Casa Negra – from the folk behind Soho’s sex-shop speakeasy La Bodega Negra – is a lively Mexican neighbourhood spot on Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, taking its name from the black floor to ceiling wood almost everywhere you look. At night those looking for a hideaway can descend into the bowels of the premises to a subterranean bar, but we were there at lunch, sun streaming in on our window seats, watching the mixologist do his thing among the explosion of South American colour and exotic bottles at the bar – the focal point of the upstairs dining area. A Latin soundtrack kept the mood upbeat, and the ambience was warm but laid back.
The menu was pretty varied so we had some guacamole and tortilla chips to munch while we made up our minds, eventually deciding on a selection of three tacos from the lunch menu – the orange braised beef being a favourite – and some peppers stuffed with cheese and deep fried, served with a delicious warm salsa. Then, with the excuse of a big afternoon ahead, we dived into the main menu for something more substantial. Giving the meat a miss for a change, the Pescado de la Veracruzano turned out to be a gem, with nice crispy skin on the sea bass, and the Ceviche de Caballa (marinated mackerel with vegetables), equally tasty. So far, so very good.
It didn’t take much for our arms to be twisted on a selection of frozen margaritas made with summery fruits, which on such a hot day were an absolute winner and a nice way to take the edge off the spicy fare. On that topic, chilli heroes who don’t like to taste anything except pain – those who order phals from Indian restaurants for example – might want to insult the kitchen by asking the chefs to ramp up the spice level, but we found the flavours perfectly piquant without leaving your mouth feeling like you’ve been chewing lit matches. If you’re on the larger side, bring a fat wallet as you’ll need to order a few things to satisfy a big appetite, but you won’t be disappointed on flavour or the excellent service. ¡Hasta pronto!