Aside from trying to find a place to live and get ready for the arrival of our small human, one of our most crucial priorities upon moving to London was, naturally, to find a good Mexican restaurant. El Pastor, located just beside Borough Market, is the first contender.
Tucked under one of the railway arches, El Pastor is a casual street food joint, and its interiors reflect exactly this, through the use of bare bricks, corrugated metal, neon signage and bright murals.
The first thing to sample at any Mexican restaurant is, of course, the guacamole, which we ordered as soon as we sat down. You can choose between having it served with totopos (tortilla chips) or chicharrones (pork scratchings), which for us was the obvious choice. The guac was wonderfully creamy and packed full of flavour, with decent, yet not overpowering chunks of tomato and onion, whilst the chicharrones were perfect curls of crispy deliciousness that paired exceptionally well.
El Pastor is predominantly a taqueria, so the concise menu is mostly taken up by different flavour combinations piled onto tortillas that are freshly made in-house every day using blue and white Mexican corn. The result is soft and pliable tacos with that all-important gritty, nutty texture.
The pastor de pescado tacos, upon arrival, filled me with a little apprehension, fearing that the strong fishy smell would mean an overpowering fishy flavour. This was, however, absolutely not the case and I really enjoyed the flavour of the chargrilled stonebass paired with caramelised onions, chopped onions and fresh coriander.
The chicken tacos were also delicious, made here not with pulled chicken, as is often the case, but with a large chunk of chipotle and cumin rubbed chicken, nicely char-grilled and topped with a zingy salsa and more coriander.
My favourite of the tacos we tried were definitely the signature al pastor tacos, made using crispy pork shoulder that had been marinated for 24 hours, caramelised pineapple and creamy guacamole. I find that a lot of Mexican restaurants try to create winning tacos by adding all sorts of salsas and marinades, resulting in sloppy tacos that fall apart before they reach your mouth. El Pastor proves that, so long as you have bold, beautiful flavours, there is no need for anything else, and we were able to enjoy the tacos one-handed (a crucial factor according to my self-proclaimed taco expert husband!) with very little mess.
I also adored the gringa quesadilla, made using the same pork as above and melted Oaxaca cheese, served as an open-faced sandwich on a triangular slice of flour tortilla. I had never had a quesadilla that didn’t involve two tortillas to contain the filling. This one was therefore a little harder to manoeuvre to the mouth, but nonetheless delicious and I think the higher meat to tortilla ratio gave the beautiful pork more chance to shine.
The only dish that slightly underwhelmed me was the grilled corn on the cob. Although the charred flavour was lovely against the sweetness of the corn, I thought it could have been cooked just a tad longer and there was nowhere near enough queso fresco for my liking.
Having got a little carried away earlier in the day at Borough Market’s cake stalls, we already had dessert waiting for us at home, so we chose to skip it here and try it next time. Our bill, for a satisfying amount of food, one margarita and a mocktail, plus excellent service, came to GBP55 for the two of us. If El Pastor is an indication of the quality of Mexican food in London, then I think we are going to be very happy here.
6-7A Stoney Street
London SE1 9AA
No reservations, walk-ins only.