tachometer – an instrument that measures the working speed of an engine
tacometer – an instrument for measuring the number of tacos eaten by a hungry cyclist in a day
What a wonderful thing the taco is, so simple, so tasteful, so quick and so economical. As Mexico’s quintessential street food they are sold in their millions from Tijuana to Chiappas, yet in the few years I have been back home in London, I have found nothing to compare to delights served from the colorful street stands that line the roads and markets of any Mexican town.
Mexican food has had somewhat of a revival in the UK in recent years. The unimaginative Tex Mex slop of the late 90′s seems to be behind and as supermarkets now dedicate rows of shelf space to branded salsas, long-life tortillas and seasonings they are joined by swanky ‘Mexican’ restaurants that have sprung up in the fashionable corners of our capital, serving what they claim to be authentic Mexican cuisine. However despite this Latino revival, after some exhausting research, I have found our capitals Mexican offerings fall well short of the mark. Until today to my great delight, I found what I was looking for. Fresh, home made, economical Mexican food being served on the street by a Mexican!
Taking its place next to the boisterous fruit and veg sellers and other food stands Buen Provecho is nothing more than a small gazebo on the junction of Waterloo Road and Marsh Street SE1. A Mexican ‘tricolor’ hangs on the back canvas and working hard in front of it Arturo Ortega Rodriguez goes about his business. Silver trays of food steam under their metal lids. A pot of rice hisses on a hotplate and a colorful selection of home made salsas tempt the passing trade from blue and white enamel bowls. Arturo busies from pot to pot ready to serve those lucky enough to stop off with the best Mexican food in London.
A bold claim you say, and perhaps it is, but after spending six months cycling in Mexico I know a thing or two about her street food and to date this small stand behind Waterloo is the best representation of the real thing I have found.
Getting his basics right, Aurturo’s fresh corn tortillas are warmed on a scorching gribble and served warm with smokey undertones. His guacamole is chunky and uncomplicated with the perfect mix of lime and salt. His ‘pico de gallo’ is immaculately chopped and his home-made salsa of grilled tomatoes and chilies balances smokey sweet flavors with enough heat to remind you its what you are eating. But these condiments are mere side shows for the main events.
Arturo’s conchinita pibil, a traditional recipe from Yucatan, of tender pork marinated in orange juice and slowly cooked for hours for sweet and sticky results was as good as anything I put in mouth in Mexico. His chicken tinga, made from tender cuts of chicken cooked with chorrizo and chipotle chiles provided enough spice and smoke to warrant a second helping and his rajas con crema, made from grilled sweet green chilies in a cream and sweet corn salsa provided am interesting vegetarian option for those with principles, and an excuse for me to have another taco.
Ensconced on a small plastic stool in front of this uncomplicated shrine to Mexican street food I began to wonder wondered why it had taken so long for this simple formula to find it way to London. Watching Arturo’s serve his growing line of hungry disciples, while reminiscing my favorite taco moments in Mexico it quickly became clear. For as good as the food is at this unpretentious street stand, there is something else about this Mexican gem hidden amongst the concrete of the South Bank that makes it and every ‘fondita’ and taco stand in Mexico special. He has simply decided to make his living and support his family by doing what he loves, by bringing his love of Mexican food and cooking to London and getting it right. And this attitude to food is what makes Buen Provecho work. Artros passion, welcome, wide smile, relaxed manner and immaculate work make Buen Provecho the best place to eat Mexican in London.