For a dose of Mexican relaxed dining, moreish Chicharron and tasty Enmoladas, Lupita West should make your North American shortlist
Review by Martin Stickley
The name Lupita comes from a Spanish title of the Virgin Mary – Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe – meaning “Our Lady of Guadalupe”. Also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, it is the Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica happens to be the most popularly visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and also the world’s third most-visited sacred site so can a namesake Mexican restaurant in Kensington live up to this fame?
As you might be able to tell from my previous columns, I have a penchant for exotic food with a bit of a spice and flavour – Mexican cuisine being one of my particular favourites. I’ve been attempting to burn my son’s tongue off for several years with a personal Chile Colorado recipe to the point where I’m surprised if he can taste anything at all. Lupita West is one of a trio of restaurants bought to the UK in 2010 by El Farolito, a Mexican company who have their origins as a little taquería in a corner of Colonia Condesa, located just west of the historic centre of Mexico City. They won Restaurant of the year in the Latin UK Awards in 2013 so come with come pedigree.
Lupita West is located directly opposite Hyde Park on Kensington High Street so is extremely easy to find. The interior is bright and playful with vibrant colours and an atmosphere to match. Lupita is place to come to relax and not take your eating too seriously; definitely a spot to grab lunch or dinner with friends or family. The drinks menu is pretty extensive, but doesn’t try to show off. There is a great range of cocktails, wines and beers (and yes, of course for the more daring amongst you there is Tequila and Mezcal), it was a pretty warm and muggy day when I visited so one went straight for the strawberry mojito, whilst my partner, with true Latin verve, grabbed a Caipirinha. Both were just what the doctor ordered on such a humid day. All of the dishes at Lupita are inspired by the traditional food of Mexico’s street stands, there is a good variety of starters, and the main courses are equally abundant featuring a selection of Mexican favourites such as Burritos, Quesadillas, Tacos and Enchiladas, all of which can be taken with sides such as rice, frijoles or one of several salads. The tables are also accompanied by a selection of three different chilli sauces, each with a varying degree of heat from mild to magma-like should you wish to spice up your food even further. I found the waiting staff really good at explaining both the sauces and the dishes on the menu. The food comes fairly priced too, with sides ranging from £4 – 5, starters from £6 – 9 and mains between £7 – 14.
I chose the Chicharron de Queso y Guacamole followed by Enmoladas (corn tortillas stuffed with slow cooked chicken in a tomato, chipotle and onion sauce all smothered in Mole). The Chicharron is a wonderful thing; made from crispy grilled and rolled cheese it’s a fantastic dish to share, the sort of thing kids (and bigger kids) would love. The Enmoladas were equally, if not more tasty and I was extremely happy that I followed the waitresses recommendation. If you’ve never had mole before, it is a dark, rich almost fruity sauce used in a lot of Mexican dishes. Although it comes in a variety of styles and recipes, here the mole completely covers the filled tortillas and was spicy and sweet with a deep chocolate flavour.
If my approval isn’t enough for you, I’ll tell you about something I overheard whilst leaving the restaurant; on the table behind me sat a family from South America who were visiting the UK and they asked the waitress where the chef was from as the food was so good. Authenticity is a word which get’s bounded about far too readily when talking about imported cultural dining but Lupita is the real deal, a restaurant with bona fide Mexican heritage offering well priced Central American street food in delightful surroundings.
Enquiries: Lupita, 7 Kensington High Street, London W8 5NP / 0203 6962930 / also branches in Villiers Street & Commercial Street / www.lupita.co.uk/