Last week my best friend Carmen and I met up for a long overdue night out. We decided to go to La Bodega Negra, a Mexican restaurant I’ve been meaning to go to for months but always found it booked up whenever I’ve called. Luckily Carmen had more luck when she called.
La Bodega Negra is situated at the Charing Cross Road end of Old Compton Street. Of course, its too cool to have its actual name outside. Instead, it looks like a sex shop, with neon writing in the window advertising ‘Adult Video’ and ‘Peep Show’. ‘Private Dances’ are advertised on the door below a sign saying ‘COME’.
Once through the door we were met by a lovely Scottish guy who took our coats and bags and ushered us downstairs into a dimly lit basement. There, we were greeted by two very beautiful girls, one of whom showed us to our table.
La Bodega Negra is the London branch of New York’s La Esquina, a Mexican café/taco haven located in Nolita, and consequently has a New York feel to it. The restaurant itself is quite dark which I love. Nothing like a brightly lit restaurant to kill any atmosphere.
With bare, battered concrete walls, wrought iron decorations, barrel-filled alcoves, low lighting and candles, it has a rather gothic feel to it. There was an eclectic mix of music playing and the place was soon packed and noisy with lots of chattering.
Unfortunately I was on a course of antibiotics I couldn’t drink on, so I ordered a very fresh and delicious non-alcoholic cocktail of apple juice, ginger beer, line and vanilla (£5.50).
To start with, I went for the char roasted mushroom tacos (£6.50). They arrived on a wooden tree branch/holder, topped with grated cheese and a segment of lime. They were really tasty but I was surprised how small they were. Each one disappeared in just two bites. I could have done with a third one.
Luckily, I also fancied the sound of the Rustic Quesadilla with four cheeses, roasted tomatoes and epazote (£12.50) so Carmen and I ordered one of these to share. I loved this. Beautifully thin and crunchy base, loads of cheese and lots of flavour coming through the herbs. I also tasted garlic and asked where that came from. Apparently it was mixed in with the herbs.
Carmen went for the spicy yellow fin tuna with guajillo chilli (£13.50). She loved it. I could only try a small piece of the tuna with some avocado as I can’t do spicy. Even with the sauce scraped off and no pieces of chilli on my fork, it still set my mouth on fire. However, I’m a total wuss when it comes to spice. The tuna was delicious, once the heat left my mouth and I got my taste buds back.
For the main, Carmen and I decided to share the pork belly from the grill (£16.50). I’m so glad we decided to share, the potion was huge! There is no way I could have eaten that portion on my own. (The photo below is a tad deceiving and doesn’t do justice to the size of the portion).
The pork itself soft, juicy and tender. As always with pork belly, there was a fair amount of fat but there wasn’t too much. I hate when you get more fat than meat. In this case there was a good amount of meat and a lovely thick piece of crunchy crackling on the top. Delicious.
For pudding I liked the sound of the apple tart with cinnamon ice cream (£5.50). I’m so glad I ordered it, it was incredible. Perfectly flaky puff pastry, thin, caramelised slices of apple, the distinct flavour of cinnamon cutting through the sweetness, and then the smooth, creamy cinnamon ice cream. I was in heaven. The only downside was that it disappeared as quickly as the tacos did! I could have easily had another one…or indeed another two!
I really loved my night at Bodega Negra. Yes, its a tad expensive for the size of the portions, but the restaurant itself has a great atmosphere. All the staff I came into contact with were incredibly friendly and helpful. So for the taste of the food, the service and the atmosphere, I couldn’t complain. I don’t think I could afford to go on a regular basis, especially when drinking alcoholic cocktails, but I would definitely go back for a treat.
La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF
Tel: 020 7758 4100 / Twitter
Open daily, 6pm-1am (til midnight on a Sunday).