These days there’s no lack of quantity when it comes to tacos in London, but the quality remains thoroughly so-so. That said, there are a few restaurants in London making a variety of tacos, made with quality tortillas and toppings that offer both consistently delicious tacos and also a necessary pile of napkins.
Unlike the palm-sized tortillas that many taquerias opt for, Sonora specialises in larger, 7” vinyl-sized tortillas that have been cooked with goose fat, lard, or vegetable oil - all to meltingly excellent results. On top of these, the stall in London Fields piles on a choice of barbacoa, carne con chile, chuck steak, or napales, plus dollops of chile colorado and salsa verde. All perfectly moist and messy mouthfuls, though it’s the barbacoa that reigns supreme. Cheese crust - which is as good as it sounds - is a non-negotiable extra on all.
Bake Street is best known as a brilliant brunch spot in between Stoke Newington and Hackney Downs. Its weekend menu has become the stuff of legend, not least because of its sensationally rich and moreish tacos. The lamb birria - so rich, so soft, and just a little cheesy - tastes like it’s been slow cooked to D’Angelo, and a pot of meaty birria consommé (for dipping and sipping) on the side is a must. Other options include migas con chorizo (homemade chorizo with scrambled eggs, cheese crisp, salsa) or migas con potatos (with crispy potatoes instead of chorizo).
Not to do SE8 dirty, but there’s something a little Pleasantville-like about La Chingada’s spot in Surrey Quays. The tiny Mexican taqueria with a day-glo chicken shop aesthetic is a grenade of colour and vibrancy on an otherwise nondescript road. Its tacos act in much the same way. The al pastor, chunks of glistening marinated pork with onion and punches of green and red salsa, plus a sweet slither of pineapple, is good. But it’s the suadero taco - confit beef brisket with onion, coriander, and a dash of deep brown habanero salsa - and the chorizo taco - a vehicle for vivid red sausage oil - that are your essential orders.
London’s good taco scene is small, but none of the establishments where you can actually take a seat and get down and dirty with them are quite as small as Homies On Donkeys. The little, graffiti-clad, hip hop-loving Walthamstow taqueria is barely even corridor-sized (a Sylvanian families corridor, perhaps) but there’s nothing small about their tacos. Served up by Smokey, owner and taco maestro, these packed tortillas come with fat chunky marinaded prawns (the camaron enchilado) or, even better, the cochinito, slow-cooked port butt heavy on chipotle and dreamily paired with a cold beer from the fridge.
Back in the days of Kate Moss, Pete Doherty and thousands of column inches on ‘festival fashion’, Taquería was the place to be. The Notting Hill spot was originally a stall and has since established itself as a reliable spot for al pastor, baja fish, and ‘roadside’ chicken tacos. The menu has grown significantly since the early days on Portobello Road, but it’s still a reliable choice when you’re in the mood for tacos.