Archive for October 25th, 2006

Tonight, Jon and I made tacos at home. It’s impossible to find small corn tortillas here, but even when we have to use the 9” diameter El Paso flour tortillas, our food tastes a lot better than what we had this past Saturday at the Taqueria in Notting Hill (139-143 Westbourne Grove).

El Paso, by the way, is the dominant (often the only) brand for what few Tex-Mex ingredients you can find at the supermarket here. Think about how sad this fact is. And I’ll bet the only people buying this El Paso crap are Americans because I’ve yet to hear a Brit say “I’m really craving a fajita/taco.”

Anyway, to you folks back home, feel grateful for your dozens of salsa varieties and RickBayless-backed Frontera Grill goodies.The Taqueria opened about a year ago to great fanfare. Time Out, usually pretty much with the program on ethnic restaurants, raves about the Taqueria. So Jon and I checked it out about a year ago, and the tacos were pretty good, but small and expensive. An order of tacos there means you get two tacos and it costs you £6-8. (Anyone reading this last sentence who has been to Mexico to eat tacos should be particularly outraged.)

Well, this past Saturday, we were in Notting Hill for a goodbye drinks outing, and we ducked out of the party so we could get food in our stomachs (“eating is cheating,” as some of our Brit friends say, but I need dinner before downing the drinks).

The Taqueria was close by, so we decided to give it another try.  Looking back on our meal there, the only positive was David Cameron and wife and kidsour spotting David Cameron, eating at the Taqueria with his wife and another couple. I don’t follow British politics very closely, but I do know who David Cameron is, which should indicate his level of fame in the UK. He’s the leader of the Conservative Party, which is the “Opposition” right now, which you can think of as the minority party equivalent. His fave soundbite is to advocate for “compassionate conservatism.” Sound familiar?

All I can wonder is: did David Cameron get served better tacos than Jon and I did?

It was a really bad sign that our order of four different taco dishes arrived at our table less than 60 seconds after we’d ordered them. Nobody puts together that many fresh tacos in less than a minute . . . unless, of course, the tacos aren’t fresh and have just been sitting in an oven, drying out.

Eight different tacos we’d ordered, and not one of them tasted the slightest bit fresh. The corn tortillas were stale, oily and lukewarm. And the fillings were not much better – the chicken mole taco was drowning in a gloppy, sweet, chocolate-heavy mole; the fish taco could have been made of breaded-and-fried anything. And coming in at around £9 for the two tacos, the fish taco was also the biggest waste of money.

I generally manage to get on with my life despite the killer pound-dollar exchange rate, but take a moment to think about the good-enough fish tacos you buy even at a chain like Baja Fresh that come three for $7, and then think about our two sub-par fish tacos in London selling for $9 per taco.

So we ate what we could and thought about how much better the Green and Red in Shoreditch is. The carnitas tacos at the Green and Red could hold their own against the good stuff in, say, Oaxaca.

After paying our bill (£45 for tacos, dammit), we hurried over to the nearby Prince Bonaparte, where we rejoined our friends and drowned our sorrows. We ended the night at Harlem, whose decor didn’t seem very Dutch or above-105th-Street, so I’m not sure what the deal with the name was. But it was cozy and fun. A good recovery from our taco trauma of the evening.

Adios for now.

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