On Wednesday evening, I ventured to London to see some wonderful friends from University and our original plan was to go to Wagamama for dinner. (I have been back in England for over a week and had still not yet been, which for me is quite remarkable! Fear not, however, as I polished off a delicious Wagas meal last night.) I quickly realised that Wagamama was a ridiculous plan as we had the whole of London’s culinary scene to choose from, so why go to a chain?
Instead, we went to a fun little Mexican restaurant called Lupita on Villiers Street. Upon hearing this suggestion, I immediately thought it was an excellent choice as ‘Lupita’ is in fact what my mother has always called me. I won’t go into the minor details but let’s just say it has something to do with my height and a magnifying glass…
Lupita (the restaurant) doesn’t look like much from the outside and I was not expecting it to be nearly as busy as it was, particularly on a Wednesday night. (We actually had a 20-minute wait for our table – just the right amount of time to share a bottle of wine at Gordon’s, London’s oldest wine bar, just down the road.)
Inside, there is a buzz as soon as you walk in: the open kitchen in the centre of the restaurant oozes the delicious smell of fresh spices, the Mexican chefs busily preparing each individual dish.
The first thing I spotted on a nearby table and insisted we must order was a huge stone mortar filled with homemade guacamole. We ordered it almost as soon as we were seated, along with a pitcher of margarita. However, it took around 15 minutes before we received our drinks and a further ten minutes before we were served our ‘guacamole artesanal’. When I complained to a waitress, she actually told us they had run out! Perhaps because I had previously spoken to one of the other waiters in Spanish, or perhaps because they sensed that I was a really famous food critic (pah!) our original waiter quickly set up his table and made the guacamole in front of us – two avocados, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños, drizzled with lime juice.
With no intention of being arrogant whatsoever, I do think I can make a better guac than Lupita. It would have benefitted from a pinch of salt and pepper, as it was fairly bland and even the jalapeños did little to enhance the flavour. Nevertheless we wolfed it down with the accompanying tortilla chips!
Five out of the six of us ordered different varieties of burritos: chicken ones, vegetarian ones, steak ones… Wanting to be a little different, I asked my new waiter friend (in Spanish – it helps to have a strange Venezuelan mother) for his recommendation: Alambre with smoked chicken and cheese. This was a bed of corn tortillas topped with Chile poblano, bacon, onions, chicken and cheese, the idea being that you make your own tacos. I wouldn’t say it was the most incredible dish I’d ever tasted but it was certainly interesting. The cheese and the accompanying sauces were really what made it and, considering that these were optional add-ons, without these I’m not sure it warrants a place in the ‘specialities’ section of the menu.
Around the table there was the overall consensus that the food was a little too salty; I think they made up for the forgotten salt in the guacamole by adding extra salt to the mains. As long as there was still margarita in our glasses, however, the salt wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.
For spice fiends (I wasn’t the only one this time), Lupita leaves a lot to be desired. One of the accompanying sauces (apparently called ‘green sauce’?!) certainly helped, but I would recommend asking for extra chilli to really give it a kick. Besides the lack of spice, however, you could definitely taste how fresh the ingredients were.
We had actually paid and were about to leave when we saw on the counter behind us a plate of churros. This was probably the only stage of the meal at which our waiter was very attentive, keen to sell us more! Unable to resist, we shared a plate between us. They were perfectly soft and fluffy, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, served with a pot of dulce de leche: amazing. I will admit here that we had completely polished them off before I realised I had forgotten to take a picture – apologies but they were just too tempting!
The total bill, including (terrible) service, came to £18 each (that’s around HKD220 to my loyal HK readers). I had always thought that dining in HK was a lot cheaper than London but considering we had a (giant) starter, dessert and margaritas on top of our main courses, all for a mere £18, I think I am somewhat mistaken!
13-15 Villiers Street
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7930 5355
Date visited: Wednesday 6th July 2011