Mestizo and Luchito – Dia De Muertos
There are parts of London which don’t seem like the obvious home for a Restaurant. The wrong side of Euston Road going North up the Hampstead Road is one such spot, neither a residential nor a main shopping area, just a no-man’s land for North bound traffic. But, the Mexican lady sitting next to me told me that Mestizo is the best Mexican in London, serving what she described as ‘food that you might eat at home only a lot better’
We were greeted with a large tumbler of ‘Bloody Maria’ – a tomato juice, tequila and luchito cocktail that managed to combine the smoky heat of luchito with fresh tomato and tequila with a real kick. My Mexican friend warned me that if it was too hot, the salt would help (actually, it was about right for me, with initial heat dissipating into smoky warmth).
The Raison D’etre of this event was the launch of Gran Luchito, a new chilli salsita made from artisan smoked mexican chillies including the rare pasilla oaxaca, onions, agave, balsamic and secret spices. Very delicious. It was great in tiny quantities on the back of a knife, but our special dia de muertos lunch was to go on and showcase how it could be used in cooking. The founder told us how he’d trekked up in to the mountains in Mexico searching for the best chilli to use and working with local farmers to find it!
And, the event was made special by the timing. Dia de muertos is one of the most important Mexican festivals, a day of remembrance for the dead. In the restaurant there was a dia de muertos shrine, an eclectic mixture of tributes, decorations and old photographs, with prayers and good wishes from those still living. Yes, the photos were relatives and friends of the restaurant staff and management. It was a lovely sentiment and a charming focal point for our meal.
We started with a selection of typical mexican dishes, each made with Luchito. Tamales de rajas were steamed corn husks filled with corn maize and Rajas – a very simple but very delicious dish. Flautas de pollo, rolled corn tortillas filled with chicken, deep fried and then topped with shredded lettuce, Gran Luchito and sour cream. Pescadilla – acorn tortilla filled with spiced flaked fish then deep fried and served with a Gran Luchito mayonnaise sauceand finally Quesadillas filled with cheese.
For my main course I chose arrachera – a spiced beef steak with Gran Luchito, while others had lamb shank wrapped inn bannana, prawns or crepas de flor de calabaza (pancakes with pumpkin flour and gran luchito).
For those that were still hungry, Pan de muertos was a sweet, soft, spiced bread topped with bread ‘bones’ – a traditional dia de muertos lunch.
With many thanks to Gran Luchito and the staff at Mestizo for a fabulous lunch. I shall enjoy trying dishes with the sample of the sauce we were all sent home with.
103 Hampstead Road