The Ultimate London Nacho: El Camion, Soho

Ultimate London Nacho: El Camion, Soho

Sometimes, when you’re not looking, a cho comes up and knocks you sideways in the mouth. Then climbs into your mouth and starts a mexican fire of glory while sliding down your gullet on a bed of the Big Four (Cheese, Salsa, Soured Cream, Guac) mixed with some truly innovative extras. Like multicoloured chos. And lime. And two types of salsa.

El Camion nachos

It’s an embarrassing amount of splendour for £7. I can’t even get a bus for £7. OK, I can. But I can’t even BUY a bus for £7.

Add ground beef picadillo, chicken tinga (me neither), shredded pork carnitas (nope) or yucatin beef if you like but the vegetarian option kicks everyone’s arse right out of the park. And it’s not for sharing – you need to experience this as a main course, yourself; after me and my Nachoist acquaintances inserted out faces into a plate as a shared starter, we immediately cancelled the main course and just got another two of them.

“Hey, talk to me about bald chos!” I hear you plead, silently. The bastard thing was completely de-balded to the extent where, for one moment, I thought a fork would have to be employed (and so, as anyone has been following this recently dormant but now back-in-action cho blog will know, negating the whole point of chos as finger food) but you could just keep eating. They weren’t wet, nor had they wilted under the pressure of such heavenly layers; the multi-faceted cho plains (YES, PLURAL) were perfectly formed as if they’d been born that way. Like Lady Gaga. Or an onion.

People go to El Camion for the cocktails, but they leave with the chos. Have your mojito AFTER the Cho Experience; you could spill it. Or, worse, the sugary taste could overpower the tender balance of salsa verde, salsa normalé (shut it), soured cream, cheese, jalapeno, black bean, guacamole, jalapeno and that delicate squeeze of fresh lime. Or, even worse, you could get drunk and forget it every happened. Oh christ, the thought of that has made me all hot, and not in a fun way. I’m crying. I can’t stop crying.

Ultimate London Nacho? It’s a 5. If I could make it a 6, I would. And if I could hold it through the night, I would. This is the third time I’ve wanted to make love to London Chos (see Brockley Mess and Santos on Portobello Rd), and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. 

Follow El Camion on Twitter here. And go to one of their effing restaurants NOW.

The Ultimate London Nacho: The Brockley Mess

Where? The Brockley Mess, 325 Brockley Rd SE4 2QZ

This has been, in the words of Alfred Tennyson, an effing good fortnight for nachos. After the gritty authenticity of the deliciously filthy Santo, next up comes one of those experiences that hit you seemingly from nowhere. Like, for example, if you were in a creche and an anvil fell on a priest.

The Brockley Mess is an unassuming, un-Mexican, yet pretty posh cafe-cum-art-gallery on Brockley Road in Brockley. Near Brockley station. That’s Brockley, in case you’re blind/not able to read things without adequate repetition. Chic, airy and serving things like skinny mocha latte cakes, not only did the chef prepare these nachos with homemade guacamole and salsa, but he layered a lovely chipotle bean mixture throughout the dish.

It’s even sprinkled with paprika, illustrating how much care and thought went into these chos. He didn’t absent mindedly throw some cheese on top, stick them in the microwave and serve with potted, cold sauces. The chos were just as artistically striking as the gallery (although I didn’t see the gallery due to serious cho consumption) and probably tasted better.

After refusing to  provide the recipe for his guacamole (aside from admitting it contains avocados) chef, top sound designer and good friend of Nacho Times Adam Aguiar then posed for a picture.

… in which he looks like a mad Mexican chef lunatic. But one who deserves a place in the Nacho Times hall of fame. We’ll pass over the fact that there’s no hall and, currently, contains only one picture. But maybe I’ll start one.

The great thing about the nachos, though, is the relish that just kept on going. Slightly sodden with the sheer quantity of top class salsa and near-perfect guac, there was neither cheese adhesive nor a bald cho in sight. I nearly wanted to use a fork, but didn’t which, as everyone hopefully now realises, is the ideal in terms of cho texture (CT).

There were no jalapenos but when the remainder is this good, fresh and akin to dropping an anvil on a priest, who needs them?

Ultimate London Nacho? It’s got to be a 5. More Tex Mex than Santo’s black bean ode to Mexicana, these were just as fantastic- proof that The Brockley Mess is certainly anything but. <insert applause for pithy end sentence>

The Ultimate London Nacho: Santo, Notting Hill

Where: Santo, Portobello Road W10 5TD

The size of the jalapenos sums up the boldness of these authentic, yet sort of excitingly filthy chos. Salsa? Get bent. Bean dip? Hop on. The experience was like being chafed by a sombrero to the upbeat strains of “La Cucaracha”.

