New Wave Mexican
New Wave Mexican
Our Future Trends Tracker states a 17% YOY growth of Mexican cuisine, a firm family favourite, however it also says that comfort is giving way to adventure, so are we ready to move on from chili con carne, the dish that apparently holds status as the most ‘famous’ Mexican dish in the UK with 98% of respondents having heard of it [Source: Statisca]. Strictly speaking chili con carne is actually a Tex Mex dish, a fusion of Mexican & U.S. American cuisine, specifically from the state of Texas. As are fajitas which You Gov tell us are the UK’s most popular Mexican dish, Mexican being the third most popular ethnic cuisine here in the UK. Popularity saw a particular increase during Veganuary 2021, appearing in 21% of social media posts up from 18% in 2020 [Source: Delve on behalf of Santa Maria], tacos & wraps receiving the most attention, followed by nachos, fajitas & quesadillas. The term ‘Mexitarian’ has been used to name this trend, with brands such as Wahaca, Mestizo & Club Mexicana focussing on providing plenty of vegan choices 2022 statistics are looking just as healthy.
There is so much more to discover though than loaded nachos, heavy with melted cheese, salsa & guacamole, finished with sage green vinegary jalapenos. Layers of flavour: warmth, spiciness, earthiness, smokiness… Rene Redzepi clearly understood this stating that Mexico was ‘home to one of the most exciting cuisines I have ever tasted: as old as time & yet so relevant. Full of ingredients I never knew existed.’ His last residency in 2017 based in Tulum, Mexico, in collaboration with former Noma sous chef Rosio Sanchez & Santiago Lastra.
The three core staples of Mexican cuisine are corn, beans & chilis. While Tejano Tex-Mex from Norteno (the northern region) is most familiar to us, regional cuisines, particularly Pueblan, Yucatan & Oaxacan dishes are making their presence felt on menus.
Poblano cuisine from Mexico City & the state of Puebla, home to the iconic mole poblano, the rich, complex sauce of dried chillies, seeds, nuts & chocolate. Yucatan, steeped in Mayan culinary heritage, influences from African, Caribbean & the Middle East. The ‘four pillars of Mayan cooking: achiote, citrus, habanero & smoke, ingredients used to make their infamous recados (seasoning pastes.) Oxacan, also known as the ‘land of seven moles’: amarillo, chichilo, coloradito, negro, manchamanteles, rojo & verde, but also is the primary exporter of Mezcal, the drinks intrinsic smokiness from cooking the agave inside earthen pits filled with wood & charcoal giving a richer, sweeter taste distinguishing it from Tequila where the agave is generally steamed. Also famed for chocolate production, an ancient beverage ’tejate’ or ‘drink of the gods’ made with mamey seeds, cacao beans & flowers & masa.
Not forgetting the much-loved tortilla: flour tortillas reign in northern Mexico, a myriad of forms: the smaller rounds that we readily recognise to the giant Sonoran sobaqueras or ‘tortillas de agua’, made by hand-stretching a thin dough over hands & arms. Corn tortillas rule central & south Mexico; traditional made from kernels that have been treated with an alkaline solution, usually calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), the process known as nixtamalization.
Chefs Leading the way…
A huge congratulations to Kol, who this year have been awarded a Michelin star, Mexican at its finest in Marylebone & definitely one to visit. Chef patron, Santiago Lastra, (Noma Mexico 2017); cites Kol as a ‘concept born on the beach in Tulum… representing Mexican cuisine in an authentic way, a cuisine rooted in tradition but always evolving & adapting.’ Lastra uses the finest of British produce, championing wild food & seasonality to create his unique menus. Pop into the Mezcaleria for Mexican spirits & ‘antojitos’, flavours of Mexican street food at its best, treat yourself to the Chefs Table Experience, showcasing an ever-changing tasting menu from the Kol test kitchens.
