first of many. The Sunday Brunch is said to be worth a visit. Mestizo is without a doubt one of my top five London restaurants.
Mestizo Restaurant and Tequila Bar
103 Hampstead Road
Phone 020 7387 4064
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018