Just like falling down a manhole, eating nachos in London can be one of the most disappointing experiences you’ll ever have. Bland. Dry. Empty like my cold, dead heart - these are just some of the words I’d use to describe the crappy state of capital chos.
Tiny dollops of crap salsa on a bowl of sad chips stuck to the plate with cheese adhesive after being nuked for 20 minutes and served cold, I once got given mayo instead of soured cream and nearly dropkicked the waiter. These are not nachos, guys. These are notchos.
And don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the consistently poor dip-to-cho ratio, leaving you with mounds of sauce-less chips too dry to eat (aka bald chos). For those looking to avoid the inevitable baldness by ordering extra dip, the bastards then charge you extra despite the fact that you’re the victim and they should, if anything, be offering you full compensation/counselling.
NB: When ordering nachos, make the notcho/nacho assessment as soon as the dish is brought out. If you immediately send them back on the proviso that there’s not enough sauce, then you won’t get charged. (warning: if you cry “WTF THESE CHOS ARE BALD” you may be asked to leave the restaurant)
Luckily for everyone, I’ve gone through the Tex Mex Notcho battlefield (and gained roughly 70 stone) so you don’t have to. I know, I got emotional about it too. Next time you’re hunting for a classic cho experience, head straight for these four stalwarts of the Salsa’d realm (feel free to add to this list as I may have missed somewhere. I’m only human ffs):
These deep spiced chos are the sort of sort of meal you want to take around the back of a car park for a quick grope before inadvertently discovering they’re articulate, interesting and you’re in love with them. Barbecue spiced chips, filthy great dollops of the big four, two obscenely juicy whole jalapenos casually thrown on top of the Cho Mound… and the sauce is layered throughout, with no bald chos to be seen. And I really searched for one, scarred by a bad notcho experience in Wetherspoons earlier that day. Yeah I had nachos for lunch and dinner. Like Jesus (I’ve never read The Bible). The one issue with these bad boys is that they cost £12.50 which is staggering but make them your main meal - I couldn’t finish my Burrito afterwards.
Santo, 299 Portobello Rd, W10 5TD, 0208 968 4590
Ooh, fancy. A proudly authentic Mexican eaterie that makes the chefs from Wahaca look like their just shoving pringles into salsa while yelling “ARRIIBA” – it’s surprising that nachos are on the menu but thank god they are. Refried bean fans rejoice, the Mestizo chos are a spicy bean frenzy slathered in so much cheese you’ll forget the omission of your usual salsa. OK so I said that the Big Four had to be present at all times, but exceptions can be made when the jalapenos taste this fresh and the cocktails make you this battered. What? Er. No, you got really drunk at Mestizo. Despite being £9.50, the chos are sophisticated and authentic enough to prove worthy of the price tag. If you want cheap nachos, go to the cinema, yeah?
Mestizo, 103 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EL, 020 7387 4064
You know when friends say “hey come round I’ll get some nachos in” and it turns out they’re dipping doritos in salsa and that weird gloopy soured cream and chive dip thing? Never have to murder your friends again, for Café Azteca offers Chos To Go (from £4.95!). Yep, call up and receive excellent, cheap nachos dripping with the sort of guacamole that avocadoes dream about being when they’re older. Thankfully, the cheese was still soft when it arrived on the doorstep but be warned – they can go cold if the Cho Bringer is travelling some distance. If this happens, don’t put them in the microwave for god’s sake – grill them lightly and tenderly. Like an errant lover.
Café Azteca, 50 Battersea Park Rd, Battersea SW11 4JP, 0207 978 2231
These were so good I took a picture and had them as my cover photo on Facebook for about three months. I’m not someone who takes photos of food, by the way, unless it’s in the shape of a pair of boobs or Morgan Spurlock or something, so that’s a big accolade. Anyway, for £8.50 (if you add a topping), these are the best chos I’ve had in this city – mounds of the Big Four plus the cheeky welcome additions of lime (squeeze it!) black beans (eat them!) and two types of salsa (compare and contrast!) that combine with exciting toppings called things like “pork carnitas” and “chicken tinga” to create a mouth celebration. Bald chos? Get out of town! If you can find a dry chip in this de-balded meal, then I’ll actually get out of town.
El Camion Mexicano, 25-27 Brewer St, Soho W1F 0RR, 020 7734 7711
Innovation and Hilarity award: TGI Fridays
Amid 14 year-olds trying to snog each other over chicken wings, these chos are served with dip on the side and every chip is individually covered with cheese (eradicating any “you’ve just eaten the cheesiest nacho” arguments). They’re also, OCD-like, each topped with a single jalapeno, making them look like mad boobs.
TGI Friday, 6 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9HZ, 0844 692 0229
Atmosphere and Free Sauce award: Desperados
Must get a mention for its extra-fun décor (did I mention they’ve glued a boot to a wall?!), terrible music and cheerful chos. Nothing fancy, just decent sauce atop a mountain of chos. The baldness has crept in over the years (I’ve been going regularly since 2010), but they gave me extra sauce for free. Hence the award. Well done, guys.
Desperados, 67 Upper St Islington, N1 0NY, 020 7226 5055