As you’ll know if you’ve read my reviews of Breddos and DF Mexico, my love for good tacos knows no bounds. Typically, El Pastor opened right next to my old office right after I’d stopped working there, so I’ve been meaning to head down and try it for a while.
Nestled under the railway arches of London Bridge, brainchild of the guys behind Barrafina – arguably London’s best tapas joint – El Pastor has had nothing but rave reviews since it opened. I went on a Friday evening expecting long queues and great food – I only got one of the two… luckily it was the great food! You can’t book so be warned – your whole group needs to be present to be seated. We got seated pretty much straight away as a lot of the parties waiting were missing a couple of people when tables became available so weren’t allowed in.
Inside it’s all exposed walls, dim lighting and bustle – very on trend but effective all the same. It’s not the place to come for an intimate discussion but perfect for a relaxed, informal evening with friends.
We ordered some totopos (homemade tortilla chips) with guacamole and, absolutely starving, inhaled the whole lot before ordering more! The portion of guacamole was generous for two and tasted zingy and creamy at the same time. The Macabeo wine we had a carafe of (later followed by another, very reasonable £18, bottle), was lovely too – very light and far too easy to drink!
All the tacos come as a portion of two, so we shared everything we ordered so that we could try as much as possible. We didn’t bother with starters other than the guacamole and dove straight into the tacos and quesadillas.
The signature taco ‘Al Pastor’ with its 24-hour marinated pork shoulder, pineapple, coriander and onion was the undeniable star of the show. It was oh-so delicious, even writing this is making me want to return for one. The soft corn tortilla was the perfect accompaniment to the tender, flavoursome pork and sweet, juicy pineapple. It was juicy but not soggy, full of different flavours but not heavy. If you go to El Pastor, make sure you do not miss this dish.
We also tried the ‘Choripapa’ taco with chorizo, potato and salsa verde. It was still very tasty but not quite as brilliant as the Al Pastor; the oiliness of the chorizo, balanced well by the potato and light, fresh salsa.
The gringa quesadilla was filled with equally tender pork and melted Oaxaca cheese – which reminds me of a Mozzarella type texture when melted, stringy but with maybe a bit more bite. It went particularly well with the slightly spicy Verde Fresca (serranos, tomatillos and coriander) that we had ordered earlier.
The only let down of the meal came at the end, we were offered a beef rib special with cheese (I didn’t catch quite what it was). I love beef short rib so agreed to try it but when it came there was so much melted cheese that had gone cold that the whole thing had set into a lukewarm rubbery disc of slightly dry beef and cheese. I think had it have been hotter it would have been less disc-like but although the flavour was okay, we weren’t that fond of it and I wouldn’t bother ordering that again.
One of my pet hates with restaurants is table time limits. Having worked in restaurants, I do understand from a commercial point of view why they have them and, to be fair to El Pastor, they were very clear with us from the start that we had a two-hour table limit, however we got chatting and overran. This meant I couldn’t order the Bounty dessert which I’d wanted to try and when I mentioned hopefully that I was eager to try the Bounty dessert I’d had my eye on, they just said I’d have to come back. It was totally our fault for not checking the time, but who wants to be clock-watching when you’re having a lovely meal?! It was a shame and I would have liked dessert but ultimately it was our fault, so less of a complaint about El Pastor, and more of a general gripe with restaurants as a whole!
Overall, I loved our meal at El Pastor, which came in at a very acceptable £71 including service, a carafe and a bottle of wine and enough food for the two of us. I will undoubtedly be returning soon. Though I absolutely love Breddo’s tacos the eat-in experience at El Pastor, for me, was better.
Nearest tube/rail: London Bridge
What are your favourite tacos in London? Where else do I need to try? Let me know in the comments below.