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The chips are hand-cut, thick and spiced. The guacamole is a chunk-fest. The cheese is warm.  The waiter fixes our wonky table with some paper and makes an amusing joke. The whole thing gets a bit overwhelming to be honest and, what? Yes, "our table". You thought I went to restaurants and ate nachos by myself? Well, occasionally, but that's for my other blog entitled Why It's Okay To Always Eat Alone.

Back to the chos in hand, where the portion size was huge and the relish plentiful, just like Jesus (I've never read the Bible). There was layering. Yes, layering not only of the cheese but of the sauce. It got to the stage where my dining partner said: "they're really wet" and I replied: "I almost want to use a fork, but I won't". This is the crux- a fork was considered, but never used, as nachos should be sauce-laden, but never to the point where a fork is a necessity. There were even some cubes of tofu on there, unobtrusively tucked to one side in the event of the eater despising tofu. What a nice protein-rich gesture.

Erm, they were £10. That's an issue, but these are seriously filling chos and I was unable to complete the main course. For anyone interested, it was a burrito which cost £350.

Ultimate London Nacho? They have to get a 5. As I’ve yet to visit every eaterie in London selling nachos, this means Santo are the Ultimate London Cho SO FAR. 

WILL THEY EVER BE BEATEN? OH THE EXCITEMENT. I’VE JUST WET MYSELF. (For more anecdotes of this nature, visit my other blog Incontinent Fun Times)

The Arc: Vegetarian Nachos vs Chicken Fajita Nachos

Place: The Arc, Torrens St, Angel 

One place. Two nachos. One vegetarian, one not vegetarian. You know when there’s a child and his brother is more talented and loved than him? Yeah, that. With more emotion involved, obviously.

Nachos Mexicana (£6.95): Fajita spiced chicken, pepper and red onion, mature Cheddar, guacemole, soured cream, salsa. Picture doesn’t do them justice as phone was attached to wall via phone charger so couldn’t reach.

Nachos (£5.95): cheddar, guacemole, soured cream, salsa. NB: contains significantly less cheese and not nearly as much sauce as the above. Also, you won’t get as big a portion. Photo does them too much justice as had unplugged phone by this point. 

The Nachos Mexicana had much more cheese, grated and warmed, leaving it almost erotically stringy. They had to be eaten with a fork which, though controversial, proves the existence of some fantastic sauce coverage.

The Nachos (v) had cheese glued to the triangles like a child clinging to a disinterested parent (children overcompensate when a parent doesn’t give them as much love as their elder siblings) and were a minefield of bald chos. Holding each other like children sobbing in daycare, bonded by overly sweet salsa and cheese adhesive, the chef didn’t care- letting them sit there on the plate, embarrassed by their own failure. Doing nothing. God it makes me mad.

But what of the chips? They, on both plates, tasted suspiciously similar to the Tesco Value tortillas, leaving a salty, tearful aftertaste. At least the Nachos Mexicana had some quality pepper and onion action to make up for this, though.

Why not try taking the child out to the cinema to show him how much you care? You can even get vouchers if you’re a bit hard up. Or do an Orange Wednesday? That’d be nice wouldn’t it? Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked.

So, The Arc, you may do wonderful pizzas (including buy-one- get- one-free-deal at lunchtimes) but take more care with your vegetarian chos. We’re malnourished, anaemic, and notice such things. If anything, take more care, because we’re often left to deal with subpar food and can’t have steaks which is really irritating sometimes.

It’s unacceptable that, as a vegetarian, I must order a chicken nachos without the chicken in order to get a satisfactory plate o’cho. That’s like ordering order a burger minus the burger plus macaroni cheese in order to get quality pasta.

Also, if you’re a parent, make sure you lavish enough attention on both your children. It’s important.

Ultimate London Nacho: Obviously not the vegetarian nachos. I’ve had better in Wetherspoons. However, the Nachos Mexicana were pretty cool- but the quality of the chips let them down. 3. 

ULN: The Piccadilly Institute

Where: The Piccadilly Institute: One, Piccadilly Circus 

This place is amusing for two reasons– firstly, it’s “what’s on” guide states:

“We all need a place where we become enlightened. This is that place”

This is followed by a blank calendar for the whole of this upcoming month. Hilarious.

Secondly, it’s also described as “dedicated to the principles of pleasure”, which is a bit funny, but mainly intriguing and arousing. Time to pleasure yourself with some £9.95 nachos, if you don’t mind your food resembling  Lisa Simpson after a car accident.

