Sometimes when you go to a restaurant for the first time, it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect. This was just such an occasion but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
A few weeks ago, Mestizo kindly invited us to a mezcal tasting and Mexican tapas evening. We were curious to see if we could finally seek out some authentic Latin American flavours after a couple of unfortunate recent brushes with Mexican chains.
Mestizo definitely doesn’t fall into that category. It’s family run and has been open for eight years, just a five minute walk from Warren Street station. Despite its relatively central location, it has a distinct ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant feel and was almost full at the time of our visit on a Wednesday evening.
We weren’t total strangers to Mestizo’s food as we’d sampled their nachos at the Soho Street Feast earlier in the year. We also distinctly remembered being some offered chilli sauce at their stall by a man in a Mexican wrestling costume. It’s hard to assess a restaurant’s potential on that basis though.
The tasting was led by mezcal expert Thom Bullock who proceeded to talk us through the five mezcals on offer. We were all sat at a long, communal table and there was certainly an interesting mix of characters there. From out-and out-mezcal geeks to people trying something new, everybody really seemed to enjoy the evening.
According to Thom, a mezcal is only worth considering if it exceeds 45% ABV. Given the fact that it was a school night, we began to sense danger. Luckily though, we were only drinking singles, so we remained largely compos mentis throughout.
I’d tried mezcals before but I was still surprised by the variety of what we tasted. Some of them had a lot in common with Scottish malt whiskies. They had an unmistakable earthy, peaty taste and left you with a strong afterglow. Others were subtly smoky and all of them tasted way better than any tequila I’ve tried. I even heard somebody at the table describe one as being like, ‘having your cheeks stroked with a giant pillow.’ Believe it or not, I know exactly what he meant.
Thom then showed us the best way to test the quality of a mescal. Apparently, if you rub a drop onto the back of your hand, it should have a viscous quality but shouldn’t be tacky or sticky. If it is, it’s probably not worth drinking.
The Mexican tapas was another real winner. It’s a hard call but I think the best dish of the evening was the panucho. It was served with two tortillas under a tasty, juicy pile of shredded pork, with a layer of re-fried beans in between.
The Flauta de papa was perhaps a more surprising highlight. The rolled corn tortilla was lovely and crispy and the potato and cheese combo made for the perfect filling. Simple food but really good cooking. All in all, we were very impressed and are looking forward to returning for dinner someday soon.
The evening was extremely informative as well as entertaining. I think it would make for a great alternative night out with a group of friends or even a work party. Considering that the tickets were just £20, including food and that the mezcals ranged from £40-£60+ per bottle, it’s great value for money.
If you like the sound of this event, here’s a little more information on what they’ve got coming up in September:
Gastronomic Week: 4 -14 September
There will be a special menu with dishes from all around Mexico. The week will be a celebration of Mexican gastronomy, highlighting the incredible diversity of Mexican cuisine north to south and coast to coast.
Mexican Independence Day: September 15th
There are three options; brunch, a four course dinner (mariachi, folk dance, etc.) and a party downstairs for only £10. There will be tacos, drinks and the chance to dance the night away (if that’s your thing).
Here’s a link to their latest newsletter, including the menus: http://eepurl.com/CZi6X
To find out more about mezcals or to hire Thom for yourself, please see his website or drop him an email:
Address: 103 Hampstead Rd, London, NW1 3EL
Phone: 020 7387 4064
Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/mestizolondon
Follow them on Twitter: twitter.com/mestizomx
Information: We were invited guests of Mestizo and all food and drink was kindly comped on the night