I have recently decided to give online dating a try. It's a bit similar to searching for a needle in a haystack...there is the chance of finding love, but I think it depends on the time put in and the dedication of the search. I doubt I have that much time or am that dedicated....but I am giving it a go.
... Last Saturday night I went on my first date with a New Zealand born man that had impressed me with his profile. I was also impressed that he called (rather than text) to arrange our meet up at McDonalds in Victoria Station. McDonalds already sounds like a pretty bad start, but just to clarify that was only a meeting place ;) We continued on from there to a Mexican restaurant. This was an unfortunate decision on his part. I am the last person you want to take to a Mexican restaurant in London on a first date. Having grown up barely 20 minutes from the Mexican border in southern Arizona I am very critical of the restaurants claiming to be Mexican in the UK. To be fair, I have not given many of them a chance but for good reason, authenticity is limited. Just a peak at the menu tends to put me off and I prefer to cook Mexican at home with my much sought after and occasionally imported (thanks mum) selection of ingredients. Given I spend a lot of time with foodies and I consider Mexican food to be one of my areas of expertise I am often asked for a London recommendation. I think it's about time to educate myself on Mexican in London...so this trip to Loco Mexicano in Victoria will be the kick off of my search for the best Mexican in London.
A first glance at the menu had me stifling laughter. I would not normally take photos on a first date, but I was not particularly enamored by my companion and I could not resist documenting this experience. The menu offered a hodgepodge of items some sounding vaguely Mexican and some completely not.
I was surprised to see chimichangas on the menu. A chimichanga is a deep fried burrito, but its origins are of more interest. It is not Mexican but rather it is claimed to have been invented in beautiful Tucson, Arizona...most credit being taken by El Charro Restaurant (a Tucson chain) as an accident when a burrito was dropped in the deep fryer. A good machaca chimichanga is delicious with a crispy flour tortilla and the spiced shredded beef filling. Machaca or carne seca is a way of preparing dried spiced beef and then rehydrating it. This is common in northern Mexico and southern Arizona.
The menu offered chicken, vegetable or ground beef. I went for the ground beef as it was closest to the shredded beef that I love.
There was a good selection of Mexican beer (Pacifico and Negro Modelo to name two), an interesting cocktail list and a variety of margaritas.
I really wanted a margarita, but was worried I would regret it. A badly made margarita that tastes of cheap tequila is hard to choke down. My date suggested we order a pitcher and I was tempted to suggest we get the premium version (made with Cointreau and Patron tequila) but considering that was an extra £10 I bit my tongue and hoped for the best. I was once again surprised. They were very drinkable, although this was actually due to very low tequila content.
The plate arrived and it was obvious at first glance that the guacamole was not home-made. It was too smooth and flavourless. The rice was not worth eating...slightly undercooked and bland. Little more than white rice with a touch of tomato sauce. The side salad was the most impressive...fresh salad, cucumber and a nice lime based dressing. The chimichanga itself was OK. It wasn't fried quite right...I think this may have been due to it being put in a pan of oil rather that a really hot deep fat fryer. What was surprising was the fact it was actually shredded beef inside. So +10 points for offering the better option, but -10 points for having an inaccurate menu. The shredded beef mixture was quite wet...not machaca but impressively close...
My date was nice and the food was edible. Unfortunately neither of them win a repeat night out with me. I think I am just really hard to please particularly when it comes to men and Mexican. Loco Mexicano is doing something right...they know how to please the general public. The place was packed! The prices are cheap and they have a menu that is diverse with enough Mexican sounding items that for most (probably nearly all) visitors they appear totally Mexican. I don't think they will be bothered that this Arizona girl will not be returning
However, this meal has inspired me to begin the search for something better...there must be a place in London that tastes like Mexico.
If you find yourself in Tucson and want to taste a chimichanga at the place where they claim it all began...find your way to El Charro...be sure to get the shredded beef (machaca)...