Look lively, El Camino, Buen Provecho and Adobo, there’s a newbie in town and they just booted the last one of you out of the Taco Top Three. And as for El Camino on Brewer Street, best get the staffs’ P45s ready, because La Bodegra Negra is set to show Soho a really good time.
Much has already been frothed over this Soho upstart, brought to us by Will ‘Eight Over Eight’ Ricker and Serge Becker, a New York restaurateur who’s had the phrase “nightlife legend” surgically stitched onto his name by all and sundry (not least for opening the infamous Box last year).
And rightly so, really. It has all the elements we want and expect from a new opening. With a buzzy cafe slapped on Moor Street and a subterranean restaurant located behind the facade of an Old Compton Street sex shop it’s about as Soho as it comes and has mastered the art of spot-on simplicity that’s worked so well for Meat Liquor and Russell Norman’s ventures.
Margaritas of course weren’t as lethal as their Mexican, or even Californian, counterparts (there’s a place in Palm Springs were you can literally feel the units stacking up against your cerebral cortex as you drink), but they were acidic enough and did their utmost to usher memories of the day’s red-flagged emails to the door. Our rims were salty despite our initial protestations but then this is opening month.
A ceramic pot full of chewy, tomato-stewed chorizo provided a perfect amuse-gob when spooned into generous lettuce leaves with a sprinkle of coriander (and a sprinkle of that herb is all you need, really. I’m not a hater but it can be noxious in the quantities some places serve it) but it was the tacos that won our hearts and minds.
Contrary to some early reports I thought they shone. Sure, they’re far too small (their diameters were equal to most other places’ radiuses, maths fan) but the fillings – perfected by consultant chef Richard Ampudia, who comes from Mexico City via La Esquina – were insanely good.
Sadly they forbid the mix and match, so we only got to try two. Conchita pibil pork was tender, juicy and packed full of tomato and lime notes, its salsa verde fresh and clean. De camaron salteados on the other hand, recommended by our chirpy and irrepressibly enthusiastic waiter in a t-shirt with drawings of a suit on it, was even better – big fleshy prawns bathed in a creamy, spicy sauce that, and which is rare, was neither too creamy nor too spicey. A perfect succession of moderate mouthfuls to set you up for a night in London’s playground.
Chipotle, you just got served.
Price per head: About 15 quid.
Soundtrack: Mumford & Sons and The Beatles jostled for airspace on our visit.
Other reactions: Four stars from Time Out but Gourmet Traveller wasn’t so keen (they took great photos however).