I’ve always loved great Mexican food. Growing up in the USA, authentic Mexican and Tex Mex joints are aplenty and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a place to get your taco fix. When I moved to London, I found it really difficult to find an awesome Mexican restaurant go-to. Sure, there are tons of them around, but none really knocked my socks off, until we ventured to El Pastor in Borough Market…
El Pastor is owned by the Hart Brothers, who also run the highly acclaimed and Michelin-awarded restaurant Barrafina as well as Quo Vardis. With a high calibre of restaurants under their belt, we had a good feeling about just how good El Pastor would be. The little restaurant is housed under a quirky railway arch in London’s bustling Borough Market. They don’t take bookings, but the tables can turn pretty fast. My advice would be to turn up early in the evening to avoid disappointment or visit during off-peak hours.
Now, on to the amazing food. El Pastor is a taqueria and their speciality is serving tacos with tortillas made from scratch, in-house, every single day alongside fresh salsas, Mexican beers, mezcal and more. Ciaran and I visited at the tail end of the summer and snagged a seat outside on a warm evening. The menu is made up of house-made salsas, starters, tacos (2 per portion), sharing plates, quesadillas, “other things” and desserts.
Their bebidas and Mezcal selection is fantastic, cheap and cheerful, just like the rest of the menu. I was really tempted by the house margarita but went for a small carafe of Spanish white instead (£10), which is crisp and refreshing. Alongside our drinks, we ordered chips and guac (£6.50) to start, which is delicious but my second piece of advice is to skip all starters and indulge in as many tacos as you can!
We ordered the classic “Al Pastor” tacos (£6.50) with 24-hour marinated pork shoulder, caramelised pineapple, guacamole taquero, white onion and coriander on two freshly made Mexican heirloom corn tortillas. One bite of these tortillas will send you to taco heaven. All of the components create these intense smokey, sweet, savoury flavours that dance on your tongue and gets better bite after bite.
We indulged in the Short Rib sharing plate (£17.50), which serves between 2-4 people depending on how hungry you are. This short rib is probably up there with the best I’ve had – so tender it simply falls off the bone the moment you run your fork through it. It has a chipotle-muscovado-coriander seed spice rub that wafts through the air and tastes magical. The fat on the short rib has been rendered off and the meat melts in your mouth like butter. It’s rich, smokey and sweet – there is a lot of depth to this dish. We load our tortillas up with short rib, pickled onions, coriander, and a delicious salsa La Maya – a tangy but sweet pineapple habanero sauce that adds another depth of flavour to the short rib. For an even better treat, add roast bone barrow to the mix (£3.50) and don’t be afraid to ask for more tortillas.
We finished off the entire short rib and as full as we were, tempted to order another round of tacos because we didn’t want the dinner to end. It’s safe to say that El Pastor is my new favourite go-to and I spent the next few days raving about it to everyone I know. A lot of my friends ended up going and loving it just as much as I do! So I am now raving about it on here, for all of you to see and hopefully visit a well to experience it in all its glory.
El Pastor – 7A Stoney St, London SE1 9AA
P.S. For those who love to cook at home, Tortilleria El Pastor has recently opened nearby at 58 Stanworth Street, SE1 3NY. It’s a tortilla factory and eat-in taco bar, which also sells fresh tortillas, chillies, tomatillos and everything you need to bring the El Pastor experience home. You can even book out the Tortilleria for your own private taco party 🙂
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