Finally, London seems to have got some solid options for tacos, where all that had existed before were one or two standouts or sub-optimal restaurant chains. While LA, or even New York, still has nothing to fear by way of competition, London’s newcomers have brought a nuanced look at what Mexican food means today and a focus on quality that has helped to make things at least a little better.
One of the best taquerias at the moment has to be Tacos Padre. Located at the back of Borough Market, alongside other permanent stalls like Mei Mei, Shuk and Juma Kitchen, this haunt is the buzzing Mexican kitchen of Irish chef Nick Fitzgerald. A leading name in Mexican food, Fitzgerald has worked at Pujol in Mexico City (currently no. 9 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list) as well as Breddos Tacos here in London. Tacos Padre started life back in 2017, popping up all over the world (Berlin, Mexico City and Portugal) until settling down with a permanent taqueria in Borough Market at the end of 2019.
During the day, Tacos Padre is a grab-and-go taqueria. By night it transforms into a full Mexican restaurant, with counter seating by the kitchen, tables and chairs spilling out into the market and lively Mexican beats playing out. My companion and I went for their evening fare of what was sadly their final night of “summer” service. Although Autumn is well underway and al fresco dining is ambitious with the air becoming crisper and the outdoor chairs feeling very cold, it’s a covered affair and the mezcal magaritas plus the heat of the chillis kept us warm-ish.
Though primarily a taqueria, the evening menu celebrates so much more than tacos, showcasing the regional cuisines of Mexico through vibrant dishes and plenty of vegan options. From the small plates, the Sweet Potato Tetela with Sikil Pak Salsa (£6.50) is a must. The tetela (a freshly made corn tortilla in a triangular shape) was genersouly filled with slow roasted oozy sweet potato, lime and Guajillo chilli. This wondrous composition set above a “Sikil Pak”, which is essentially the Mexican take on hummus – here made with creamy pumkin seeds and garnished with zingy cherry tomatoes dressed in spiced morita oil. A dreamy combination of silky hummus with the hit of the spicy salsa above.
From the larger sharing plates, we went for the Cauliflower Al Pastor served with a habanero salsa, more freshly made corn tortillas (arriving in a tin to keep warm) and salsa macha with a squeeze of lime. The cauliflower is roasted in coconut oil and then into the al pastor adobo. Though the result is a smokey finish, the condiments were missing some limey guacamole for a creamy finish. Because what is Mexican food without guac?
Not to miss are the natural wines and margaritas. We went for two (each!) of the Mezcal (£10), a to-the-point drink of tequila, Cointreau, agave and lime. Though punchy and brilliantly smokey, with a moreish chilli-salt finish around the cup, the icy finish of the drink watered the flavours down soon enough.
Counter dining experience in the heart of Borough Market may be the perfect expression of why London’s food scene is so great. An Irish chef – of dual Irish and Spanish heritage – transplanted to one of London’s oldest food markets, serving up amazing Mexican food using some of the best British produce available. And where better than to eat Mexican food than in a market (in the summer, at least)? Though not quite a Mexican one, Borough Market celebrates the flavours, colours, sights and sounds that inspired the vision behind Tacos Padre. The array of tropical plants on display certainly help conjure up that tropical vibe. I hope Tacos Padre fine a permanent tropical and all-day spot to showcase the kitchen’s talent here.
Tacos Padre, Borough Market, Winchester Walk, Jubilee Pl, London SE1 9AG