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Try and find the “Shrink” room (there are loads of rooms with different, nacho-free menus) and you’ll come across this top notch Holy Cho Fountain described by nacho enthusiast Dani O’Hagan as “generally excellent with perfect ratios of soured cream, guac, salsa and cheese”.

Bizarrely, they were also served in a “metal tub, like a tiny tin bath” reinforcing the proverb: “if you bathe a nacho, they’ll only end up decanted into an old pizza box, as pictured, for ease purposes”. Also, it’s a bit Sylvanian Families.

Receptacle misfires aside, the Big Four were striped across the chos, which were warm and crispy, with the cheese sprinkled in the centre. This is a bold decision Dani described as “nicely combined, and not too invasive.” Personally, I want a bit more of the Viking in my dairy, but who am I to dispute what was, undeniably, a great nacho experience? Oh, and the portion was massive.

If the price has got you feeling like a mangled Simpson character, they do a half price deal 5-7.30pm every day.

Rating? We’re going to go with a 4. Bathing aside.

Ultimate London Nacho: The Texan Embassy

It’s been all quiet on the nacho front mainly due to me being in Norfolk. Nachos were few and far between (i.e. there weren’t any) but there was a lot of fish produce. 

Thankfully Neil, of One Leg Too Few and the utterly brilliant @band_wagon that sees him tweeting trends a decade after they’ve happened (follow him) went to the Texan Embassy. Then only nearly found the Ultimate London Nacho. Bastard. What’s more annoying is his eloquent review so I think I’m going to have to up my game.

Take it away, Neil…

Place: The Texan Embassy, Trafalgar Square

I had high expectations of these nachos as this is a dedicated tex mex restaurant of some repute. So dedicated, in fact, that it refers to itself as ‘a cantina’ and there are signs about the place telling you how far it is to Texas (4,440 miles). Sitting up one end of the table with all the adults talking politely about politics whilst my little sister and seven of her equally giggly friends drank soft drinks in celebration of her 14th birthday, our starters came at an opportune time, given I’d just been asked a tricky question about Nick Clegg’s foreign policy by an old aunt who had a moustache I’d forgotten about and now couldn’t stop staring at. 


They were always going to taste pretty good, given that I wasn’t paying, but these chos were a thing of beauty. Delightfully proportioned, the chos-to-share came replete with healthy dollops of cream and guacamole, both of which were fresh, cold and full of flavour. Nachos themselves were pleasantly warm, neither too hard nor too soft, with minimal ‘filler’ – the broken detritus that often makes up for half a dish in these dystopian (nacho) times (see what I did there?) which prohibit effective sauce scooping and generally contribute to annoyance and salsa covered trousers. 

The cheese was what really made it, permeating the chos in a layering system that seemed to consistently provide toppings for each handful. God bless the anti-glooper that works in their kitchen. He (or she?) is doing sterling work. Good strategic approach, Texan embassy, and classily executed alongside a tomato salsa and jalepeno pepper (also very fresh) scattergun layout that I haven’t seen before, but brought personality and spice to the table.

The icing on the cake? The inclusion of chicken and refried beans alongisde the chos. Wow. So many options, so many combinations, so many reasons to regret saying I’d share these with my girlfriend.

Ultimate London Nacho? Tasty chos? Certainly. Enough to put me off my Aunt’s moustache? Just. But that’s a pretty big achievement.  4.5 out of 5, as the cheese got a little hard as we got to the bottom. 

Ultimate London Nacho: The Beehive

Place: The Beehive, Vauxhall

As Sophocles once said: “There’s nothing more satisfying than nachos and bees.”

Sadly, The Beehive chos priced at £4.50 and sampled by Nachoist Katy from Londonfood4afiver appear, at first glance, more wasplike (wasps are bald. See, the analogy works)

  Just look at the cheese adhesive and inevitable mass clumping. Oh Beehive, why don’t you stick to what you do best? Which is… layering apparently. Oh hello curveball.

For the first time in Ultimate London Nacho history, we’ve hit upon the goldmine of the tex mex world. Yes, The Beehive layer their cheese throughout their chos. Oh stop I’ve come over all emotional. I’m crying. I’M CRYING ALL OVER THE BEES.

Quote from Katy: “The cheese layering was exquisite. Everytime I thought there was no more cheese, more appeared…”

Unfortunately the guac tasted like toothpaste which proves maybe you can’t have it all. Everytime a chef gets it right, they balance it out with something incredibly wrong. Like Colgate. The rule of thumb is, if you add mint to guacamole, it becomes GuacaNO. And it’s just a bit weird, really.

One day… one day…

Ultimate London Nacho? Sadly not due to bizarre mint guac, but the layering definitely brings it up to a commendable level: 3.5/5