Tuesday, 1 May 2012

La Bodega Negra, Soho


There's a burrito joint called Adobo just up the road from my office on High Holborn. Anyone who's ever bought a burrito in London will know the kind of place; it's no better or worse than plenty of similar operations, but because it's handy and not too expensive I find myself visiting fairly regularly. I always have the same thing - the pork pibil tacos, with guacamole and habanero salsa, and they are perfectly decent - not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but just about worth £6 and tasty in a vaguely sterile, proto-chain kind of way. So, in its own very limited style, Adobo - just - represents value.


La Bodega Negra serves very similar food to Adobo. Of course being a "restaurant" and not a fast food bar, the menu is bigger; you can have prawns in your tacos as well as the usual pork, chicken and beef options, and there are a few larger menu items like steaks and roast sea bream (why is the token fish dish in any given restaurant always bream?) if you feel a pressing need to spend over £14 on a single course. But there's still guacamole, tortilla chips, rice and beans, hot sauces and bottles of Pacifico beer. The only substantial difference between the two, in fact, is that while Adobo just about sits on the right side of value for money, La Bodega Negra has an attitude to portion size and pricing that is arrogant bordering on insulting.


It's not that the food is inedible in any way. At least, not quite. A few of these tortilla chips were stale, the guacamole was greasy and insipid and if there was anything else in the tomato salsa other than chopped tomato then it wasn't pulling its weight, but I could at least put them in my mouth, chew them and swallow them without my gut fighting back. And that counts for something, doesn't it?


The raw tuna on this tostadita possibly wasn't quite as neon pink in real life as my iPhone would have you believe, but it did not taste any better than it looks here. The chunks of bland fish sat in a strange, thin mayonnaise that somehow managed to be both oily and wet at the same time, and whilst the effect of taking a bite encompassing the crunchy chillies and soft avocado was reasonably satisfying on one level, it was still underseasoned, underpowered and underwhelming.


But oh dear, look at these tacos. Feeble little things, each containing two or three pencil-thin shavings of spiced beef (my requested pork pibil wasn't available, and you can't mix and match - all three tacos must contain the same filling), some of that bland tomato salsa and a bit of chopped coriander. Three mouthfuls of desperately uninteresting food for £6 plus service - you'll excuse me if I'm not screaming with joy.



Service was prompt and friendly, but then I imagine it's quite easy to be attentive when you only have one customer. Yes, I was the sole diner at La Bodega Negra between the hours of midday and 1pm, and whilst I appreciated the attention it wasn't hard to see what was keeping people away. You can blame AA Gill if you like, who tore the place apart in his usual uncompromising style on Sunday, or you can just blame the fact that tiny portions of mediocre food served at high prices is never going to be popular, especially not in Soho with such brilliant competition elsewhere. I wish I hadn't spent £16.31 on my lunch at La Bodega Negra, but at least now I have, I'll know not to go again. And I guess now so do you.

4/10

La Bodega Negra on Urbanspoon

11 comments:

Gingle said...

I believe this is done by the same people who do La Esquina in NY, which I went to and loved, so I was excited to hear about this place opening. Especially if they did the same corn on the cob cheese thing. Sadly, all the press seems to have been pretty unenthusiastic, so I don't even want to risk trying it. Not when there's reliable Wahaca round the corner!

Anonymous said...

So very tedious.

Rob said...

Adobo is my favourite of the various burrito/Mexican places around the Holborn/Chancery Lane area. I'd even go so far as to say it's better than Daddy Donkey.

Oh, and I'm not sure if they're still doing this, but after 4pm their burritos are much cheaper. Great value.

mondomulia.com said...

Oh yes, I guess I won't try it either! Especially as long as Casa Morita stays open in Brixton Village!

Gingle said...

@Rob - does that include Chilango? I haven't been to that one yet but wonder what it's like. It certainly seems popular.

faz said...

I really enjoyed your review. It was refreshingly frank and honest. Its great to see a food blog that's got a honest opinion rather than someone trying to please everyone while trying to sound like they know lots about food and lots of fancy words :-)

Katy Salter @ Pinch of Salt said...

I was chomping at the bit to try La Bodega Negra, and Time Out gave it a really good review, but then between this and Gill I'm kinda going off the idea...

Grumbling Gourmet said...

At least you managed to try it! You were one of the reviewers that made my my abject failure easier to cope with... (http://tinyurl.com/c7bdqkd)

Agree with Gingle on La Esquina's corn... that's properly addictive. Up there with Momofuko's crack pie as a true taste of New York..

Rich

Sandra said...

I completely agree! I went quite early after only have read TImeout's review, and the expectations were sky high (especially since I love La Esquina). Gosh, was I disappointed! Awful. My mexican cooking at home is far better, and I'm by no means a pro! I'll keep on going to good old Wahaca instead whenever I'm in the area.

Grumbling Gourmet - have you tried the compost cookies from Momofuko? I dream about them day and night!

EMI said...

hujmm I'm Mexican and to be very honest the best place so far i have eat mexican is in a small stall beteween Pilmico station & Victoria station is called Santana grill real flavour honest food and very very cheap fresh salsas every day and it has a small menu but omg wow!!
highly recomendable.
disfrutenlo

Anonymous said...

my friend Emilia shes from mexico like me took me to have lunch to santanagrill it was riquisimo and super cheap we try to eat twice a week mexican food at lunch time we know every place in london but this small stall is the one forget daddy donky or adobo belive me absolutamente el mejor