La Bodega Negra – tastefully sexy Mexican food in the neon heart of Soho.

Vibrant Mexican cuisine in a sexy setting good enough to excite any dinner-date.


It gives a whole new meaning to ‘event-eating’ when you eschew the idea of a sign above your door in favour of what looks like the window of a sex shop, complete with a pink neon sign saying come. Bodega negra London la bodega negra London

La Bodega Negra Soho joins what is turning into a standard London restaurant practice of the two-hour sitting. Restaurateurs probably got it from New York; that’s what I assume about any innovation that substitutes the mellow pleasure of languid social intercourse for, erm cash.

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The lack of awkwardness I put down in part to the lively and charming service; this is why I’m going merely to mention the fact that, if you ask people to arrive at six, you want to be damn sure their table’s ready. Encouraged by the waitress we made a pre-order order of sesame tostadas with guacamole. You know what a tostada is, right? It’s a toasted tortilla or, if you prefer, a huge crisp. The avocado was creamy and chunky and punchy, and reminded me of a friend who moved to America and went to a posh Mexican restaurant for the first time. ‘The main difference,’ she said, ‘is that they make the guacamole at your table with a big fork. But what a difference!’ Mexican restaurant soho London la bodega negra London menu

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I think we could have used more steering on the La Bodega Negra menu; instead of straight starters and mains, we capered about and didn’t order quite enough. The octopus el negro was a delightful dish, chunky and chewy, with a subtle flick of chilli but tasting more of itself than anything else. bodega negra restaurant bodega negra menu bodega London

Then we had two tostaditas, one salmon and one tuna, which were curious little dishes, too big to fit clean into your mouth like Desperate Dan, too small to realistically share, even though with a bit of huffing and puffing I did divide them. The fish was excellent in both cases: the tuna limey, dry but slick, slightly briny; the salmon unctuous in the best possible way. I loved both dressings (sour cream with the salmon, avocado with the tuna) but found them pretty similar to the guacamole; all those squishy, fatty sauces do, if not taste the same, convey the same mouth-feel and overall experience. la bodega London bodega negra soho

There followed a seafood cazuela, which we shared but shouldn’t have done; it really was a main, designed for one. It was similar in concept to a paella. Sod it, it was a paella, with a fancy new name and a bit more liquid. I love paella. I love it when the rice is al dente but squidgy at the same time, as this was. I love fishing out a great, fat, unlucky mussel. How many dishes are a cross between a soup and a finger food? Not nearly enough. Some white beans with chorizowere exactly as you’d imagine, starchy and fluffy, spicy and comforting.

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The Philosopher had the crème caramel and I had the panna cotta and it’s only now that I realise we weren’t being very adventurous, since there were things on the menu that weren’t just set dairy with vanilla. Churros, for instance – what could be more exciting than a doughnut shaped like a cigar that’s been run over? Anyway, I loved my panna cotta; it was balanced and had a good texture. D loved his crème caramel – what more can you say? It’s either thumbs up or thumbs down on this. I’ve never had an almost-good crème caramel. I loved the zingy atmosphere the most, then the tostaditas, then the feeling of innovation (we are under-served for posh Mexican joints, in this nation). I’d come again despite the two-hour limit, and I don’t say that lightly. la bodega negra review la bodega soho

la bodega negra old Compton street

La Bodega Negra restaurant address: 9 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JF La Bodega Negra 9 Old Compton Street
La Bodega opening hours: daily from 6pm-1am (12am on Sundays).
La Bodega Negra reservations can be made on their website here.

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