Mexican cuisine with British seasonal ingredients
After working in restaurants across the globe, living in Mexico, Spain and Copenhagen, Mexican born chef Santiago Lastra has finally decided to open his own place; and he’s settled for the big smoke.
“I wanted to choose a place where I love the guests, I love cooking for Londoners” Santiago tells me.
A city full of broke, unfriendly pasty people who are constantly stressed is apparently desirable.
“In London you have different spark in the way that you enjoy food — not so rooted in tradition. Londoners are fun, open people from all around the world”
Where a lack of tradition in food makes us the perfect audience, tradition is exactly what drives his food. “It’s round and very fatty and spicy — it’s made with the heart, this is the source of it all. We don’t use techniques, it’s about tradition — feeling, feeling, feeling.”
“Mexico: you eat and you cry there, the food is very intense”
The last few years has seen a boom of Mexican cuisine in London. Breddos tacos, El Pastor and Corazon have brought the Mexican joints to the top of peoples hit-lists. Breddos was just a shack on the street a few years back, now they’re opening their third bricks-and-mortar site.
For Santiago, British seasonality is not a challenge, but an opportunity. “You can season seasonality. You have this amazing lamb [Santiago is using lamb from Maerdy farm in Wales, sourced via Foodchain] you slow cook it and dress it with Mexican spices –the sauce isn’t made from fruits from Mexico but with figs, berries or quince.” He explains further. “Mole is a concept. When you are living in a place which has bananas, you put the bananas in the mole. You work with your environment, [in the UK] there is seaweed, so you add that to the mole instead.”
Santiago with Carwyn of Maerdy farm, where the sheep graze on kale, turnips and clovers in the hills of the Brecon Beacons
His dedication to British seasonality and ingredients has become his new obsession and occupation. “Right now I am just travelling around England, Scotland and Wales to find ingredients. I want to create a way to work with producers which is more sustainable, that’s why I am so happy to have found Foodchain”
His style is not only produce-led, but provenance-led. Foodchain seeks to drive engagement and understanding between chef and producer. Santiago came on our most recent trip to Wales to meet an array of producers, from rare breed pig farmers to artisan cheesemakers; these producers he now advocates for and is using on his menus. To read more about this trip click here
So what will his restaurant look like? Open kitchen. Central London, 50 covers. He wants shared main courses. It’ll be more high-end than the current Mexican offering in London and for design Santiago will be working with British craftsmen using Mexican colourways. He’ll be serving dishes like ‘Salt baked Welsh lamb shoulder with borracha sauce, roasted and pickled seasonal vegetables and tortillas made with Scottish grains,’ Mezca, tequila and Mexican coffee. Can’t wait? Well lucky for you he’s going to be serving up a feast at Carousel between 13–24th of February so you don’t have to. Click here to book.
Santiago with Foodchain’s Anastasia at Forest Coalpit Farm on our Welsh Trip.