The nice thing about writing for a food blog is that underwhelming meals aren’t as disappointing as they would be otherwise. You have something to write about. If everyone else you read about food liked it, even better.
So it was with Breddos in Clerkenwell, a taco restaurant that is the new home of a very popular street food stand. I’m only aware of one good Mexican place in London, which is Strutton Ground’s Santana Grill (also street food), but after nice reviews from Chris Pople and Marina O’Loughlin I was excited to add to my list.
The room is pretty standard “London pop-up” style with concrete floors and spartan chairs and I’d guess about thirty covers. They’ve really done the street-food-turned-good thing – they already have a handsome-looking recipe book for sale on the wall. We didn’t have to wait long, even though it was Saturday night. Beers are reasonable at £3.50 for two-thirds of a pint for a deliciously zingy house IPA, and in general the pricing was quite fair – tacos were £3.50-£4.00 each.
Our first taco, pork carnitas, was immediately a let-down. It looked the part but the pork seemed to have been basically unflavoured and hadn’t been cooked long enough to break down into individual strands of pork. The result was an underwhelming pile of pork bits on a corn tortilla with some underflavoured green salsa, chopped onion and coriander. It just didn’t have much going on – the taco itself was excellent with real bite and a complex corn flavour, but there was no cohesion to what was on top and no real flavour other than pork. Meh.
Oh well – nowhere’s perfect, and I am used to truly excellent pork carnitas. Onto the next round – organic egg with macademia nut mole, pollo asado and kung pao pork belly. All three suffered from the same problems as the carnitas. They were dry, bland and seemed like some sauce was missing from each of them, one that would bring their ingredients together and give them some juiciness and flavour. How do you make a boring kung pao taco? There were the hallmark flavours of Sichuanese food – the numbing, fruity pepper and the freshly fiery bird’s eye chilli. But it just felt unfinished. All these were a little bit meanly portioned for the price, too – for £3.50 a pop I’d like to have more than three bites, please.
Masa fried chicken tacos were much better. Each one had a big, crispy chunk of chicken deep fried in corn dough, arched like a leaping fish out of its taco. They suffered from the bland dryness problem a bit less, too – the habanero sauce that came drizzled over them was creamy, hot and had a rich chilli flavour. These were a little more substantially portioned, too, but they still weren’t all that much for £4 each.
If there’s one thing that Breddos has made a name for itself with, it’s the fish tacos. And yes, they were superb. Each one came topped with a torpedo of battered white fish fillet, really good, fresh fish that actually tasted like fish, which is a rarity for white fish in London. I think it was haddock, based on the texture, but it might as well have been sea bass – the flavour was that good. These were advertised as coming with a chipotle-lime mayonnaise but I’m fairly sure it was actually that habanero sauce – whatever. Why did these work, where the other tacos didn’t? It was because the fish itself was moist enough and stood out enough to let the other flavours compliment it, instead of either dominating it or being absent altogether.
Annoyingly, there was about a fifteen minute wait for our last dish, the melted cheese queso fundido served in a cast iron ramekin on a little layer of crumbled sausage meat. I know Breddos is new but it’s not fun to have a massive gap at the end of your meal, especially when the dish you’re waiting for is being served to other people who arrived later than you. Oh well. It came with big thick potato chips which were strong enough to scoop up big gobs of cheese. The queso was a little underseasoned and it didn’t really live up to Ted Cruz’s promises, but it was as gooey as it looked and if it had been served at the start of the meal I probably would have enjoyed it more.
Both Pople and O’Loughlin raved about how punchy the flavours were, but the dreary lack of punch was my biggest complaint. So what happened? My best guess is that Breddos is having teething problems, and maybe even got a bit spooked by the Guardian review (which came out the day we went) and decided to tone things down a bit. It wasn’t terrible, the fish tacos were impressive, but I left feeling unsatisfied and – even after eating half of my dining companion’s food – underfed. I had high hopes for Breddos, but unless you’re really dying for fish tacos, I wouldn’t bother.
Rating: No medals. (Try something from Santana Grill instead, and pray that they get their own restaurant some day too.)