Lupita East, Spitalfields

Authentic Mexican cuisine and a selection of complimentary smokey mezcals warm the heart at this restaurant's newly opened Mayahuel bar

South American food and drink has seen a bit of a London revival in recent months, with pop ups, er, ‘popping up’ to serve stews, pisco and ceviche across town. The opening of a mezcal-only bar underneath a kebab shop in Hackney, of all places, and new Peruvian restaurants ruling the foodie roost in Mayfair and Soho mean this trend is here to stay.

And new chain Lupita has jumped on this revival with force. Lupita East opened last November. It’s Lupita’s second branch- the original, Lupita Central, is located near Charing Cross. Since it opened it has been committed to serving traditional and authentic Mexico City cuisine to the food-lovers of Spitalfields.

Now it’s opened its Mayahuel mezcal bar. Hidden away in the Basement, this bar looks set to be a massive hit with City workers and people who want something a bit different of a weekend. There will be regular parties on a Friday night, and possibly best of all, 2-4-1 margaritas on a Thursday (well, they do say it’s the new Friday) as well as a selection of small food plates.

With so much choice it’s difficult to pick just one thing to try, so my friend and I went for the special mezcal pairing dinner. At £32, it’s a bargain for 8 small courses, each accompanied by a mezcal (think tequila’s smokier, stronger cousin) with an extra shot at the end. Yes, you read right – nine shots of mezcal. Head Chef Marco Cuervo has created a bespoke menu to match the different mezcal flavours, and, god, it’s good.

Highlights included the ceviche acapulco, a sensational mix of prawn, scallops and white fish marinated in lime juice and slathered with a tomato sauce which contained potent tree chilis – a very hot chili which would have brought tears to the eyes of us diners had it not been for the inclusion of a salty cracker and slice of avocado to take the edge off, and the tacos de carnitas, delicious pulled pork slow-cooked and prepared with oranges. A decadent sliver of pure Mayan chocolate cake with a passion fruit coulis rounded off the feast.

These were all paired with a selection of delightful mezcals chosen to compliment the different flavours. Bar manager Paolo really knew his stuff, taking us through a presentation and being completely willing to answer all of our questions. My personal favourites were the San Luis del Rio mezcal we had with the ceviche, a more lime-y mezcal as opposed to the usual smoky flavours and the sweet Crema de Mezcal which was drizzled over a scoop of raspberry sorbet.

The bar also specialises in reasonably-priced cocktails, ranging from a truly Mexican twist on the hangover-reducing bloody Mary (Sol beer, lime juice and a salt rim mixed with sauces, spices and clamato) £5.50, to margaritas topped with mezcal £9.95. We both plumped for a classic margarita £6.95, made with 100 per cent agave tequila which was a refreshing clash with the mezcal.

The mezcal pairing dinner is not available all the time but promises to be a regular occurence, so keep checking Lupita East’s website. Of course, if you balk at the idea of nine mezcal shots on a school night, Lupita East offers a vast menu of Mexican treats, including steak burritos, £9.85, ceviches, from £6.95- £10.95 and grilled cactus, £5.95.

Lupita East, 60-62 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6LT. Call 020 3141 6000 or email east@lupita.co.uk to book a table.

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