02 February 2014

Spirits and Spice

My sister-in-law loves Mexican food and cocktails — who doesn't? — so to celebrate her birthday, we headed to Shoreditch to indulge in both. Boho Mexica, on Commercial Street, is about halfway between Spitalfields Market and Shoreditch High Street. I've walked past many times, but hadn't eaten there until last night. It didn't disappoint. Boho Mexica is a friendly, intimate restaurant, with delicious food and great drinks. I plan to go back again soon to sample the brunch menu.

To keep us going while we perused the menu, we kicked off with some tortilla chips and homemade guacamole — the guac was chunky and delicious. We also got in a round of cocktails. The drinks menu is impressive and it was hard to decide which margarita to go for, but in the end, I ordered a cucumber margarita. This involved cucumber-infused tequila and it was served muddled with fresh cucumber and a chilli rim. The cucumber was the perfect foil to the intensity of the tequila and the chilli, and it was very refreshing.

We shared a couple of rounds of tacos to start. My favourites were the Tacos Al Pastor: grilled pork with chili and pineapple. For my main course, I chose the enchiladas with pulled chicken, cream, cheese and salsa verde. It came with a side order of rice and black beans, but I was too full to make much of a dent. The enchiladas were great though — like the rest of the food, they tasted very authentic.

I couldn't resist ordering another margarita — pomegranate, this time — but I did pass on a shot of mezcal, complete with worm.

We couldn't book a table at Callooh Callay, so we ended up at NOLA, a N'orleans-themed cocktail bar on the opposite side of Rivington Street; you have to go through Bedroom Bar to get inside. It took a while to work through the menu — the drinks are all serious stuff.

In honour of some research my journal published this week, I ordered a N'Orleans special, the 1000 Blue Eyes (Noilly Prat, Monkey 47 gin, lemon, rose water and Boston Bittahs), which was short, sharp and feisty, like most of the other cocktails. I didn't manage to try the Nuclear Hurricane (only 2 per customer, presumably because it's so intense), but I did sample some of Gris Gris (rum, sherry, maraschino, spice and "a hint of smoke").

All of the drinks are expertly mixed by the knowledgeable staff using ingredients from the incredibly well-stocked bar. NOLA itself is cosy and sexy, with its leather banquettes and dark booths. It is definitely worth booking a table, particularly at the weekend, because seating comes at a premium.

Boho Mexica. 151–153 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ (Tube: Liverpool Street or Shoreditch High Street). Website. Twitter.

NOLA. 1st floor, 68 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY (Tube: Shoreditch High Street). Website. Twitter.

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