Heading into eight months of winter in London can send even the sanest person into a desperate need for a holiday somewhere tropical. While that flight to the white sandy beaches and palm trees might not be in your cards at the moment, having a margarita in hand certainly helps create the feeling of sun on your face. Bask in that tequila-fueled, vitamin-D-inspired glow with one of the absolute best margaritas London has to offer.
From Tomas Estes, master tequila ambassador to the world, this long-standing Mexican cantina is on the more authentic side, for London. It leans towards Tex-Mex, with big flavours rolling around in those sizzling fajitas, and a million different kinds of tacos (like, almost literally). The classic margaritas are the real get here: order by the small glass, large glass, small pitcher, or go big, and get the pitcher that’s meant to be shared with eight friends.
Give yourself a strong base of burritos and enchiladas at the ground-floor eatery, surrounded by Baja Californian kitsch and a million bottles of sweat-inducing hot sauce, before starting to work your way through the genuinely remarkable tequila list that's been compiled. Put together by the late, great cocktail genius Dick Bradsell, the selection is one of the best in the UK. If you feel like tempting your inner agave demons, be sure to make your way down the (very) steep stairs to the basement cocktail bar. Just be prepared to let your hair down -- to say it gets debauched down there is an understatement.
Split into two areas -- an ultra see-and-be-seen restaurant accessed via a fake sex shop, and a street-level cafe -- this New York City transplant was opened with some assistance from The Box designers, and instantly became a hub of A-lister activity. Thankfully, some of the hullabaloo has calmed down, but the delicious libations are as strong as ever, with the ‘rita selection leading the way with classic, frozen, flavoured (black currant, anyone?), and premium.
This odd little hipster cantina has been not-so-quietly serving up modern Mexi fare and tequila shots to the local community for years. Expect a surprisingly excellent, generally staff-picked soundtrack, lasers (yes, really), and even a downstairs stripper pole, as well as a great spirits selection and super-fresh margaritas. Given that it comes from restaurateur Tom Conran, it comes as no surprise this place gets pretty mental on the weekends.
Angel (& other locations)
Inspired by a trip to South America, these bright, kitschy bars are all about la fiesta. They have a ridiculously good “amigo hour” (£5.50 cocktails! £3.50 beer!), crazy DJ’ed parties, and more tequila than you should sample in a week, much less an evening. These are great spots to bring your best mates and just throw down.
Fitzrovia (& Brick Lane)
Think of this as Wahaca’s trendier little sister: fast-paced, cheap, tech-savvy, and a bit confusing at first. You order via an iPad system (thankfully with a couple staff around to help), and food and booze are brought out to your table. It has a great selection of frozen margaritas, with the classic lime sharing the spotlight with flavors like passion fruit and raspberry & hibiscus -- both of which pack a serious punch. Plus, there's a bottomless/self-serve aguas-fresca station, which is pretty excellent… and maybe necessary after a drink or two.
Despite featuring the authentic homestyle cooking made in many Mexican kitchens, there’s not a foil-wrapped burrito in sight at Mestizo, and certainly not any brightly coloured tat littered about. Instead, find dark red walls, gaudy chandeliers, and an extensive selection of agave that’ll leave you feeling like a kid in a candy shop. The margarita menu is filled with nearly 10 options, including the Cadillac, which features Reposado Tequila, Grand Marnier, agave syrup, and fresh lime.
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1. Cafe Pacifico5 Langley St, London
2. El Camion Mexican Grill25-27 Brewer St, London
3. La Bodega Negra9 Old Compton St, London
4. Crazy Homies125 Westbourne Park Rd, London
5. Barrio Soho6 Poland Street, London
6. DF Mexico28-29 Tottenham Court Road, London
7. Mestizo103 Hampstead Rd., London
Finding good Mexican, or sizzling Tex-Mex in this case, on this side of the Atlantic is understandably difficult, but Cafe Pacifico has been working to have the most authentic menu in London since 1982. Unsurprisingly there aren’t many Mexican joints in a city closer to Spain than Latin America, but Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays are going strong at this colorful, cozy side-street cantina. The atmosphere is vibrant, the portions are almost American, the mojitos are damn good, and the pitchers of margaritas serve at least eight of your mates.
This colorful slice of Baja California brings the heat, and an impressive amount of tequila and mezcal, to a ground-level London cantina … sip on a custom margarita or just go for gold (someone get the salt and limes). No matter what you’re drinking, or shooting, you have to stuff your face with surprisingly good Mexican food…they make fillings like chicken tinga and pork carnitas and then make burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and everything in between. In true Soho fashion, head downstairs (watch your step) to the cocktail bar Pink Chihuahua for tequila-fueled debauchery.
There are two distinct parts to this bodega: the cafe (16 Moor St) is more relaxed and is clearly marked, while the restaurant (9 Old Compton St) definitely gives you the sexy, underground “negra” aspect of its namesake. Beyond the Amsterdam-esque neon lights at the entrance, the place is dark, loud, loads of fun. Start with a habanero soft shell crab, char-roasted mushroom and/or lamb tacos, and the spicy blue fin tuna ceviche, and keep the party going with classic margaritas, 30 plus types of tequila, and signature cocktails like Diablo (blanco tequila, ginger beer, creme de cassis). Pro-tip: make a reservation.
It’s a wild time at this subterranean den of Mexican food and neon-lit cocktails, where every day is Dia de los Muertos. Skeletons in sombreros sit next to tequila and mescal drinks at the bar while plastic ivy hangs over U-shaped banquettes in a midnight-blue room. All the expected Mexican favorites are on the long menu, and drinkers do well to order a bunch of oversized shareable starters, like crispy flautas with chipotle sauce and jalapeno-sprinkled quesadillas. All your homies are crazy, right? Mine too!
A colorful taco and cocktail pad screams fiesta in a zany space with a Tiki-bar-meets-drunken-florist kind of look. Tortillas are loaded with baja fish, carnitas, chicken tinga, barbacoa beef or fried aubergine and queso fresco, and monthly guest varieties cameo from leading area street vendors. A cute drink menu offers cocktails with a musical side, as the drinks are paired with songs that suit their flavor and mood: The Hoodrat (vodka, red pepper, chili, vanilla, apple) tastes best when Muddy Water’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ is playing. Tequila and rum are well represented on the playfully Latin list.
The DF stands for ‘Distrito Federal,’ what Mexicans call Mexico City. We’re not sure they’d call the modern, Americanized cantina fare at this casual industrial-chic stop authentic, where you order tortas served in brioche via an iPad and the only Mexican thing about the buttermilk-fried chicken sandwiches is chipotle-mayo, but the frozen margaritas are fun! Burritos, DIY tacos, crunchy salads and grilled chicken and steak can be joined by creamy corn, chorizo-pinto beans or crinkle-cut fries.
You expect tequila at a Mexican restaurant, but Mestizo takes it to the next level with some 260 bottles illuminated and on display (largest collection in the UK?) at a counter manned by experts in the liquor’s history and cocktail craft. Needless to say, they make a mean margarita and things get popping in the downstairs lounge. Upstairs, diners sit in a vibrant red room with white banquettes for burritos, chicken saturated in dark mole sauce and the molcajete specialty: chicken and beef in a stone bowl with chorizo, cheese, avocado, chipotle chili and tortillas.