Another day, another taco; Del74 hits Clapton with an almighty dose of Mexican goodness…

Right now, there are more taco joints in London than well-dressed socialite wannabes at Pippa Middleton’s wedding and Del74 in Clapton is one of the newest spots at which to get your fill of mezcal, margaritas, Modelos and TBH, pretty great tacos.

Originally a pop up and now a bricks-and-mortar dive in the heart of Hackney, this place is loud, friendly, fast paced and low key and comes from Enrique Vivas (Boho Mexica) and Jorge Felizardo (Taberna Mercado). The menu’s small – bonus points as always for anywhere that doesn’t make me spend longer reading the menu than eating the food – and, in a nice quirk that seemingly pays homage to classic high street champion Argos, comes as a piece of paper for you tick what you want. FYI, in case you’re wondering, that will be pretty much everything.

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Six tacos and 3 quesadillas cover everything from barbecoa to steak to roasted vegetables and ooze off the plate & down your arms in a spectacular show of drippy, delicious flavour.

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Guacamole is as creamy, salty and chunky as nature – or those super clever Aztecs at least – intended it to be and, washed down with frosty beers or sweet and sour watermelon margaritas, it’s the only way to start.

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Make sure you order the tilapia – savoury chunks of fish and a mountain of crunchy, tangy slaw – and the cochinita pibil – absurdly juicy pork topped with avocado and pickled pink onions. There were no napkins left on our table by the time we were done which is frankly as it should be.

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You might not imagine you’ll end up spending the whole night here and it would, in fact, be an excellent place in which to kick off your night…however, 2 rounds of drinks and 3 rounds of tacos down, I’d go so far as to say you probably will end up spending all night here – just make sure to ask for extra napkins.

Killer Tomato + Cheeseburger Tacos = the ultimate hybrid of the greatest foods on earth…

Tacos.

Like the final of Bake Off, my desert island food list and learning the words to the entire ‘La La Land’ soundtrack, this is something I take very seriously.

When they’re bad, I’m not happy and my less-than-perfect poker face will do the honours and let you know. Cheap meat cooked badly and stuffed begrudgingly into heavy, lumpy tortillas does not a good Mexican time make but when they’re good? Oh man, they totally transport me back to downtown LA, to dives where I’ve feasted like a fricking queen, to beach-side shacks where the juices have dribbled down my hands and onto the sand beneath my feet, to meals I’ll never forget and have tried to replicate & recreate in every other part of the world I’ve visited since.

FYI, we all realise I’m talking about soft corn tortillas that fit perfectly in your hand here and not the splintery shells that wage a personal war on your poor innocent gums, yes? Ok good, just checking.

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This adoration of the taco makes its’ current resurgence in London something I’m damn happy about and when a work colleague – who you better believe I’ll be shaking the hand, patting the back and kissing the cheek of tomorrow morning – told me about a little spot on Goldhawk Road that served up awesome reincarnations of these moreish beauties, I’d been waiting for the right time to go west (and let’s just pause for a second to remind ourselves of how many great songs those kings of the ’80’s had) and get stuck in. Well, thanks to a Saturday date night with J, Sean Lock and a few thousand stand up comedy fans in Hammersmith, that time arrived this weekend.

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Painting Oxford St with the colours & flavours of Mexico at Corazon…

Tacos, ah tacos. I have an eternal hunger for them that I spend extravagant amounts of time trying to fulfil; my all-time favourites come from a glorious little bolthole on Sunset Strip called Pinches, closely followed by ex-Noma pastry chef Rosio Sanchez’s new venture ‘Hija de Sanchez’ in the perhaps less-obvious-for-Mexican-food setting of Copenhagen.

Here in London, Taqueria in Westbourne Grove has long held my heart but I’m constantly on the lookout for new spots that’ll give me my fix of soft homemade tacos filled with messy hunks of meat, spicy vegetables & squidgy cheese so new spot Corazon was always going to be high on my ever-inflating-like-Violet-Beauregard, culinary hit list. img_8973

Boasting a great central location just off Oxford St means that I now have an actual reason to gird my loins and do battle down London’s busiest road, something which I’d normally walk twelve miles out of the way to avoid. The vibe inside is bright, clean & fresh, dressed in shades of white, green & grey with a decent sized bar to perch at if you’re dining on the run. The space is big enough to make you feel that there’s likely to be a buzz when busy but not so vast that the back wall of the place seems Mo Farah distance away. Service was super friendly and genuine throughout and plates were delivered with a smile and a timely check back that everything was ok.

The menu is small but there’s enough on it that’s both familiar and interesting to convince you this is a place that knows its stuff; I’m not a fan of TGI length menus that take an hour just to scan only to find that there’s so much stuff on it, I’m left seriously doutbing that the kitchen actually know what they’re doing.

If you order only one thing – not something I’ve ever been able to do when eating out – make sure it’s the Sikil Pak, a Mayan spiced pumpkin seed dip served with jicama & cucumber. It might resemble the ‘before’ in an 90’s makeover movie but it’s absolutely delicious. Silky & rich with a slight oiliness from the seeds and a refined earthiness, it doesn’t taste like any dip I’ve had before but it tastes a heck of a lot like a dip I’ll be having again and again now.

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You’ll find this place is free from enchiladas and fajitas but heralds tostadas and tacos that are served two per portion with prices starting at £6 and topping out at £11. Carnitas tacos were dripping-down-to-your-elbow fantastic and Carne Asada’s blue corn tortillas added a nice flavour to well-cooked meat that had been marinaded in orange, soy and chipotle.

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The beer battered Baja fish will draw me back for a return visit (well, that and the marshmallow frosted Tres Leches cake…I’m only human after all) whilst a trip here over the festive period offered the chance to indulge in a parsnip purée & Brussels sprouts taco you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Although there’s a nice selection of other dishes including Pozole Rojo – a pork shoulder stew – and Esquites – a herbed corn dish – the coffee & ancho chile braised short rib was a little underwhelming in flavour. I was hoping for a real gut kick of intensity however it ended up being more mellow than memorable.

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Wash it all down in the evening with a beer, a margarita or a cocktail – Trump’s Wall is alarmingly current – or reclaim your lunch break, come at 12pm and order horchata; Corazon’s version is a gorgeous take on the traditional Mexican drink which is made with rice & almond milk and agave and comes heavy-on-the-cinnamon & served deliciously cold.

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I’m not sure this is the place I’d head to for a long dinner over a pitcher of cocktails in the evening – the thought of having to fight my way out and up Oxford St again afterwards puts me off a bit TBH – but I’d absolutely come back for a well timed, well priced, well flavoured lunch and if you want a respite from the crowds outside and a little taste of sunnier, spicier climes, I’d urge you to do the same.