REVIEW: Tlaloc Mexican Cuisine, Brighton
What’s in a name? For the absolute bejesus of me I couldn’t remember the name of this place that I’d fleeting seen on the feeds…finally some exciting, fresh and inspired Mexican food in Brighton…sign ME UP. Yeah, sure Rosie
(forever my dining partner of choice) I’ll book a table. Ok, so a pop up with no permanent address…Err…started with an “L” right? Lock, Lalock..no “T”…Tock, Twock, Taock…shout out to Instagram’s frankly useless search facility…rummaging in my followers list I finally found them – Tlaloc.
But this really is a name that serious diners in Brighton should know; as an aside, I could launch into a good 2000 words on the importance of business naming but I’ll save that little rant to launch my upcoming branding blog that this little adventure has inspired. Cock-headed I listened to the reasoning behind this from one of the founders after my meal…ready? Tlaloc is the God of rain. It rains a lot in England, hence the name. Thank goodness I had a good couple of margaritas in me to switch me into full off duty mode or we would have had a situation on our hands with the full force of my expressive Italian hand gestures thrown in for good measure. Make it easy for people to find your business, folks.
Tlaloc has been at its temporary, evening home in Osteria Cafe on North Road for 10 months which is far longer than I thought having only recently come across it. There seems to have been just a small murmur of interest behind it, which is building up and I’ve seen more of the people that influence me sharing it.
One of the highlight points seemed to be that they serve the best margarita in town and I can certainly vouch for that. The Hibiscus Margarita is an essential order; tart, zingy with a ferocious heat from the salt and chilli rim, softened with the sweetness from the fruitiness of the flower. But don’t stop there; there are plenty more to choose from on the menu and are perfect to knock back with the food.
Oh and the food
…there are three starters and I suggest you order them all. Sikil P’ak, a Mayan pumpkin seed dip makes for a great intro. Sweet, deep, smokey and ideal to get stuck in with the homemade tortillas. Aguachile of the day, Mexico’s answer to ceviche, was with prawns, perfectly prepared with delicate fine textures, heat, sweetness. The aerated citrus foam didn’t bring much to the party and this isn’t a dish for everyone. Raw fish isn’t generally for me but Rosie, who eats it with the enthusiasm of a hungry seal, convinced me that if this is
your thing, then you’ll be wanting it sharpish.
You are invited to suck the heads of the prawns in the Camarones con alioli negro dish, and had they not been overcooked would have rewarded in a bit of tasty gruesome that gourmands relish. The saline squid ink alioli brought the drama, the ink adding richness to the dish.
Don’t skip the tacos that form a good chunk of the mains. Vegans are well catered for here and I was almost tempted away, but damn, the octopus taco. Visually beautiful, the tentacle wrapping round the taco like it was meant to be. “Al Pastor” should include pineapple which you wouldn’t notice but maybe it was there amongst the other, perfectly harmonious flavours. Wickedly hot, you will want to eat this. Just not in front of a first date.
On a par with this was the quesadilla de birria; super succulent, melting, pulled goat with just so much smoke and a deep, deep gravy. The fresh, zesty flavours that contrast this, the essence of which makes Mexican food so invigorating, were there in spades along with the delicious squish and crunch of it all.
Interestingly, you’ll find a slight refinement to the food which I imagine comes from the care and love of the people behind it. Luckily it is not distracting, other than the unnecessary foam that features here and there. This food really doesn’t need these flourishes though, it can stand up without it.
As I said, the set up is currently untraditional in a cafe by day, the loos through the kitchen into what seems like a long forgotten set for Rising Damp (so terribly Brighton) with faded floral wallpaper and yellowed paintwork that hasn’t seen a paintbrush since 1972. But this is, by far, the most noteworthy Mexican food I have eaten in Brighton. If ever a place deserved a permanent home in this city this is it. I hope they succeed, and will be a name, even as difficult to pronounce and remember as it is, that will be on everyone’s lips.
Meal for two with service and four cocktails £70.
34 North Road