Stephanie Brookes, BBC Radio London food expert, offers her pick of an eating establishment for this month, Santo Remedio in Waterloo.
In the predominantly sedentary role as a food writer, it’s more often than not that I’m typing than actually moving around. However, a recent invitation to Santo Remedio made me move quicker than I have in months. I say this as my ultimate food and drink combination is the promise of tacos and margaritas. As a lover of Mexican food, there was a time when it was hard to find anything that truly resembled ‘authentic’ cuisine. I remember as a teenager the closest thing I had in reach was the occasional trip to Chiquito for the sizzling chicken fajitas (still a rather happy food memory for me). Luckily, London’s food scene can now boast an impressive selection of exceptional Mexican restaurants – El Pastor and Corazón are two notable additions. Santo Remedio is part of this new movement offering genuine, undiluted cuisine which reflects the roots of Mexican cooking.
Santo Remedio first came on to the scene in 2013 after starting life in food pop-ups and supper clubs, with its success and popularity eventually leading to the more recent opening in Tooley Street. The restaurant takes pride in importing specialty ingredients direct from Mexico, including pasilla and serrano chilli. Many ingredients are also sourced from local London suppliers who produce delectable artisan cheeses.
As soon as you enter the restaurant, you can almost feel your serotonin levels rise thanks to a vibrant, colourful space, as well as the immediately warm and hospitable welcome – you know it’s definitely time to switch off and relax. Now, if you’re happily of drinking age (I certainly pass this requirement), an immediate order of the house margarita is a definite must. My brilliant dining companion had assured me the margarita was one of the best in town, and I’m certainly not one to pass up such a recommendation.
The potent concoction is made with Tequila el Jimador Blanco, a wonderfully smooth tequila and a perfect choice for mixing, along with a restrained dash of sugar syrup, plenty of fresh lemon and lime juice and a touch of tajin for that final, spicy kick. It’s a strong yet deeply refreshing drink that seemed to replace water throughout the meal, as I vaguely recall.
To match the margaritas, we began with an order of appetite-whetting guacamole and tortilla chips. This seemingly simple fare was instantly elevated with just-out-of-the-fryer tortilla chips: satisfyingly crisp and evenly golden brown, along with a generous scoop of buttery guacamole.
Tuna tostadas followed thereafter, made with sashimi grade tuna no less. Only a few simple ingredients go into making this dish, yet each one entirely complements the other: the fiery kick of arbol chilli comes through while never disguising the mildly sweet, fresh tuna, with the toasty, nutty addition of sesame seeds giving great flavour while also adding subtle texture. I am happy to report the dreamy guacamole is also to be found in the mix, along with a dash of Tamari which gave a moreish, Unami flavour.
As quickly as the tostadas disappeared, an impressive looking plate of soft shell crab tacos made for a delightful new offering. Again, I’m just awed with how so few ingredients can create such complex and exciting flavours: two freshly made soft tacos were the bed for a crunchy mix of cabbage, serrano mayonnaise and lightly battered soft crab. The sweet, flaky crab mingles effortlessly with the squeakily crisp cabbage. You rarely see crab tacos feature on any taqueria menu, so order without hesitation.
I was immediately greedy for more and we thankfully had the foresight to order the pork belly tacos with tomatillo salsa. As you will know if you have slow-cooked pork belly, it renders the meat to a sticky, meltingly soft texture, yet you also enjoy a satisfying contrast via the crunchy crackling. The coriander-rich tomatillo salsa added a fresh, aromatic note and gave added piquancy. I’m slightly sheepish to divulge that I can’t remember much after this dish – perhaps it was the blissful state of being food drunk (it’s a thing, I promise).
I wholly recommend clearing your diary if you do happen to make a lunchtime reservation as you will quickly discover that Santo Remedio has a particular way of making the hours fly by; maybe it’s the food, perhaps it’s the tequila? Happily, I think it’s a bit of both.
essence infoSanto Remedio
152 Tooley Street, London SE1 2TUTelephone:
020 7403 3021Websites: www.santoremedio.co.uk