Meet our newest team members on the Sharking for Chips and Drinks roster – John and Corin. After recently spending three amazing weeks exploring Mexico and getting off the tourist past I thought they would be the best people to put London’s newest “authenic” Mexican restaurant through its paces.
Mexican street food with cred – and not a burrito in sight
It was a cold midweek night in March, and we were getting a proper drenching at Old Street roundabout. Why had we left Mexico three weeks earlier, we asked ourselves. On a too-brief self-guided culinary tour in late February, we’d scratched the surface of a country that is quick to remind visitors of its its Unesco-protected food traditions. Two weeks of overflowing tacos, glistening ceviches and melt in the mouth pork were fading into memory.
So, making a beeline to chef Edson Diaz-Fuentes’ first bricks and mortar incarnation, Santo Remedio
, was a no-brainier.
This is a Mexican chef with some serious credentials. A Street Feast residency and supper clubs led to work alongside Thomasina Miers to develop dishes for the menu at Wahaca. More noteworthy perhaps, Edson has honed his craft, with Mexican maestro Alejandro Ruiz, whose cooking at Casa Oaxaca
have made him a leading light in gastronomic circles. Having spent time on our trip being guided around the local food markets in Oaxaca by the ebullient chef, we are happy to describe ourselves as big Ruiz fans – and are just as happy to report that his flair for flavour, texture and colour all inform Edson’s cooking at Santo Remidio.
Drinks began in the form of a couple of ‘off menu’ cocktails: a classic margarita on the rocks, and a deliciously spicy ‘mescalita’. The latter – using a mezcal imported from Oaxaca, and spritzed up with parsley and pineapple and a hint of chilli – hit all the right notes: a glorious mouthful of Mexican heat and sunshine.
Guacamole came served in a molcajete (more typically used for salsa) and topped (lightly) with a sprinkle of crispy grasshoppers – another classic Oaxacan delicacy that we had greedily eaten and seen in huge piles at the local food markets, – and paired with nacho chips of the white and blue corn variety.
We did not attempt to resist the inevitability of salsa and tortillas to pair up with the guacamole. Here, hot Pasilla salsa roja was a hot but not too spicy rendition, which manages to balance sweet and sour effortlessly.
The tortillas come courtesy of well-bred Mexican food specialist Cool Chile Co, who make the corn flatbreads fresh every day using Masa Harina flour. Telling us that he would like to make his own tortillas inhouse one day, Edson concedes that the need to import the corn and limestone, plus a bigger kitchen, prevents this extra step towards authenticity.
Moving on to ‘street food’ options, we plumped for the two specials. Octopus tostadas – £1 coins of white soft flesh paired with a sweet peanut sauce and guacamole served on two crisp tortillas – delivered a rich palette of textures that worked neatly together. Pig’s ear, slow braised, came in dangling narrow strips (so for the squeamish you wouldn’t know what you were eating) and served in more soft tortillas.
Sticking to tacos, from the standard menu we chose the meltingly tender six-hour slow-braised Beef ‘Barbacoa’, plus the grilled cactus on a bed of black beans and topped with sweetcorn.
While larger plate options including grilled octopus with roasted carrots tempted, we opted to share the braised ox tongue – another classic Mexican dish. Tender, if on the dry side, the dish comes to life with a clever pairing with a mole (sauce) made from chiles imported from Oaxaca, peanuts and roasted tomatoes. Make sure to ask for extra tortillas for plate-swiping.
Eschewing the influence of American Tex Mex dishes – no burritos on offer here notes the restaurant’s website – Edson’s passion to bring ‘proper’ Mexican cooking to London could feel precious. But this cool cantina is anything but pretentious, letting the carefully sourced ingredients sing.
For those in search of the flavours of real Mexico today in London, Santo Remedio is a great place to start. It certainly transported us back to the wonder that is Mexican cooking.
: Santo Remedio – 22 Rivington St, London EC2A 3DY. Website
John and Corin are avid London foodies and have lodged a fair few air-miles under their belt to know what they’re talking about.