Latin American cuisine is one thing that we at Journey Latin America know a lot about. And while we love to share our classic recipes with you every week, we know that some of the tastiest dishes can be extremely time-consuming to prepare, and that some of the specialist ingredients can be tricky to track down in the UK.
So for those who love a bit of Latin spice like us, but would rather eat out than in, we decided to share some of our favourites...
Asia de Cuba of St Martins Lane is a classy affair, fusing Asian influences with the hearty Caribbean fare of Cuba. The innovative cocktails are a reason to visit in their own right.
Lupita (13-15 Villiers Street) is unusual in serving Mexican food that doesn't take its cues from American Tex Mex, says Julia. Similarly to Wahaca, itself another good choice for cheap bites, Lupita serves inexpensive side plates and larger burritos packed with the unpretentious but seriously tasty flavour of Mexican street food. Try the tacos gobernador.
According to Diego, from Buenos Aires, Santa Maria del Sur (129 Queenstown Road) is the best Argentinean restaurant in London. He says, "be ready to pay about £50 per head but it is worth every penny. My tip is that the house wine is excellent, so there's no need to go for an expensive one." The restaurant also has Gordon Ramsey's seal of approval, having been nominated for the best independent Latin American restaurant on his show.
Rodizio Nabrasa in Earlsfield (505 Garratt Lane, SW18 4SW) is one of several places where you can sample a gluttonous style of eating of the same name. In a Brazilian rodizio, skewers of various meats are brought around to your table and sliced for you as you take the pieces you want with a pair of tongs. You'll also get a traffic-light-style signal to indicate whether you're still hungry or need a break – put the green end at the top if it's the former and the red if the latter, and knock it over altogether when you just can't manage another bite! Just be warned: afterwards you won't be hungry for a week!
"For Mexican food that's the real deal, try the Sunday food market in Elephant and Castle," adds street-food aficionado Rafe.
Jon's tip is to head to Seven Sisters Indoor Market in Tottenham, where you'll find a group of Latin American shops and a cafe serving really authentic Colombian food. "Practically everyone there is Colombian or Peruvian, and the place is simple but very genuine with real Latin atmosphere," he says.
Julia recommends Barraco, a pocket of Brazil hidden away in a Kilburn side street. "The food is just excellent, the caipirinhas are the cheapest I've found in the UK and the whole place is completely authentic - it styles itself on the small, simple bars of Brazil so the decor is cheap and cheerful but that all adds to the charm. At weekends when there is live music it fills with a friendly crowd of Brazilian locals and you could almost forget you were in rainy London. Try the moqueca de camarão and the bolinhos de peixe, but my other tip is that if you order steak and you like it rare do make sure you make that really clear, as they typically serve them quite well done."
Green and Red in Shoreditch is James's pick, thanks to the great food and relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant specialises in the food of Jalisco - the home of tequila - and the margaritas should not be missed.
Jen recommends Taqueria in Westbourne Grove: "Everything tastes so fresh and full of flavour – nothing like the 'Taco Bell' image that many still associate with Mexican food and particularly tacos. I would recommend the cochinita pibil tacos and ceviche tostadas, and if you're up for something a bit different you have to try the michelada – a love-it-or-hate-it mix of beer, worcestershire sauce, lime juice and tabasco (no prizes for guessing I love it!)."