Restaurant Review – Cafe Pacifico, Covent Garden
Before Wahaca invaded the capital – and the rest of the country for that matter – the only way Joes in the capital could get an authentic taste of Mexico was to either fly straight to Mexico City or feast while on holiday in the US. That was until Cafe Pacifico came along all the way back in 1982. We headed down to the UK’s first ever Mexican restaurant is still the best.
There’s a certain romance when you head up Langley Street to Cafe Pacifico. It may have something to do with the fact you feel you’re truly in the beating heart of central London – Covent Garden is just around the corner and if you head down midweek around 6.30/7pm like we did, the pubs and restaurants around Tottenham Court Road are bustling with famished workers. But there’s a history to this Mexican cantina and as soon as you walk in you’re greeted with a warm smile – the service was superb throughout our experience as it happens – and a real buzz only truly loved eateries possess.
The food menu at Cafe Pacifico is mostly about the classics of Mexico. And why wouldn’t it be? Everything you’d expect is here; fajitas, nachos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas… you know the sort. But there are also some alternatives you’ve maybe not come across before if you’re feeling adventurous – keep an eye on the ‘Chef’s Recommendations’ part of the menu for that.
Having been welcomed with a bowl of tortilla chips and heat-packed salsa dip, we dived straight in for some classics to start – a plate of cheese and jalapeno doused nachos, and some smoked chicken quesadillas. A warning; the nachos, for which we ordered some guacamole to accompany (obviously), were packed as much heat as they were cheese. Thankfully, we love our spice but you could get caught out. They were also HUGE, more than enough for one plate between two. The quesadillas, while maybe on the small side, were similarly delicious with the smoked chicken a real winner.
For mains, we opted to try something outside the Classics section. We were celebrating and decided to go for the Taquiza. Having done some research since, the best translation we can find for the dish is ‘Taco Party’. Yes, a party with tacos. And it was absolutely as incredible as it sounds. A hot plate of marinated beef fillets, chicken, and chilli and sugar glazed pulled gammon accompanied with cactus and pepper rajas is put in the middle of your table, while black beans, a range of salsas and a box of flour tortillas are put either side of your plate. It’s a build-your-own taco party, and everyone is invited. Again, there is more than enough to go one between two, but it was authentic and hit all the spice/meat high points only Mexican cuisine can offer.
Alternatively, we’d also recommend the Degustacion Del Pacifico; a combo of one enchilada, one beef toastada, and one pulled pork taco – perfect for the indecisive who want a taste of everything! As this is an authentic taste of Mexico, you should also probably sample one of the 150 tequilas and 50 mescals stocked behind the bar – or at least get one of them in a cocktail if the golden nectar brings back too many memories of your student union. The grapefruit-flavoured Palomita Muerte comes highly recommended and the array of margaritas can’t be ignored either.
Overall, Cafe Pacifico is a real gem in an area of London packed with identikit tourist trap eateries. Even if the prices do reflect its location, this cantina is a haven for Mex lovers and well worth the price. We’ll certainly be heading back for a taco party sooner rather than later.
Open daily until 10.45pm, Cafe Pacifico is located at 5 Langley Street, a couple of minutes’ walk from Covent Garden station. Check out the menu over at the Cafe Pacifico Website