Tacos and tortillas chips are freshly made everyday at El Pastor and even the sounds of these words conjure up all the fun of Mexican fare. El Pastor is part of the wave of Mexican restaurants that have recently opened in London. So far, my favourite is probably Corazon, followed by Santo Remedio and Breddos Tacos. Whilst Wahaca – which I’ll always love – did a great job of introducing the UK to the authentic Mexican flavours, these recent new additions are even more creative in their offerings: salsas infused with the smoke and depth of dried chillies, freshly made tortillas made with 100% corn – both blue and white, and fusion flavours (I’m thinking of the burrata topping Breddos Tacos’ vege tacos).
The queues of El Pastor, which sits beneath the railway arches of London Bridge, had put me off trying it for for a while. But having tried out the other leading taquerias around town, it was about time I braved them. Whilst, rather annoyingly, you’re not allowed to wait on site in the roughly hour long wait, they do take your number and drop you a text when your table is ready. Having done so, I can attest that their tortillas alone, made from scratch in house everyday, are totally worth the queue. And a quick drink at the nearby Hawksmoor bar in the interim is a good bet.
I’m glad that Borough (and Southwark Street beyond) is developing a solid collection of eateries proper beyond the grab-and-go marketplace (Padella (of course), Lantana, O’ver, Caravan…). What was once just a place to pick up ingredients for dinner is now the place to come for dinner (or lunch) itself.
Inside, El Pastor is a fun space of bare brick, shiny metal and colourful murals – a conscious attempt to bring the streets inside. It’s a sit-down casual restaurant, which recognises its street-food roots. There are high tables to perch at, a few banquettes for lounging back on and tequilas in worryingly large servings. It’s full of Latin spirit, albeit a little chilly (the place has no doors – even on a freezing February night).
Keen to finally try out their freshly made blue and white corn tortillas, we ordered the Guacamole (£6.50) served with totopos. Crunchy and fresh, nutty yet soft, they didn’t disappoint. Their guacamole is less fatty mush, with a hit of salt and sour and soft bass tones with the onion crunch. The flavours were boisterous. Totally addictive.
Tacos come in twos per portion, mostly priced at £6 or £7 a pop. The vege option was topped with mushrooms, black beans, caramelised onions and coriander (£6.50). Whilst the underlying tacos tasted very fresh, the toppings were a touch disappointing. The ingredients needed a sauce to bind them. I was craving Wahaca’s smokey chipotle sauce to add flavour and ended up spooning the guacamole on top to lift the dish.
We also shared a side of Ensalada (£4.50). A combination of gem lettuce, avocado, queso fresco, pumpkin seeds, mexican oregano, totopos and moscatel dressing, it all sounds like a lot. But again, the salad needed a dressing proper to allow each of its component parts – all very promising, particularly the toasted pumpkin seeds – to sing and dance.
There’s much to like about Tacos El Pastor. What I liked is how they’ve gone all out in preparing fresh blue (and white) corn tortillas, devoting a whole mezzanine level to grinding the corn and hiring chefs from “Mexico’s best taco restaurant”. But for me, the flavours tonight were lacking in depth. Perhaps the vege options here are sidelined. On that basis, Corazon is still probably my favourite taqueria.
El Pastor, 6-7A Stoney St, London SE1 9AA