Ruffians Recommends - London’s Best Tacos
Who doesn’t love a taco? It’s everything you need in one handy, palm sized morsel.
There’s the heat from the chilli, the zing from the salsa and the crunch of the veg. And that’s before we’ve discussed the star of the show, which can be picked from a wide range of mouth-watering options including crispy fried fish, pulled pork or jackfruit.
It’s also one of those things that many of us will struggle to recreate fully at home. Sure, we can all chuck together a half decent fajita, but how many of us have the time, energy or space to slow roast a whole joint of lamb for hours on end or create the perfectly balanced spice blend for your marinade? Not many I imagine.
So, what better reasons to let the professionals do it for us? And with so many options across the Capital we’re spoilt for choice, from slick chains to independent neighbourhood spots. Here we take a look at a few of Ruffians favourites.
Santo Remedio (London Bridge) - Barbacoa Lamb Shank
Santo Remedio has two London outposts, one on Tooley Street in the shadow of London Bridge station and a smaller Shoreditch Tacqueria. Both serve a delicious range of taco’s from the customary (pulled pork, Baja fish) to the more unusual (sashimi tuna, soft shell crab).
At the larger London Bridge restaurant they also offer a range of large sharing dishes to create your own tacos at the table, and these really are a cut above. There is the main event, tortillas and sides all served on a large platter for everyone to dig into.
There is a beef short rib option and a whole wood-fired seabass, both of which are great but, for us, the barbacoa lamb shank steals the show.
A whole, slow cooked joint with tender meat that falls off the bone is combined with pink pickled onions, lamb jus and chickpeas. In short, it’s an absolute banger.
The restaurant itself has a lovely vibe too, with a homely and cosy feel without being too kitschy.
El Pastor (London Bridge) - El Pastor
El Pastor was set up by the founders to bring an authentic flavour of Mexico to London following their decade long residency at cult Mexico City nightclub, El Colmillo. They now have three restaurants across the city.
The OG (and our favourite) is a busy spot under the railway arches on the fringes of the iconic Borough Market, and it has long been regarded as one of the hottest taco tickets in town.
There is a wide offering of corn encased goodness here, but so confident were they in their pork and pineapple based speciality that they named their business after it, and rightly so.
Rotating mesmirizingly behind the chefs in the open kitchen is the vertical spit of pork shoulder and charred pineapple, just waiting for layers to be shaved off and brought to your table.
Be warned, this stuff is fiercely addictive. Order more than you imagine you’ll need or you’ll be calling over the waiter before the last bite hits your gut.
Breddo’s Tacos (Clerkenwell) - Kung Pao Pork Belly
Breddo’s started life as a humble street food stand, set up by two guys who took inspiration from their travels across Mexico and America.
Fast forward over a decade and they now have restaurants in London, Liverpool, Manchester and even Oslo. Oh, and a cookbook.
Anyway, five odd years back they opened their first ‘bricks and mortar’ eaterie in a petite space on a low-key street in Clerkenwell.
I remember visiting in the early days and it was buzzing! They’d always be rammed but you could pop over to the boozer opposite and they’d call you when a table came free. Once inside there were vinyls spinning, mezcal flowing and excellent taco’s being dished up. I haven’t been back for a while but I hope it’s still the same.
The menu was ever-changing but the star of the show, and thankfully apparently still a regular option, was the kung pao pork belly taco. Served with jalapeno, sichuan pepper and spring onion, it’s fusion at it’s finest!
Temper (Soho) - Cheeseburger
Just when you thought it couldn’t get weirder than kung pao pork belly, right?
Temper opened their Soho basement smokehouse to high acclaim in 2016 and, under the guidance of highly regarded head chef Neil Rankin. They now have four further sites in London, in Covent Garden, The City, Canary Wharf and Shoreditch.
They made their name by using open fire to perfectly char top drawer meat from English farms, with steaks and tacos at the forefront of their offering. And these gurus of the flame pulled off a stroke of genius when they created the cheeseburger taco.
A mini patty sits atop a corn taco and some next level burger sauce and below some chopped green chilli and a lime wedge. A more spectacular marriage of two entirely different entities hasn’t been seen since Romeo and Juliet, but thankfully this has a less dramatic ending.