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Mexican with a twist at Caldera
A new Mexican restaurant has opened on Hackney’s Mare Street just a few minutes’ walk from London Fields station. Well worth a detour, Caldera offers an inventive and beautifully cooked mix of old favourites and fusion dishes as well as a warm welcome.
We arrived in time for Happy Hour so wasted no time and both ordered a Classic Margarita. One was not enough for me while my dining companion later switched to the draft Mahou beer, which is served well chilled. The drinks menu definitely requires further exploration. Cocktails include the intriguingly named Carrot Penicillin – I presume it is the mescal that is the medicinal element.
The food menu is helpfully divided into two sections. ‘What You Know’ includes all the usual favourites you’d expect to find on a Mexican menu, taking in everything from Quesadillas to Fajitas, Burritos to Tacos. ‘What You Don’t Know’ contains the more experimental fusion dishes, all of them with a basis in Mexican cuisine but with a twist.
We’d been tipped off that the Supreme Nachos here are well worth trying so we chose the Chilli version from the classics side of the menu as our starter. My friend said that he’d never really seen the point of nachos before but was completely bowled over by Caldera’s offering. He did later confess that his previous brush with the dish was something he had assembled himself from a kit he’d bought at his local supermarket. Everything in the bowl was freshly made (with the exception of the sour cream our waiter admitted) including two types of tortilla chip. They were so more-ish that we managed to polish off the whole bowl despite our waiter’s warnings about its size.
For our mains, we decided to share dishes from both sides of the menu. From an enticing list of tacos we chose the Baja-style battered cod. These came garnished with chipotle aioli plus shredded red cabbage giving a nice crunch. We liked them so much we couldn’t resist ordering the Steak Tacos. Each one came with its own padròn pepper – a lovely touch – as well as guacamole, tomato and micro coriander.
From the fusion side of the menu, we chose the Cactus & Papaya salad and the Lamb Cutlets. Neither of us couldn’t remember eating cactus before so we were keen to try it. The dish also contained ingredients you’d be more likely to find in a Vietnamese or Thai salad, julienned carrot and papaya as well as shredded savoy cabbage, goji berries and almonds. This was a light, fresh-tasting salad with a good dose of “superfoods” and greenery to offset our other menu choices. Both of us thought that cactus might be an acquired taste though.
The lamb was delicious, the cutlets were proper chop-sized and extremely well cooked. We asked for our meat pink and that was exactly how it came. Full of flavour and tender, it had been marinated in the flavours of Mexico and Japan – hand-ground mole (made in house using 19 ingredients) and miso. The chops were served on a generous bed of baba ganoush adding a Middle Eastern element to the dish.
We would love to have tried the churros with dulce de leche for dessert but we were simply too full. Our enthusiasm for the savoury part of the menu had defeated us. Next time.
Service throughout was excellent and informative. The people who work in the kitchen and front of house obviously care very much about the food they serve. Caldera is a cut above the great majority of London’s Mexican restaurants.
143 Mare Street,
Other Mexican restaurants you may like to try include Corazon in Soho
And, if you are looking for somewhere special in East London, do check our review of The Clove Club in Shoreditch.