Do you want to guess how many times I’ve heard about an amazing Mexican place in London? Sadly I really have no idea. It’s happened too many times. The most recent of these hyped up Mexican restaurants is Santo Remedio. Everyone loves it. EVERYONE. I haven’t read a bad review yet, plus I was told it was better than my beloved Molé Taco Bar. I was aching to try it. I needed to. One small problem is that they only take reservations for a large party. This means if you want to have dinner at a normal time, you might as well forget it. Luckily, we were seeing a show at 8 pm which gave us ample time to show up when they opened at six to have a meal.
When we arrived at minutes after six, it was already half full. The popularity really astounded me and made me believe that the restaurant was as good as I heard. I mean, why else would everyone be there? Also I feel this is a good time to mention how miniscule the restaurant is. The dining area should seat around 10-12 people comfortably, but they’ve attempted to squeeze at least 20 people into the dining area. There was approximately two inches between our table and the adjacent tables. What does this actually mean? It means you are basically dining with your neighbors. During the course of my meal, I found out about my neighbor’s opinions on Brexit, that she hates octopus but liked squid – sometimes! – that she eats crab, but won’t eat insects. Fascinating, right? In reality, it basically ruins the atmosphere of your meal as you can’t hear your dining companion nor the server when you come to your table unless you scream, “What? I can’t hear you!” very loudly on their direction when they ate mumbling quietly under the din of the patrons.
I could already tell that my partner was getting annoyed by the minute, but I was still in a haze dreaming about the glorious food that I had heard so much about. We ordered two Mezcalitas to drink (as we are both huge fans of Mezcal). Foodwise, I had to try the guacamole with grasshopper as every review waxes lyrical about how fantastic it is. I’m also not afraid of eating bugs, as previously I’ve eaten ants in two different Scandinavian countries.
I ordered the Molé chicken wings and the beef barbecoa tacos off the regular menu and the octopus tostadas and the pig ear tacos off the specials board. I also went for a side of the cactus slaw because I love cactus and, well, vegetables. Sadly, they seem to have cut back a lot on the menu, as the dishes that sounded fantastic online (ox cheek, octopus) are no longer on the menu, and it’s basically guacamole, tacos and sides.
So on the plus side, the cocktail was fantastic. It had the right mix of sweet and savory and really went down a treat. Unfortunately, the cocktails may have been the best part of the meal. The beef barbecoa tacos were the best thing we ate, if not a bit on the small side for the price (much like all the dishes, but maybe they assumed small restaurants could get away with smaller plates of food). The beef was rich and succulent and had an amazing level of spice.
If only all the food was up to the same level. My partner and I were mixed about the pig eat tacos. I loved the fatty texture of the rendered ears, but he found them to be fairly horrible. The octopus tostadas had a nice, light flavor that you would expect from a ceviche, but the octopus was on the chewy side. The Molé chicken wings were soft and succulent, but the molé glaze was lacking in punch. You know when you make a better molé sauce at home that there is a major problem. The slaw had very little cactus for what was advertised as cactus slaw, and I thought it was an okay side, but my husband found it bland and barely ate any (of course that was largely in part to a lack of cactus.)
And where do I begin with the guac? The guac itself was heavily laden with tomatoes which indicates to me that they are trying to dilute the avocado from the dish. And tastewise, there wasn’t much there. It suffered from a severe lack of flavor and seasoning. It was surprisingly bland considering the multitude of rave reviews, and the grasshoppers added nothing to the dish. Bites of guac with them or without them had the same blandness, even when I tried a bite that was mostly grasshopper. The addition of the grasshopper really seemed to be gimmicky rather than trying to elevate the dish in any sort of fashion.
And what can I say about the service? Well once we placed our order it was practically non-existent except to bring our food to our table. But once they brought our last plate of food we wer3 practically ignored until I flagged someone down and asked for the bill. Then I had to flag down another server to ask for the bill as the first one had completely forgotten.
For me, Santo Remedio is going down as one of those over-hyped-yet-not-very-good restaurants that seem to plague London these days. One of those places that everyone loves because they are told to, and not because it’s actually a good restaurant. Yes, the food is probably better than your average Mexican in London, but the loud, crowded atmosphere really puts a dampener on any sort of enjoyment a person could have while dining out. Santo Remedio definitely needs a lot of work to put it on par with the Mexican restaurants that are actually good in London.
22 Rivington Street
London, EC2A 3DY