I feel like there’s a shortage of good Mexican restaurants in London. And no, the ever-expanding Wahaca chain doesn’t count. It’s also pretty rare to find somewhere with quirky-cool interior design, that serves a fab sit-down meal and bottomless drink for a tenner.
This modern Mexican diner has been on my hit list since it opened mid-2014, so I was super excited to finally make it down to the Old Truman Brewery location. DF stands for Distrito Federal, the locals term for Mexico City, and the venue’s description of itself had me excited!: “Fresh, exciting, feel-good. This is a crash course in modern Mexico.”
The striking interior, highly reviewed food and loveable price points make it the perfect casual pre-Pay Day choice. No reservations, annoyingly, but we luckily breezed onto a table for three at 7pm on a Wednesday.
We sat down in the so-bright-it-hurts interior, amongst an abundance of potted succulents, and menus were delivered to the table. We were instructed to place our orders at the computer screens – nothing like a bit of self-service to keep the costs down!
The menu features the more obvious dishes – nachos, burritos, tacos – plus some novel combos, such as the NYC Torta, a Mexican sandwich served New York style in a toasted brioche bun with smashed avocado, slaw, cucumber pickle and your choice of filling. The menu’s shaped by traditional flavours, with a heavy influence from modern America – this is fast food at it’s peak.
Food ordered, I turned my attention to the agua fresca fountains, and set about trying all the flavours (Hibiscus, Horchata, Lime & Chia) before settling on the Horchata sweetened rice milk with a hint of cinnamon. Sophie and Emily were already slurping tequila-heavy passion fruit margaritas (£6.75 each).
We had made wise menu decisions, we realised, as three towering NYC Torta brioche buns arrived, mine stuffed with roasted Ancho mushrooms and cheese, theirs with chicken and Habanero & pumpkin seed mayo. We forwent the cutlery and headed in face first, making a real mess that only added to the enjoyment. A side of Cowgirl Beans (refried beans with chorizo) was good, but the chilli salted fries were the heroes – with chipotle mayo for dipping, they were devoured in a flash.
I returned a few days later for round II with Richard. Devastatingly, they were all out of NYC Tortas, so we went for tacos instead. Stuffed with steak and chicken, they were generously proportioned – and almost as good as the Torta brioche buns.
We talked ourselves out of further rounds of drinks or desserts (soft serve ice cream), and eventually persuaded ourselves to exit the sunny yellow Mexican interior and hit the frosty streets of London town (Liverpool Street station is less than 10 minutes’ walk). The packet of popping candy we were handed on our way out made the walk to the tube far more exciting!
Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, Shoreditch E1 6QR