El Pastor was supposed to be the little taco restaurant that would finally show us Londoners what real tacos are, especially because the guys behind it have heavy hitters like Barrafina and Quo Vadis on their CV.
And El Pastor can indeed often be a good lesson in taco excellence. But sometimes, it’s also not.
We’ve been to El Pastor many times, and the food on our visits has ranged from just fine, to very good, and back down to comically bad. If there’s anything we can vouch for, it’s that El Pastor is inconsistent.
If you catch the restaurant on a good day, the food has the ability to be the kind of simple pleasure you hope a well-made plate of tacos to be. The tortillas will be fresh, warm, and filled with simple and satisfying things like a firm strip of chargrilled stonebass, or grilled chicken that packs flavour without getting in the way of the tortilla itself. The tuna tostada will have bright, fresh chunks of ruby-red tuna and a pleasant spice that’ll make you want to order another plate.
On a bad day though, you’ll wonder why you even bothered. The tacos might be dry, and the fillings so bludgeoned that you’ll struggle to discern fish from chicken. The raw tuna on that tostada might be gummy like it’s been sitting outside for too long, and the tostada itself may have have the texture of stale bran flakes. And when you hand over 30-odd quid for the privilege, a small part of you might die inside.
It’s a shame, because when it’s good, it’s very good. The space itself is in an old railway arch that feels bang on trend. It’s inviting and looks really cool from the outside, but stepping inside now feels like playing a game of roulette. We still haven’t quite been able to erase the bad times from our memory, but if we were in the neighbourhood and wanted tacos, we could be tempted to give it another shot.
We’ll just be praying that we catch them on a good day.
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Sesame Tuna Tostada
When these are good, they’re excellent. But when they’re bad - well, don’t tell us we didn’t warn you.
Chargrilled Stonebass Tacos
Different to the usual battered Baja-style tacos you get at most restaurants, the grilled fish can be very good when it’s on, but when it isn’t, tastes like crushing disappointment.
These are a pretty low-risk move, and one we’d endorse.
Tacos Al Pastor
These are the El Pastor’s signature taco filling - it’s pork that’s been marinated in chillies and spice, and slowly cooked rotisserie-style over a fire, before being shredded up. They’re actually pretty good, like fresh, warm shawarma - these are usually one of the more consistent options.
We keep trying these, in the hope that they’ll taste better eventually. Sadly, though they should be punchy, they come up curiously bland every time. Pass. Yes, we just said pass on salsa.
You’ll need a hammer and chisel to get through this - it isn’t great. You’re not really here for dessert, but you can get an actual Bounty bar for half the price near the station, if you’re desperate for something sweet.