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Will Ricker’s sequel to La Bodega Negra is a crackling, funky Mexican joint housed in what was his Great Eastern Dining Room – no
sex-shop-style entrance here, just a bouncy beach bar with a laid-back vibe. Classic Shoreditch livery sets the tone – think distressed dark-wood panelled walls, glitzy chandeliers and retro
coloured light bulbs, plus a ‘family’ room next door with a communal table for walk-ins. The wide-ranging menu opens with assorted starters and small plates, from ‘antojitos’ (‘little cravings’) to
sticky pork tacos, hearty chorizo and potato quesadillas and zingy mackerel ceviche pointed up with habanero chilli. To follow, spicy fried chicken is a boldly flavoured plateful and braised rib of
beef is long-cooked for fall-apart tenderness. Tequila and mezcal dominate the impressive cocktail list, while the buzzy atmosphere is helped along by a bass-heavy party soundtrack and nattily
dressed, eager-to-please staff.
La Bodega Negra has a little sister all the way over in Shoreditch – Casa Negra. We haven’t been to La Bodega but have often admired it as we walked past, each time I’d remind Ade that I want to visit. It was always heaving and we were always on our way somewhere else. Casa Negra seems a little more chilled, bustling but not ridiculously busy. The bar area doubles up as a beach shack delivering an instant hit of summer.There’s a short menu enabling a taste of what they have to offer in the main restaurant without the commitment of a full meal. Round the corner by the kitchen is a huge communal table – the Kitchen Table which doubles up as a private dining area for 18 people. You can also perch at the counter and watch the chefs at work. Downstairs is the Playroom with a bar, booths and pinata hanging from every orifice, it comes alive at the weekends or can also be hired as a party venue...
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Bodega Negra was one of our most memorable recent meals in Central London. I don't think that it was really down to the food. Don't get me wrong, we had some great dishes that night - the soft shell crab tacos stood out particularly - but it was more the combination of ambience, decor, service and music which made that evening special. If I had the money to (it is staggeringly expensive), it would probably be a regular choice in Soho, which probably explains why it's one of the biggest celebrity draws in London...
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