Mexico already has many of its monuments on UNESCO’s list of protected sites. Now it has gained international recognition for the country’s unique cuisine. London has a restaurant which is recognised by the Mexican Embassy as providing authentic dishes. Mestizo near Euston Station will provide a vibrant introduction to Mexico’s culinary heritage.
UNESCO officials have added Mexico’s food to the organisation’s list of ‘intangible cultural patrimony’. That simply means that the cuisine of Mexico is now recognised as worth protecting and promoting. The trinity of corn, beans and chillies forms the foundation of Mexico’s food, with each region of the country adding its own ingredients and spices to create a rich tapestry.
“We face an enormous threat from junk food and other foreign foods that are taking over our culture, which is why UNESCO could help greatly by supporting our traditional cuisine,” said Mr. Rojas, the chef at Don Chon, a Mexico City restaurant specialising in pre-Hispanic dishes.
Traditional Mexican cuisine dates back 3,000 years to the Mayans, who had a healthy and delicious diet, but the “Mexican cuisine” that most of us have eaten is largely an adulteration of the authentic original. These dishes often owe their heritage to restaurants north of the border. Taste real Mexican food and you’ll notice a difference. The Sunday brunch at Mestizo is a showcase, and will allow those new to real Mexican food to graze and savour.
Mestizo offers a warm welcome at any time. I have become a frequent visitor and have never been disappointed. I eat out several times each week and still this restaurant is amongst my top three in London. It has a casual ambiance, and many regulars from the Mexican community, who must know a great deal more about this exciting cuisine than I do.
The brunch starts at noon and is available till 4pm. Go early as it’s a popular spot. Settle yourself at a table and check out what your neighbours are eating. There is a good chance that they will be Mexicans or regulars, so ask them what they have chosen. Don’t bother asking what’s good – it’s all good. Pour a glass of Agua de Horchata (rice, cinnamon, milk) or Agua de Jamaica made from hibiscus, and head for the food.
Perhaps start with Huevos Rancheros. This is a typical Mexican breakfast dish of fried eggs on fried tortilla with red or green salsa, rice and beans. A substantial plate, so come with an appetite or you will miss out on so many other delicious possibilities, such as Menudo soup, considered as a cure-all. Pozole is a traditional corn soup garnished with lettuce, radish, onion, avocado, chopped chilli and lime. Birria is lamb stew with tomato, onion and chilli ancho.
I wandered along the buffet and selected a little of this and a spoonful of that. This form of dining is ideal for groups as each guest can make their own selection and return as often as they like. There are salsas to spice the aromatic dishes and there are salads to cool the chilli-rich ones. Plenty here for vegetarians and even fish lovers as well as those who crave meat. The kids can amuse themselves by designing their own Taco or Quesadilla and you could celebrate Sunday with a shot or two of tequila.
The Tamales at Mestizo are comfort foods. The steamed corn husks are filled with masa and a variety of fillings. Try these with a drizzle of green salsa. Simple but memorable. The chafing dish to the right contained Pescado Relleno de Champinones, a delicate white fish wrapped in corn husk and steamed in its own juices with mushrooms. This was one of the best fish dishes of any ethnic persuasion I have eaten in ages.
The flavours here are surprisingly subtle. Pollo en Salsa Romero is a creamy chicken dish and ideal served with rice. Mild and with the chicken cooked to succulent perfection. This is another must-try.
I spent a long and contented lunch and enjoyed a sampling of almost all the savoury dishes on offer. I could be condemned to eat the same on my next visit, for next visit there will surely be, and I would be looking forward to the experience anew. But I needed a taste of something sweet and so I cut a slice of Tres Leches cake from the dessert display. This was a moreish preparation of light sponge soaked in a sauce made from, as the name suggests, three milks. If you are not sure of your capacity then I would counsel eating dessert first. Yes, its rich but it’s worth the calories.
Mestizo Restaurant and Tequila Bar
103 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EL
Phone 020 7387 4064
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018