There’s a new Latino restaurant in town, and it’s causing a bit of a Mexican wave amongst fajita fans. (Apologies, the pun was just too good to resist). This newly-opened eaterie, La Bodega Negra- the Black Shop - is a slinky, fun spot in Soho that is hugely popular with young trendy types and sharp businessmen fresh from the office. We arrived to find James Corden merrily chowing down at the table next to us, and at just 6.30 the place was already spilling over, a small queue snaking out the door.
We dined in the café-taqueria, accessible from Moore Street, which boasts a buzzing, magnetic atmosphere. Retro posters beam down from the walls onto a diner-style setting – complete with booth seating, low lighting, and soulful jazz music. In this sense, Bodega boldly imitates its older sister, La Esquina, set in hip Nolita in Manhattan: it’s a throwback to the Mad Men era, fizzing with sleek but playful charm. The food, too, was highly stylised, each tortilla and taco perfectly round. Think little soft circles of delicious delight, topped with street-style fillings such as avocado, steak picante, and duck. You might think duck would taste better merrily stuffed in a Chinese pancake (and do I love a good pancake), but strangely Latino duck does sort of work. Nothing a lick of salsa verde won’t fix, anyway. Sure, Bodega’s menu doesn’t try to be completely authentic; in fact, it’s a Spanglish-style take on a decent selection of Mexican favourites, chucking down its sombrero in the face of tradition. Portions are slightly on the small side, which is frustrating, as they do leave you wanting more. But on a brighter note, the service was faster than you can say Speedy Gonzalez, so at least you won’t have to wait long when you decide to order more (as you will inevitably want to do). One word of warning, though: the chorizo tortillas are only for those who can handle a bit of jalapeño spice and I found its flavours somewhat overpowering. So much so that it ruined my wine, disaster.
For those willing to dig a bit deeper into their pockets, the basement restaurant dishes up the same taqueria selection but also offers slightly bigger (and pricier) dishes. Cue heavy steaks, stews, and proper seafood dishes. And whilst a whiff of Esquina’s hipster influence can be faintly detected upstairs, here it reigns supreme: from the moment you walk through the black entrance off 9 Old Compton Street, saucily marked “Sex Shop”, it’s dark, daring, and seductive.
Whichever section you choose, La Bodega Negra is undoubtedly a heaving hangout for adventurous Soho revellers – a nightspot for you and your amigos that’s as bright and promising as a piñata, and full of beans to boot. And with a list of tequila as long as the wine menu, this is one Black Shop that knows how to show its guests a great time.