“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
The bad news, kittens, is that while I’ve found plenty that is decent, I’ve yet to find solidly amazing Mexican food in London.
The good news is that I might have found something better.
The other week, Jeff and I were both feeling battered from a pretty shattering time at work (which isn’t yet done, alas) and when we looked grimly in the direction of the kitchen and tried to contemplate dinner, realised we just couldn’t. The very idea was hateful. So we hopped online to try and swing a last minute meal. Back before we descended into the work-fog of the last six months, we were pretty good at researching shows we wanted to see, free things to do around the city, and interesting places to eat. We’ve gotten slightly out of the habit so it was gratifying to spend only a few minutes online when we found El Nivel and immediately we made a reservation.
It turned out to be a wise move because El Nivel truly is a hidden gem and getting in is not easy. First of all, it’s housed above another food joint and if you aren’t keeping a sharp eye out, you will miss the door directing you upstairs to food bliss. Second, it is tiny. The whole dining area contained a bar and half a dozen tables, and I’m pretty sure the floor space is about equivalent to our flat, which is saying something. In spite of the size, the place is laid out for chic casual dining and the first floor windows look out over a popular pub and brewery, and slightly into some of the windows of the Adelphi Theatre where I’m pretty sure I caught glimpses of costumes and wigs.
Blink and you might miss it!
This is, in essence, the entirety of the restaurant!
The food purports to be Mexican tapas, and it is…but it’s also unabashedly fusion. In a way that sounds like it shouldn’t work but does–gloriously. The menu changes constantly but when we were there, items like “chili verde” were cheerful mixed up with others like “Chinese pancakes.” We just ordered a bunch of stuff and dug in because it all looked (and turned out to be) delicious! The guacamole, for instance, contained strawberries and pomegranate seeds, which turn out to rock the socks off of a humble tortilla chip. Not pictured but noteworthy is the salsa verde…the first proper salsa I have tasted since alighting on these shores and worth a revisit for that alone.
I heartily recommend the chicken tacos. Little packets of refreshing goodness, with lime, ginger, and fresh pico doing the nicest possible things to your mouth. I ate one and then laid claim to the second of three, telling Jeff he didn’t get a say in the matter. I probably would have eaten all three but he wisely popped his in his mouth before I could get to it.
I’ve been loving my work, but it is demanding and after some of the days I’ve had, there comes a point where you just need to throw on some lipstick and go on a date.
Even if your boyfriend seems to be wearing a potted plant as a fascinator. My dining tastes may have improved, the photography to capture them has not.