Fresh, tasty and cheap as chips – you’re going to love this new Mexican pop-up.
Right then. The first thing you need to know is that Chida Cantina no longer does food, at least, they don’t do it themselves. Instead, they’ve invited Mexican street food extraordinaires, The Holy Mountain, to take over their kitchen – which means you can tuck into some seriously tasty morsels.
These guys have been popping up all over town. They had a Tuesday taco slot at East Village in Hyde Park and a Day of the Dead gig at Milo last year, but now they’re taking up residence in Chida for 3 months serving up a menu of tacos, antojitos and desserts. They’re right at home in the city’s bars, because their entire concept is about creating a more relaxed, sociable dining experience.
“It’s an alternative to this old school way of dinner service, with starters, mains and desserts,” Chef & Co-founder Harry Johns told us. “It’s a Mexican way of doing things, where you just come and it’s very relaxed, and it’s chatty, and it’s sharing, and it’s about talking with each other, and with us, the chefs. You have a beer and a bit of food, and then maybe you have another couple of beers and a bit more food, it’s like a long social process.”
The menu is small, but perfectly formed, with a little something for everyone. They’ve got slow-cooked meats, light, flaky fish and oodles of veggie options – their tortillas are gluten-free too, so even coeliacs are sorted. And it’s all designed for sharing. So you can get a couple of taco plates (it’s three for a fiver), dig into their 2 Feet Nachos or snack on their ‘Little Antojitos’.
Whichever you choose, you’re in for a treat, because they’re big on fresh, local produce – and they make almost everything themselves, from scratch that morning. In fact, the only thing they import are the tortillas, and they come straight from Mexico. Everything else, from the hot sauce to the guacamole and the chipotle mayo, is made in-house.
“We love going around the market on a morning and talking to the butchers and talking to the fishmongers and having a personal relationship with these people,” Harry explained. “We make almost everything ourselves from scratch in the morning. We just get in earlier than everyone else and just start cooking earlier, because we are more proud of making everything ourselves. We have to work longer, but it makes it cheaper and it makes it fun, and we feel like we are putting a bit of ourselves on the plate.”
So, enough with the suspense, what are you going to be eating? Well, obviously there are tacos. Some seriously gosh darned tasty tacos. Corn torillas topped with sticky pork belly, apple slaw and chipotle mayo. Not your bag? Maybe you’d prefer spiced jackfruit with pear and kale chicharrone or pork shoulder in tequila and citrus? If Harry had to pick one though, it’d be the fish – theirs is simple, they use fresh, sustainably caught coley, grilled or fried, and serve it with tomato salsa and slaw.
If you want to get a real taste of what they do, in a rather unusual way, try the TV Dinner. You’ll get one of those old-school aluminium trays you used to see in those 90s American sitcoms, and they’ll load it with your choice of any two tacos, as well as house nachos, mountain rice, guac and hot sauce for £9. Not bad, eh?
Not up for tacos? No problem. They’ve got something that’s surprisingly hard to find – torta. These Mexican sandwiches are made with big, sweet buns and loaded with tasty fillings for £5 a pop. It’s something that Sean Balcombe, Harry’s partner in crime, is particularly fond of.
“The first time I had torta, I was in Budapest drinking tequila with some Mexican guys I’d met, and we’d been salsa dancing. We went to a Mexican takeaway and they were outraged that Torta wasn’t on the menu, so we went home and they made it for me,” Sean told us. “We’ve got some really nice brioche buns in, and then you can have any filling from the taco menu, with avocado, chipotle mayo, pickles and mustard.”
If you’ve still got space after all that, they’ve got three damned tempting desserts for you to get stuck into – and they might surprise you. There’s an avocado chocolate pot, caramelised plantain with dark chocolate and condensed milk or why not try Ana’s Tres Leches? It’s a light, fluffy sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk and it’s made especially for them by an amazing Spanish baker (okay, okay, that’s two things they buy in, but it’s still made from scratch).
And all this, from the tacos to the ceviche tostadas, the holy poutine and the deep fried pickles, comes in at a downright scrummy price. With three tacos for a fiver, a tummy-bursting main from £5, bar snacks for £3 and puddings for £3.50, you’ll have plenty of change for seconds, or indeed, another round at the bar.
The Holy Mountain will be at Chida Cantina for three months. They serve food from 4pm until late, Tuesday to Saturday, so whether you’re getting dinner or soaking up the alcohol after a night on the town, they’ve got you covered.