There’s nothing like Mama’s arroz con habichuelas. There really isn’t.
When I moved to England for the semester, I was determined to continue feeding my relentless appetite for Latin American food. These gastronomic hopes, however, were shattered into the tiniest of pieces after realizing that Oxford’s only Latin American food venue is The Mission—a supposedly ‘Tex-Mex’ chain that does not compare to the worst of its kind across the Atlantic. While they are great at partying to the beat of Don Omar’s “Danza Kuduro” and Michel Teló’s “Ai Se Eu Te Pego,” Oxford locals still lurk in the dark when it comes to enjoying quality Mexican food.
With the start of my six-week Easter Break and escape from Oxfordshire, I made up for lost time and initiated a quest to uncover the best of Latin American food across Europe. After three weeks of some incredible sight-seeing, a missed EasyJet flight and non-stop food comas, I finally went to Hispanic food heaven...well, at least in the European context. Without further explanation, I present you some fine Latin American eateries not to be missed during future visits to London, Dublin or Madrid.
80 Wardour Street, Soho, London
After eating at Wahaca, The Mission’s insipid Mexican food became nothing but a bad memory. Located in London’s lively Soho, which is a walk away from Picadilly Circus, the restaurant offers fresh guacamole and tasty street food dishes, including classics such as the queso fundido and pork taquitos, at moderate prices. But it’s not all about great food–ample seating space, incredible mural-ed walls and an upbeat ambience also add much to Wahaca’s appeal.
Merchants Arch Temple Bar, Dublin
What better than arepas to digest too many pints of Guinness? Mr. Arepas, a kiosk serving one of Venezuela’s most traditional dishes in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar, provided me the perfect lunch to survive my first Irish St. Patrick’s Day. While it offers multiple combos for five euros, I’m pretty sure nothing beats Mr. Arepas’ pabellón: shredded seasoned beef, black beans, fried plantains and white cheddar cheese wrapped inside a fresh arepa, or coat of cooked flour, in some ways similar to pita bread.
La Negra Tomasa
9 Calle de Cádiz, Madrid
Priding itself on being home to Madrid’s best mojitos, La Negra Tomasa is a haven for fans of all things Cuban. With incredible three-course specials, varied plantain-based dishes and live music shows from lunch until dinner time, this Cuban restaurant, located steps away from La Puerta del Sol, is a must for Latin American cuisine aficionados visiting Spain’s capital. At night, La Negra Tomasa herself might be part of the restaurant’s live spectacle of salsa, boleros and other sorts of Caribe-infused beats.
Public Service Announcement: After enjoying a meal at any of these three locales, the mother of food comas will surely ensue. So relax, find a comfy sofa and be ready to pass out. ¡Buen provecho!
Patricio Martinez a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com. Notes from Abroad: Best Of appears on Fridays.