If I write any more about wood finished interiors, warm light bulbs and kitschy hipsterisms I think I’m going to lose my head. It’s not that I do not like the atmosphere of such places – in fact, being a part of this generation, I rather love it – but its gets a tad samey after a while, and slightly uninteresting to write about. What I will say about Breddos’ décor is that despite being quintessentially hipster, epitomised by jars of pickled jalapeno and habanero peppers above the walls, colourful poster art, and the coarse fabric curtain that greets you on entrance, the place emanates a sense of confidence that does not feel unsubstantiated.
I happened upon the modern taqueria on my way to the VFS service nearby to see about a visa for a visit to India. I’d initially walked past without bothering to stop or look in, only wondering to myself what an odd name for a Mexican place ‘Breddos’ was. But closer to lunch time and with food on my mind, I decided to pop in for a taco lunch after a quick once-over the outside menu. I could see a chef working at the back as I looked through the glass, face lit up by the heaters above the pass with a couple of waitresses milling about, all eagerly anticipating a rush to come that was unbeknownst to me. Apparently, they are quite well known.
When looking at the menu you can immediately tell that it was fresh take on Mexican fare. Though I am not so sure whether I would prefer the delights of traditional fillings like the shredded juiciness of barbacoa, or the tender slices of pork al pastor, I was still excited by what Breddos had on offer – more diverse flavour constructs and explorations inspired by an interest in fusion. It would not be a stretch for you find conceptual similarities with a lot of other street kitchens, food market stalls and bistros dotted around London, but I like to think that this place actually delivers on quality. When eating at Breddos, you are assured a familiar closeness to the Mexican palate, but with cultural foundations laid in excitingly vibrant salsas, warm and powdery freshly made tortillas, and brittle, perfectly salted, crunchy tortilla chips. The playful and animated elevations, thoroughly representative of the adventurous food culture we are in, are reserved for the fillings.
After finding out that Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney, the minds behind Breddos, started off with a taco stall in Hackney in 2011, the picture of their ascendance becomes a lot clearer. Their utterly transcendent short-rib taco was the dish upon which they were able to build their shining reputation for cooking with pristine ingredients with creative flair. Though many are familiar with their pop-up stalls and spots around London’s food scene, their flagship establishment at Clerkenwell is definitely an ideal place for people to indulge in taco nirvana more comfortably indoors.
I sat in one of the booths on my own, taking a little longer to order than perhaps is normally expected of diners. When a waitress engages with the question, ‘Have you eaten with us before?’, you can almost be certain you are either not adhering to the normalcies of practice, or, are about to receive an elucidation of the how to eat or how you will be served. Now, I am not quite as sardonic about people telling you how to eat as say Giles Coren, but I would prefer to ask for advice rather than be immediately given it. In this case, however, the waitress was quite helpful, telling about each of the salsas placed on my table – the smooth thicker arbol and the herby earthiness of tamulado– moving on to how big the portions were and what would be a decently satisfying order for one person. The assurance that if I decided to have more, the food would not take long to prepare was also reassuring. It was almost as if she knew me. After deliberating with myself over picking the Burford Brown Egg and the Pork Chop Pibil Taco, disregarding the two and picking three others, I did stick to her parameters and I am glad I did.
The simple tortilla chips and salsa order gives you an exhilarating opportunity to try two more salsas in addition to the specials of the day. The waitress, reading my mind, told me her favourite was the light cloudy green tomatillo before I had even asked – I bet she gets the question all the time. While I did like the refreshing tartness of tomatillo made spicy with the chilli seeds, the fiery sweetness of the arbol salsa, the citrus tinge and familiar murmur of coriander of the tamulado salsa, my favourite of the lot, mainly for its overall balance and its closeness to the conventional variety was the salsa molcajete. There is something about ingredients that are ground by a pestle and mortar that releases that added depth of flavour: the soft sweetness of tomato, a more mildly spiced jalapeno with a cadence of garlic and onion. The whole activity of trying to identify each salsa’s unique tastes and ingredients was a lot of fun.
The tacos at Breddos are spectacular. The Carne Asada, wonderfully tender, redolent with miso and bone marrow butter and placed on a bed of grelot onion crema, was probably one of the closest things to the perfect bite of food I have ever had. A light squeeze of lime contributed a welcome zing to the dish. The Masa Fried Chicken reminded me fondly of the semolina coated fried fish my grandmother made for me as a child. The chicken was beautifully cooked, and I enjoyed its crisp graininess stabilised by the delicately spicy mayonnaise and the textured crunch of the cabbage. I probably should have ordered another variety of taco instead of the Baja fish, simply because it was composed very similarly to the chicken, but it was tasty too, offering a softer bouncier crispness as opposed to that of the chicken.
Raspberry ripple ice-cream for pudding was the perfect culmination of time at Breddos. I was tempted to order one more taco, but decided I’d leave it till the next time and ordered the dessert instead. This completed a trifecta of relatively light courses on the belly that sent me off with a happy bounce in my step, only £18 lighter. Should you visit Breddos if you are a puritanical traditionalist, or are looking for authentic Mexican food? Probably not. But if you are sceptical about the availability of perfectly cooked soft-shell tacos (true tacos), and enjoy fusion gastronomy at its finest, awakening your sensibilities with a whack of intense flavour and harmonious texture, Breddos is just the place to go.
82 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7DB
Tacos £3.5-£4; Tostadas £7-£8; Specials £7.5-£20; Snacks £3-£7.5; Desserts £2 (prices and dishes subject to change)