Mexican food is fashionable. There: I’ve said it. I never thought I would write those words, much less believe them, but Mexican dining is very cool right now.
The standard fare of chilli con carne, nachos, and burritos was at best comfort food, or, as described by one very famous food writer, one of the worst national cuisines in the world. (The others were Nigerian, Greek and Swiss, in case you’re interested). So what has changed? Well, for starters, the likes of Wahaca and the fabulous Boho Mexica changed our perceptions of what was possible. And more recently, La Bodega Negra has descended on the capital to push Mexican from niche and boutique status to outright hip.
La Bodega Negra, a sort of twin restaurant to La Esquina in Soho, oozes cool from its sex shop entrance, through to its vintage looking interiors, complete with retro posters, 'designer rough' plaster, and achingly-Americana cool soundtrack featuring Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and the Beach Boys on the night we rocked up.
The waiting and bar gang are trendy and tattooed, with rock star jeans and hairstyles, and biker boots and trainers to round it off. And that’s just the gals. They are also super-efficient and friendly. Perfect, in other words.
We tried the spicy yellow fin tuna guajillo chilli ceviche and octopus el negro to start. It was fresh, succulent and flavoursome. For mains we tackled the wild sea bass with adobe (I didn’t know what it was either – a spicy sauce, apparently), and the pork belly, with sides of pinto beans and chorizo. Big food with surprising subtle flavours. The Mexican theme didn’t extend to the wine, where we went for a Chilean Pinot Noir. But by then we were convinced that perhaps there was some substance behind the PR, and that Mexico had indeed discovered it’s cool.
A warning though: you do pay for it. With starters around the £12 mark and mains hovering into the twenties, La Bodega Negra is not for the faint of wallet. But it is a welcome addition to Soho’s dining scene, and as the Northerner reminds me, you can’t put a price on being fashionable.