A Taste of Modern Mexico at Selfridges:
2015 is the ‘Year of Mexico’ in the UK. Food is so much an intrinsic part of the cultural heritage of Mexico that it has a UNESCO listing under that auspicious heading ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ . So far as I can see it is the only country listed for the heritage of its cuisine; for the most part the listings are far more specific (although there’s another largish food category for ‘The Mediterranean Diet’). So Mexican cuisine sits alongside ‘Celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures’ in Italy ‘, ‘Chinese Zhusuan, knowledge and practices of mathematical calculation through the abacus’ and the ‘ Whistled language of the island of La Gomera’. Yet, what I know about Mexican food is quite limited so I was delighted to be invited to Selfridges to learn more. They have gone all out to showcase the best of Mexico both in their food hall and in the corner restaurant and champagne bar, venue for last week’s dinner.
Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero is from the Baja California region of Mexico, the northernmost and westernmost state in the country and the principle wine growing region. He’s regarded as the pioneer of Baja Mediterranean cuisine, a creative fusion of the best from the Mediterranean and Mexico. A vibrant and enthusiastic host, he talked passionately about his cuisine and about the dinner he had prepared for us.
An introductory margarita had disappeared by the time our amuse bouche, ‘shot cabo’ arrived. Cabo is a coastal town in Baja, famous for seafood, stunning scenery, wildlife and, more recently, as a party destination favoured by the rich and famous. Shot cabo was a mixture of octopus, shrimp, cucumber, avocado, vodka and a spicy oriental sauce – a bit like a bloody mary on speed. There are strong Chinese influences in Baja cuisine, a kickback from an immigrant population.
We were offered a wine pairing of a glass of Estacion Porvenir vino blanco – a minerally Mexican sauvignon blanc from the central wine growing area in Baja. It worked nicely both with the shot and then with the Madagascar Tuna Tostada – slices of grilled, seared tuna with an avocado sauce, peppers, sliced onion and coriander.
Duck breast taco was a soft cornbread taco filled with tender confit duck that bore no resemblance to the food served as tacos in the tex-mex restaurants around town. The curiously named and even more curiously labelled ‘Am Back’ red wine served here was a Barbera – while grapes were introduced to Mexico by the Spanish Jesuit priest, Italian grapes were brought over by immigrants.
Our final savoury dish was a lamb sope with roasted tomatoes, beans, grilled kale, avocado and nine chilli. Delicately spiced pulled lamb had been flambed in 20yr old brandy before being plated with a tomato jus. Beautifully presented this was served with 5* 2009, a blended wine with five grape varieties; tempranillo, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cinsault.
Dessert was a light crisp cinnamon fritter or bunuelo served with brown sugar and hibsicus with ice-ceam rosemary and anise. The sparkling rose served alongside is apparently new to Mexico. Based on two white and one red grape this méthode champenoise wine would be delicious as an aperitif too.
I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Mexican fine dining. At £80 for a meal with welcome cocktail and paired wines, it’s worth booking a ticket for one of the remaining evenings:
- 28th April: Daniel Ovadia, is one of one of Mexico’s most famous young chefs. He is chef-patron of three critically acclaimed restaurants (Paxia, Morablanca and Pewter) and a line of tequila and mezcal.
- 12 May: Benito Molina and Manolo Banos. Benito Molina is founder of Manzanilla. Benito Molina together with wife Solange Muris founded Manzanilla (ranked 25 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014) and it’s named after the olives that the region is known for. The restaurant is famed for using only the best sustainable local ingredients – from seafood to wine, olive oil to chillies. Manolo Banos grew up inspired by his grandmothers cooking in his native in Oaxaca. Banos’ dishes provide a gastronomy tour around the state; from the
or checking out some of the pop-up events in the Selfridges Foodhall with leading Mexican restaurateurs and suppliers. Tastings are taking place daily between 12pm and 8.30pm.
- w/c 20th April: Lupita – award-winning taqueria that has its roots in Mexico City’s Condessa district will be offering a bite sized morsels of their signature dishes .
- w/c 27th April: Chilango – describe themselves as “Mexican food missionaries” and they will be spreading some of the finest tastes of the country with delectable tostadas
- w/c 4th May: Benito’s Hat – Selfridges Foodhall’s resident Taqueria will be offering bite sized tasters of some of Head Chef’s Felipe Fuentes Cruz’s most popular dishes