We mistakenly went to the La Bodega Negra cafe on Moor Street first but as we had made a reservation we were directed around the corner to the main restaurant on Old Compton Street. The Moor Street cafe looked like an ordinary restaurant so I expected similar décor. However, we nearly walked straight passed the restaurant confused by the heavily illuminated sex shop front. The bouncer next door assured me we were at the right place and we entered through what seemed like a secret entrance.
We were then guided downstairs to our table where we went through an archway entrance to a dim cave type area. The dining tables were next to the energetic bar which progressively became busier throughout the night and felt a bit like an underground club.
La Bodega Negra, like many of the new hip eateries in London, is lacking light and a bit noisy. The décor is rustic and quite strange – it includes hanging dolls, fairy lights and pieces of torn cardboard plastered over the walls with permanent marker drawings. There was fun lively music playing throughout the evening. The dark setting fits well with the mysterious theme and atmosphere of the restaurant, but I don’t really understand the high demand surrounding these types of dark and noisy ‘trendy’ restaurants in London. I prefer to be able to see my food and the people I am with, as well as hear them.
The menu is concise and includes most of the classic tapas style Mexican dishes you would expect to be featured, such as tacos and tostaditas. Mexican food is generally very vegetarian friendly and there are a few veggie options to choose from here so the veggie diners will certainly not be going hungry!
Overall the food was average compared to other Mexican restaurants I’ve been to in London, but there were some dishes that stood out.
We nibbled on toastadas (toasted tortilla) and guacamole to start. This was very good – the guacamole was chunky and creamy.
Quesadilla rustica, quarto queso, roasted tomato and epazote – This was like a Mexican pizza. Delicious and the flavours worked very well together. My favourite dish of the night.
Tostadita – Nopales, cactus black bean and queso fresco – This dish was ok. Fresh tasting toppings but I felt it was lacking that zesty kick I was hoping for. I could have also done with a little more of the queso fresco (creamy soft white cheese).
Tacos – Char Roasted Mushroom, crema Mexicana – The tacos were tasty and presented well on a long dark wooden taco rack. Soft flour tacos with a generous portion of flavoursome mushrooms and cheesy toppings.
Braised kale- I enjoyed this but I am a big kale fan.
Green chilli slaw- I wouldn’t get this again. It had a prominent bitter taste which I will put down to the type of turnip used.
Churros and dulce de leche sauce – Delicious. Perfectly cooked and crispy churros rolled around in a generous amount of cinnamon and sugar. A great ending to the meal.
Chocolate torte – The table had mixed opinions on this one due to the chilli kick.
The service was very good throughout the meal. The waiters were attentive and friendly offering their recommendations and checking in frequently to see if we needed anything. However, this was tainted by the annoying two hour table limit policy. I was warned about this beforehand when I made the reservation, but it’s irritating (and rude) when you have just ordered a final round of drinks and you are told to leave your table, especially after paying a hefty service charge. The bar was also exceptionally busy and loud so we didn’t fancy having our drinks there. Nevertheless, we ended up staying at the table a little bit longer to finish our drinks but we definitely felt the pressure to leave.
Summary: Quirky atmosphere, average Mexican tapas food, good table service (bar the strict 2 hour limit on reserved tables), dim and noisy. The illuminated shop front and secret entrance indicate you are in for a fun experience at the underground restaurant from the start and that it was. Short menu with classic Mexican dishes, such as tacos and tostaditas. 4-5 vegetarian dishes, my favourite being the Quesadilla Rustica. A fun place to try for the unique atmosphere and dining experience, rather than for the food.
Reservations: Can book via OpenTable, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 748 4100
Locations: Café – 16 Moor Street. Restaurant – 9 Old Compton Street
Perfect for: A nice lunch or dinner or drinks