This is going to be a quick post. No rants, no long, meandering monologues that feature one or multiple lists of things I like or (more often) things that annoy me one way or another. I’ve just finished a day of work, an hour and a half of shorthand revision (it’s beginning to look less like semi-familiar words and more like Russian/a toddler armed with a pen and paper. I threw a hissy fit yesterday after spending 15 minutes trying to translate the phrase ‘airports are equipped with good security systems’), and a lot of batch cooking for the week ahead. As much as I love updating the blog, I have a strict schedule of climbing into bed and passing out by exactly 10pm. The military doesn’t alter their schedule for a bit of late-night recipe writing; currently, neither do I. And the military doesn’t even do shorthand.
I wanted to do a review – not a full review, more of a recommendation. Partly because of time, partly because I probably drank enough to render most restaurants worthy of a sparkling review (it was my birthday, and if you don’t do the same then you’re not doing it right). Inebriation aside, Santo Remedio (meaning ‘Holy Remedy’) in London Bridge was genuinely one of the most vibrant, friendly, relaxed and surprisingly pocket-friendly London restaurants I’ve been to.
We got to the little Mexican restaurant, recently relocated from Shoreditch, after our obligatory pilgrimage to the Trafalgar Square Spoons to lay the foundations of alcohol. We did not need to make this pilgrimage, for we were immediately greeted with free margaritas; need I carry on with the review? I will, if only to say that these were no ordinary margaritas. Adorned with a rim of a savoury, spicy mix of paprika, chilli and salt, these were some seriously punchy cocktails. Like drinking a drink with the aftertaste of a sausage (in the best way possible). After lapping up the rim of my margarita like a dog licking the face of an unwilling human, I forced boy to swap with me so I may do the same to his (will take this opportunity to move onto the food before I accidentally imply something I’ll regret).
The evening was a blur of small plates arriving, being whisked away once demolished and replaced by even better small plates of food. The difference between this place and other ‘sharing plate’ places we’ve been to, though, is I can still remember the taste and joy each one of those plates brought me. Guacamole piled high and chunky in a stone mortar and topped with crunchy little grasshoppers, accompanied by homemade blue and yellow tortilla chips. The crispy soft-shell crab tacos with a fierce serrano mayo and a pickled cucumber garnish to bring slight relief. Cold octopus tikin xik (after Googling I found out this was octopus marinated in sour orange and ancho chilli. All I knew at the time was I could eat the entire restaurant’s stock then and there). We had little pork belly tacos, topped with tomatillo salsa and eaten in two pillowy, soft mouthfuls. Elotes, a classic Mexican street food of corn grilled and smothered in everything good in the world, topping the list of the best corn on the cob I’ve ever tasted. Best of all (in my opinion, boy was taken by the pork belly), was the special vegetarian dish – a selection of roasted veg on a pipiane verde made with pumpkin seeds, chilli and tomatillos. The sauce was the viscosity and texture of hummus, but sharp, spicy and unctuous all at the same time. If I’ve ever been more tempted to lick a plate in public, it was here (probably in part due to the wine and gloriously-rimmed cocktail).
I’ve just realised that it’s well past my bedtime and my quick post has become a full length declaration of my love, so I’ll stop gushing at this point because I think you’ve got the picture. It’s Mexican, but it’s bloody good Mexican, for a bloody good price. More than anywhere I’ve been before, I urge you to give it a go.
On a totally unrelated note, I batch cooked a load of the best beetroot risotto possibly ever to come into creation the other day and have been asked to share the recipe. Freezes well, doubles up well if making for a crowd, stains everything it comes into contact with, including my cat’s fur. Make at your own risk, but in my opinion, it’s a risk worth taking.
Beetroot Pearl Barley Risotto for 3-4
3 medium beetroots, stems removed, bulbs steamed and peeled
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g (roughly, however much you plan on eating) pearl barley
100ml white wine
700ml (again, roughly – as much as you end up needing) vegetable or chicken stock
As much parmesan as you would like (for me, a hefty pile)
A handful of walnuts, toasted for a few minutes
Small bunch of dill, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
- Start by taking you steamed and peeled beetroot and blending along with a ladleful of vegetable stock to make a smooth pulp.
- Put a large medium/large saucepan on medium heat and drizzle in some olive oil. When hot, add the onions and sweat for 5 minutes, before adding the crushed garlic and frying until fragrant.
- Add the pearl barley and stir to combine with the onions and garlic, before pouring in the wine. Let this bubble away until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Next, turn the heat down and add a ladleful of your stock. You want to allow the pearl barley to slowly soak up the stock before adding the next ladleful, making to sure stir regularly. Keep it low and do it slow.
- Once all of the stock has been added and the pearl barley is soft (about 25 minutes to half an hour), add in the beetroot puree along with the dill and parmesan. Stir to combine and season to taste, adding more parmesan if need be.
- Serve the risotto with a sprinkle more grated parmesan, the toasted walnuts and any other desired toppings; a fried egg, goats cheese, fish or meat etc.