Piglet can be forgiven for staging what looked like our coming out at London’s gay pride celebrations in Soho tonight – I greeted her with flowers and her a British flag for me and we embraced with the best of them on the crowed street. She wasn’t to know that the entrance to tonight’s venue is disguised as a sex shop – an unmarked door beneath the inviting neon ‘Peep Show’ Iights on the street that just happens to be in the heart of the Mardi-Gras esque celebrations. Sticking close, we pushed through the sea of semi-clothed party goers that made finding La Bodega Negra – that’s serving up the latest in modern Mexican street food – a rather ‘colorful’ experience. Literally. When Piglet – in her pristine white frock got a little too close to a blue body painted man. We find Schapelle blending in with the crowd in her – very Elton John – reversible gold leather jacket. I’ve missed these two.
Down some dark stairs we’re led in to what looks like an old cellar – arched doorways separate hidden rooms where wine barrels are stacked in one corner and the skeleton of the grand piano divides another. I can make out some colourful clothed cushioned seats from the dim candle light on the tables. Our booking is early, 6.30pm and we’re told we need to vacate by 8pm – the two sittings is even more common here than at home in Sydney. But no one seems to mind, with every nook and cranny already filled with the ‘cool’ people.
We ask our waitress to suggest what we should be ordering but her Spanish accent is lost over the music. Drinks are easy, Margaritas a must. Piglet and I have the frozen margarita of the day, fresh pineapple and orange and Schapelle, is just straight up. We mill over the menu with some Sesame tostadas with guacamole (£5.50).
To start, we share the Spicy yellow fin tuna with guajillo chilli (£13.50) and some Grilled corn, crema Mexicana with fresh herbs (£5). The food arrives at lightning speed and I can’t help but feel we’re being rushed along to make room for the next group. The tuna is silky and dry with freshness from the lime and some serious kick from the chilli. I’m loving this crema Mexicana style corn – lathered in sour cream and cream then coated with one of my favourite cheeses, the sheep’s milk Manchego.
The tacos are served in pairs – our selection is the Rock shrimp with avocado and chipotle (£8); Lamb and drunken salsa (£6.50); Pork al pastor with roasted pineapple (£6.50). They’re delivered on a custom made log and although tasty (the pork was my favourite), they were a little on mean-side, filling wise, I would have liked more meat.
I see I’ve turned Piglet into one of those annoying people like me that takes photos of their food! And I love it.
From the wood burning grill we have the Chicken paillard with pumpkin pipan mole (£16), some Green rice (£4.50) and the Warm mushroom salad with crispy tortilla and citrus dressing (£11.50). The chicken isn’t anything special to look but it’s lovely and juicy and I’m intrigued by the pumpkin seed mole. I love the green rice that’s intensely flavoured with coriander, but the mushrooms are my favourite – perfectly cooked with salty, crispy tortilla bits and a light tangy dressing.
The restaurant seems to be getting even darker as I try to check to see how much time we have left on our table meter. The girls take some convincing to share the Chocolate fondant and mole ice cream (£5.50) ice cream with me. And they’re glad they did when the molten chocolate pudding collapses at Schapelle’s first crack at it with the spoon. The mole ice cream is pretty amazing – hot and cold all at once. The cold cream and heat from the spices are having a field day in my mouth.
As we exit, it’s still broad daylight and parade party-goers are being turned away at the door – disappointed that down the dark staircase was only a restaurant, no peep, no strip and no show.
We head towards Chinatown, to the Experimental Cocktail Club – another unmarked entrance. This time the only giveaway, a couple astride a door – him in bright red bow tie and her in a matching shade of lipstick. More stairs, this time leading up. Past antique mirrors and embossed ceilings to velvet covered chairs and a killer cocktail list. My nightcap is the ‘Old Cuban’ with Plantation 3 stars rum, lime juice, ginger syrup, simple syrup, mint, Angostura bitters, topped with Billecart Salmon Champagne (£11).