Joining sister restaurants in Borough Market and Coal Drops Yard, El Pastor Soho has opened on Brewer Street. Taking over the former HIX Soho site, the Harts Brothers’ new restaurant has been specifically designed to evoke the thrum of Mexico City, with the menu comprising old favourites alongside new dishes, and a strong agave spirits selection.
Through the gilded metalwork door, the entrance hall is intentionally warmer than room temperature, with the aroma of cooking masa dough pumped through the humidified air to instantly add to the ambience before diners are seated. The dining room is particularly vast, with plenty of light from both the windows and chandeliers reflected by brass mirrors angled to reflect the light down onto the room. It’s attention to detail that’s so often overlooked but proves there’s so much more to a restaurant experience than great food.
Downstairs, the basement bar is gestured by a huge neon sign announcing ‘Mezcaleria Colmillo’, inspired by mid-century motel and entertainment signage, while a broad range of tequilas and mezcals are offered. With the Pastor restaurants already offering a well-considered offering of agave spirits, El Pastor Soho has a prominent focus on premium tequilas such as Herradura Seleccion Suprema, through to sustainably focused brands such as Arquitecto Blanco. Staff are also happy to make recommendations, from a wide selection of highland, lowland, commercial, artisanal, wild, and unique spirits.
As for the food, Head Chef Vikas Kumain joins Executive Head Chef Marvin Jones in the kitchen, with some new dishes exclusive to El Pastor Soho, including the likes of a vegetarian Poblano chile relleno or spiced crispy duck tacos with charred habanero and pineapple salsa sharing dishes. The Baja California scallop tostada is a particular highlight from the new menu, with the crunch of blue corn tortillas contrasted by the softness of sliced raw scallop with a lime juice marinade heightening the clean flavours, capped with crispy brown shrimp.
Sea bass ceviche comprises MSC-certified sea bass also marinated in lime juice, then complete with coriander and Serrano chilli grown in Cornwall. Although drier than typical, the ceviche has good vibrancy amplified by the chilli. A prawn taco special, on the other hand, features more blue corn tortillas capped with deftly fried prawns lightly spiced and cloaked in a very thin, greaseless batter, convoyed by a wedge of avocado and some pickled jalapeno.
Brought over to El Pastor Soho from the other restaurants, chicken tinga tostadas are crowned with chicken braised with chipotle and cumin, generously loaded with shredded iceberg, red onion petals, sour cream, salsa verde, and Oaxaca-style cheese, while the ‘Al Pastor’ is arguably the most prized taco option on the menu. The restaurant’s namesake tacos are filled with slow-cooked pork shoulder, a salsa of avocado and Serrano chilli, diced onion, and glorious hunks of charred pineapple. Order at least two portions, plus additional roasted pineapple and habanero salsa; they’re far too good to share.
Additional taco standouts at El Pastor Soho include soft shell crab harbouring a glorious concoction of fried crab, chipotle mayonnaise, jicama and chayote slaw, plus a slice of avocado which negates some of the batter’s insalubriousness with its clean, earthy flavour. A vegetarian taco also features confit mushroom wrapped in grilled Oaxaca-style cheese to produce crispy edges akin to the best cheese toasties, finished with pumpkin seeds and diced white onion for extra crunch.
A selection of desserts are offered, though the corn cake is an absolute must try. ‘Paying its respects to the sweetness of sweetcorn’, the cake is similar to cornbread but with far lighter consistency, complete with roasted corn ice cream. It’s gorgeous on its own, but the flavours are coaxed even further when finished with a dash of Cholulah hot sauce. An unexpectedly delicious combination.
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El Pastor Soho can be found at 66-70 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9UP.