Mestizo’s website tells us “we’ve been working hard to be the best ambassadors of our gastronomy as we can. . . ” and it shows. Hurried by the mid-February cold, we get there bang on opening time, and instantly am thawed by an inside array of warm, autumnal colours and dark wood furnishings. Bunches of gloriously low hanging, silvery lit chandeliers. An illustrated wheel of patterns illuminates and hangs on the wall behind me, radiating bright colours. Behind the bar, hundreds of spirit bottles. This is a place that’s stocked up for a wonderful night in. The layout has a spacious design to it. It’s not a crowded place, but one intended to be filled with socialising, joy and laughter.
The welcoming feeling sets in almost immediately as each table has a small pot of guacamole and nachos to chew over while you have a nose of the menu. The waiting staff were welcoming and laid back. No fuss or hassle of standing over you every five minutes. We got chatting about Harry Potter with our waitress, (she’s a Gryffindor by the way). The atmosphere is incredibly chilled. I’m reminded of Orwell’s grumble in Homage to Catalonia where questions of “who/what/when/where?” were answered with “mañana, mañana!” to illustrate the laid-back nature. There’s no demanding boldness here, things are ordered and delivered at a stress-free pace. It’s a bracing contrast to unsolicited requests – whether you want a refill or if everything’s okay with your meal. It’s chill, they trust you to ask as they go to and throw. A cohort at the table announces, “This is good Mexican, this ‘ain’t taco bell!”
Pretty Nachos, Secret Sauces & the Mararchi
We have a very colourful, almost-too-pretty-to-eat-plate of loaded nachos to share while debilitating over our mains. And the Veracruz – strawberry, banana & orange juice – mixed and served with a rim of sugar on the glass, sweetened the taste after chunkfuls of onions, tomatoes, nachos and cheese, and the littering of chillis on top. Drinks started to appear, and conversation flowed over pints of limed up Modelo and jalapeno flavoured margaritas to soft, soothing ballads of a mariachi band.
.“. . .Cocoa flavoured, sweet but bitter and with a small amount of chilli kick to it . . . “
This menu is huge. (You know what they say about big menus, eh?) As someone with little knowledge of Mexican culture apart from the hazy memory of being 18 and waking up a day after thinking “let’s try tequila”, this is new territory for me. Spirited by curiosity, I order Mole Poblano (£14.00) described by the menu thus; “boneless chicken breast served with a traditional mole sauce made with dried chillies, herbs, spices, almonds & more secret ingredients”. Whatever secrets this moe-lay sauce contained eluded me, but most importantly, it tasted great. Cocoa flavoured, sweet but bitter and with a small amount of chilli kick to it. Most of dishes came with rice and a small pot of black beans and tortillas. The table is soon filled with the aromatic scents of spices and cheeses and rich sauces. Delicious. Perhaps it could have been served at a higher temperature. This could be over-confidence, or it could have been the way they choose to serve it.
Getting Stuck in a Mexican Dessert
Such was the enthusiasm for Mestizo that we stay for an unintended dessert. Taking another stab in the dark (and feeling that my gastronomic passport was getting well and truly stamped) I order Pastel de queso y coco (£3.60); a baked coconut cheesecake, in a pool of mango sauce. And they did indeed mean a large pool of sticky, sweet and delicious mango sauce. Floating and bobbing amidst the sea of citrus, making its final port is the good ship; the HMS getthefuckinmymouthrightnow. With the Cozumel (£3.80); banana, coconut & pineapple juice observing the proceedings. Delivering the sugary aftermath of a well-served, well-cooked and well-received meal.
Next door to the restaurant is a Mestizo shop where you can buy Mexican paraphernalia, paintings of Frida Kahlo, many colour ponchos and authentic Mexican salsas and guacamole and cheeses and beers, along with household decorations.
It was also incredibly easy to book for a table. Considering how difficult this was last time I was really happy with this, and with the reminder a day before that helpfully told me all my details in one easy to read place. And for the the quality you’re paying for, this was a complete steal, and with its location a stone’s throw away from Warren Street station and in the same neighbourhood as the British Library you’d be sure to find yourself walking into Mestizos before long.
And I wouldn’t hold that against you.
Do you like your Mole Frida Kahlo approved? How loaded do you like your nachos? Have you been to Mestizos? What did you think??