@kol.restaurant – Tostada, confit chalk stream trout, beans, berries, wild garlic mayo
Mextlapique, an indigenous method of cooking, fish wrapped in corn husks
Keep an eye on Michelin starred, ex Alinea, chef Alex Stupak at Empellon in New York, winner of the James Beard Award for the ‘best new restaurant’. They say that Stupak ‘makes the case that Mexican food should be as esteemed as the highest French cooking.’ Its not just savoury at Empellon, with Stupak’s patisserie background desserts are amazing: margarita marshmallow with Sal de Gusano & finger lime cells; corn masa mochi with blue corn tejuino sorbet. Empellon Taqueria are his diffusion venues serving up and endless variety of tacos stuffed full of imaginative & flavoursome ingredients.
@empellon – Apple confit with candied tomatillos, Hoja Santa & Tonka Bean Ice Cream
Chorizo & queso fundido
If you missed Oswaldo Olivia last summer stinting at Carousel you should perhaps take a trip to Mexico City and feast at Lorea: technique, skill & passion sit alongside ethical & sustainable delivery, championing peak season produce, expect daily tasting menus showcasing vegetables plus a little science thrown into the mix. Don’t miss the chance to visit Filigrana run by the incredibly talented Martha Ortiz, exquisitely presented dishes, bursting with flavour and colour. Back in London, you could do worse than enjoying weekend brunch at Madera at Treehouse where Mexican born chef Ximena Gayosso Gonzalez is currently over-seeing the stoves offering her ‘unique interpretations of Mexican food and cocktails. Madera at Treehouse London sits at the intersection of elevated Mexican cuisine and experiential dining. As the little sister to Los Angeles-based Toca Madera, this ingredient-forward concept is built for the bustling London diner.
Smoke & fire? Then the Temper experience is worth it for the theatre alone. They purchase slow-reared, pasture raised, British rare-breed cow, in-house butchering whole carcasses to maximise flavour & minimize waste. The Soho restaurant features a 6m long central fire-pit. Menu hi-lights include a smoked bone marrow with tortilla & green sauce, beef brisket, Tajin & paratha & a cauliflower mole @temperlondon
Less formal, just as tasty: Breddos Tacos, originally a ‘makeshift car park taco shack’ from Nud Dudhia & Chris Whitney now has several more permanent homes across London & two in Oslo. the menus inspired by their travels across the Americas feature corn tortilla tacos filed with Masa fried chicken or tempura cod & hand-made flour tortillas with Birria de Res, braised beef shin & short rib with guajillo & ancho chili or smoky aubergine with Halloumi and a garlic crema. More recently they have added to the portfolio with Madre, one apiece in Manchester & Liverpool, a collaboration with Sam Grainger, Owain Williams & Chris Edwards of Belzan. The taquerias serve authentic tacos & tostadas including classics pineapple chilli spiked pork al pastor, smoky carne asada and grilled ‘elote’ true Mexican street food, sweetcorn smothered in cream, cheese & spices. @thisismadre
Mestizo restaurant & tequila bar, widely considered one of the more authentic Mexican restaurants in London, the name suggests ‘mezcla’ or fusion. Check out the taco tray, you can also browse their Mexican market & pick up ingredients to recreate at home. @mestizorestaurant
From finest dining to QSR… Wahaca, Club Mexicana, Chilango… the list grows, they all serve the rich, colourful & vibrant food of Mexico; food that is perfect for sharing, for getting a little messy with. Food packed with flavour: the heat of the chilli, a spark of lime, the sheer depth & smokiness that is so worth the move from loaded nachos & your standard chili con carne, waken up your taste buds, submerge yourself into the culinary heritage & eat with sheer abandonment and joy, it is impossible not to smile whilst eating Mexican style.
@wahaca – Chargrilled hispi cabbage, cashew nut mole, pomegranate
Cheese & chilli croquetas
@clubMexicana, short rib tacos, lime
Our development team here at FIS have a wealth of knowledge and experience across multi cuisines, looking for inspiration to modernise your menus then get in contact to discuss development support.