Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Breddos, Clerkenwell

It was, up until a couple of weeks ago, the one cuisine that this country hadn't yet quite got to grips with. Mexican food in the UK was, for almost as long as I've been alive, only known by way of rotten Tex-Mex brands like Las Iguanas or Chiquito, and those Old El Paso kits from the supermarket that made everything taste exactly the same no matter what ingredients you throw at them. To anyone lucky enough to have tried the real deal in Mexico or Southern California, trying to explain why Mexican food was one of the truly great global cuisines was nigh-on impossible - a bit like trying to extol the virtues of Italian food to someone whose only exposure to it hitherto had been a tin of Heinz ravioli. Not that there's anything wrong with Heinz ravioli of course, but just try telling an Italian that.

But here we are and whatever else 2016 will be remembered for (and don't get me started on that) there is at least one shining beacon of redemption, that Breddos have opened up shop on Goswell Road and finally - finally - decent Mexican cuisine has landed in London.

Everything to enjoy about Breddos is summed up in one dish - their "Baja fish taco", about which I can lavish no higher praise than say it's every bit as good as the ones they serve up at Machatlán Mariscos Chávez in Tijuana - moist, fresh fish, a delicate thin batter, a chilli-mayonnaise dressing and all resting on a simply stunning tortilla, soft and earthy, that speaks of many man-hours of research, training and experimentation. So for most of you, homesick (Baja) Californians in particular, that should be all you need to know - the Breddos fish taco is about as good as fish tacos can get.

But why stop there? Because there's more. Another must-order from the taco section is the masa-fried chicken, which would be a wonderful bit of chicken-craft even without being complimented by that zingy chilli-mayo and the loving embrace of one of Those tortillas.

And the beef short rib, luxuriant and rich, sharpened with something called "lemon onions" and a neat pile of fresh coriander. I have a sneaking suspicion you could pile up much more inferior ingredients than these on Those tortillas and for it to still taste wonderful but that's not to take anything away from the obvious effort and skill that's gone into the toppings.

I should say not all the tacos are wonderful. I didn't much like the sweetbreads, which hadn't been prepped properly and was a bit like chewing on fried testicle (and I should know). But how fantastic they were even attempting a sweetbreads taco - I'm sure, given time, it will be just as good as the rest.

And anyway, that's just the tacos. More delights can be found elsewhere on the menu, for instance this pork chop with grilled spring onions and lime chutney. The meat itself was perfectly seasoned and full of porky juices, but even better than that was working through the meat-soaked onions beneath; I found dangling them into my mouth from above, calçot-style, worked best for this but you may very well have your own, less extravagant, method.

In much the same way as I'll forgive a mis-step on the sweetbread taco, I'll forgive them the sea urchin tostada, which I'm imagining only truly hardcore uni fans will appreciate. I have been known to enjoy sea urchin in the past, but only under very, shall we say, controlled conditions. The bravery of essentially serving it on a cracker, in all its bright orange, fishy funk, is certainly to be commended, I just couldn't bring myself to enjoy it. The octopus one, though, is much nicer. So have that.

Far more accessible, and easily enjoyable, is the Queso Fundido, basically melted cheese with crisps for dipping and so therefore why the hell wouldn't you. The cheese is studded with chorizo, for extra meaty punch, and the "crisps" are actually "nixtamalised potatoes", the same process (don't ask me) that fluffs up the corn tortillas. Nixtamalised potatoes are a fantastic thing, light and potatoey but strong enough to withstand a hefty scoop of melted cheese, which of course is extremely important.

Finally, Breddos do a very decent ceviche, perhaps not as knockout as the ones I've tried over in Baja itself but still well worth the money. It's beautifully presented too, in one of those thick earthenware bowls and dressed with various colourful bits of this and that.

So yes, I enjoyed Breddos and if you've got any sense of fun and adventure, so will you. And in fact, judging by the crowds on all of my visits so far, so is London already - it seems it's not only taco-starved foodies that have been waiting for a decent Mexican joint to open; this is a cuisine whose time has finally come. So for fantastic food, a great time (try the Mezcal) and a bill that won't break the bank, Breddos is to be welcomed with sticky, lime-soaked, open arms. What it represents for the future of Mexican food in London, though, is what's truly exciting.


I was invited to one press dinner at Breddos, but went back twice on my own wallet because I liked it so much.

1 comment:

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