I give up, the British are hopeless when it comes to Mexican food (or shall I say, Tex-Mex?).
After a long day of studying ethnic conflict, the stagnation of the Communist Party under Brezhnev, and other mind-numbingly boring topics, Crystal, Taline, and I headed off to a nearby pub for dinner. For an appetizer, Taline ordered the “Mexican platter” which apparently consisted of nachos.
This is what the waitress brought us:
Our first reaction was “Oh no, that’s not ours. We ordered the Mexican platter” to which the waitress replied
“This IS the Mexican platter.”
Now you may be thinking, but Lindsay, where are the nachos? Why are there onion rings on that plate? And what are those things that look like reject chicken McNuggets?
Well, as I mentioned in my previous post about nachos, many British people do not understand that the vital ingredient of nachos is CHEESE. So where’s the cheese? Well, on this “Mexican platter” there was no cheese, therefore the pub needs to take a big fat black marker and cross “nachos” off the list of items included in the Mexican platter.
Secondly, the chips were Doritos…even worse, though, was the fact that they were COOL RANCH FLAVORED DORITOS. UGH! What self-respecting Mexican platter has cool ranch Doritos? That’s right, none…unless you are in Britain.
And look at those small bowls of guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. Are they serious? We could dip maybe four chips into that thing of guacamole before it was gone! And the guacamole, of course, is the pre-packaged stuff you can buy at Sainsbury’s or Tesco…not really deserving of the name guacamole.
About the onion rings…uhhh I really have no idea why there are onion rings on a Mexican platter. They weren’t on the menu. I can honestly say that I have NEVER been to a Mexican restaurant that served onion rings. However, this was not too surprising, as I had already noticed that Tesco included onion rings in their “Best of Mexico” section of their online grocery store. This “onion rings are Mexican food” business needs to stop…NOW.
As far as the things that look like McNuggets, they were breaded peppers stuffed with ricotta cheese, which is very authentic, considering ricotta came from…oh right, ITALY, not Mexico.
You’re probably thinking “Well, duh, Lindsay, you shouldn’t have expected there to be real Mexican food in a tacky British pub in the center of London. How about the Mexican restaurants in the UK?”
Right…Mexican restaurants. There are a few that I know of in the city. One is Chiquito’s in Leicester Square (a HUGE tourist area). I haven’t eaten there, but have had drinks there, and the atmosphere is so ridiculously funny. There is a girl that walks around wearing a bandoleer filled with shot glasses (instead of, uh, shotgun shells) and two holsters that carry big bottles of Jose Cuervo. When you order a shot, she makes an announcement and blows on a whistle or something. It’s really authentic, especially with that British accent she has…makes me feel like I’m back in SoCal.
One place I have eaten at is Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden. I’ve been there twice, and so far, have not been very impressed. It is a decent meal, and a nice change from British/dorm/take-away food, but is nowhere near authentic.
First off, you only get one complimentary small bowl of chips and salsa (and they act like this is a big deal…oooh, a free bowl of chips, thanks!). If this restaurant was located in California, it simply would not survive due to this issue. Unlimited baskets of warm chips and big bowls of salsa are CRITICAL for a Mexican restaurant, and Cafe Pacifico truly fails in this regard.
Second, the menu is kind of weird. “Lobster & Papaya Quesadillas with Mango Cream” freaks me out. Like, whoa, where did THAT come from? Also, they have “Mango, Jalapeno, and Brie Quesadillas.” Uhhh…brie? The, uh, FRENCH cheese that ALMOST KILLED ME?
There is also a whole section of the menu dedicated to “Modern Mexican” (whatever that is) and a ton of seafood dishes, which I don’t particularly like. I had the chimichanga the last time I was there, and while it was decent, it was sooooo small. I couldn’t believe it! It was maybe half the portion you would get at a restaurant in California. And the refried beans tasted like they were from a can (which they probably were).
Also, Cafe Pacifico is insanely overpriced for what you are getting (I know, I know…it’s in Covent Garden, and should therefore be expected). If you ever want to try the fajitas there, perhaps you should first drop by your local bank to take out a loan…you might need it once you see the bill.
Oh, the drinks there are good…especially the pina colada (VERY hard to find good pina coladas here) but at �4 per drink (aprox $7.25), you might want to have just one and then head down to the Three Tuns for �1.70 pints of Strongbow.
I came across this review of Cafe Pacifico that a British guy wrote. He mentioned that his wife is from LA, so he’s probably had some real Mexican food:
“They deserve to be sued by the Mexican embassy in London for the insult to Mexican cuisine. They make Taco Bell look like cordon bleu. Save yourself money and have a McDonalds, it will taste better and be spicier. If you value your taste buds eat elsewhere.”
Heh…gotta love the British.
So, basically, my experience with Mexican food in the UK had been rather disappointing. Right now I’m craving some greasy taquitos from Robertito’s in Oceanside (oh, you know what I’m talking about…the ones slathered in guacamole and sitting in refried beans and rice…sooo good, yet so unhealthy).
I wish I could import entire restaurants into this country. I’d take El Mirasol, Las Casuelas, El Gallito, and La Gran Fiesta from the Coachella Valley (R.I.P. Taco Shop), Old Town Cafe from San Diego, and Anita’s and Robertito’s from Oceanside. Then the British will be able to enjoy some REAL Mexican food.
I should probably mention that this problem is not confined to London, though. Washington DC’s Mexican food sucks, too. And don’t leave a comment saying that “Lauriol Plaza is good”, because it’s not (I don’t care what the Washington Post says), or “There’s a place in southeast you should try…” because I have, and it sucked. I did have some amazing fajitas in Moscow, though…go figure.
(If you have come across good Mexican food in London, though, let me know, because I would be willing to try it out…yes, I’m that desperate for some good Mexican food!)