I should be careful when writing blog posts. One never knows who might read it. I recently wrote an unflattering post about Wahaca, a chain of Mexican restaurants in London, only to find a comment left by the inspiration behind the concept. I did reply to her, rather humbly given that I’d been a bit rude in the post.
In that reply I made a few suggestions about how I thought Wahaca, or any Mexican restaurant, should be. There should be Mexican music, for a start. Some Mexican staff would also be nice. But most of all there should be Mexican food. I pointed out that it would be great to see “enchiladas, tacos al pastor, nopales, chicharon de queso, tlayuda, barbacoa and carnitas on the menu”.
Actually, how can someone call a Mexican restaurant a Mexican restaurant when none of those key meals is on offer? While the restaurants get a fair bit of praise, I’m not the only one who has noticed the downsides. I went through the menu with Paola – once we’d knocked off the Tex Mex dishes, there wasn’t an awful lot left to comment on. That was a big part in why I referred to the place as a ‘corporate sell-out’.
I also mentioned that my wife visited another Mexican restaurant in London, very near Charing Cross Station. It’s called Lupita. She took me there yesterday. It was everything a Mexican restaurant should be. And everything Wahaca isn’t. We sat down in the corner underneath a photo of Torre Latinoamericana. We gave our order to a Mexican waiter, in Spanish. A former resident of DF, no less. And we forgave him the fact that he supports Club America. And we watched the chefs cooking in their open plan kitchen in the middle of the restaurant.
We listened to a mix of Mexican music. There was a little mariachi, a little Luis Miguel. We’ll also forgive the brief interlude courtesy of the Gypsy Kings. Then the food arrived. Paola had nopales. I had a generously proportioned chicharron de queso with a mound of guacamole. Both were perfect. We looked at dishes being served to other happy diners, many of whom were clearly regulars. They were the real deal.
Lupitas get’s an unreserved thumbs up from me. It was an excellent restaurant serving real Mexican food in a very Mexican environment. We’ll be back. Thomasina of Wahaca mentioned in her comment that she eats at her restaurants regularly. My suggestion today is that she not eat at one of her restaurants but eats at Lupita’s instead. She may have to wait for a table, because it gets busy in there, but it’s worth it. And it’s proof that there is a market for real, authentic Mexican grub in London.
For just a few minutes in that restaurant, I was taken back to the happy days I lived in Mexico City. The music was right, the smells delicious, the noises were recognisably unrecognisable, the pictures on the walls were perfect. I thought, as I sat staring out the window at the snow falling through the sky, that I was almost home.