THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
When I read about Tigre Tacos, I felt an instant connection. I seemed to have a shared past with Chef Ramon "El Tigre" Ramos. To my surprise, the connection went much deeper than I had imagined.
I moved to California at the age of 8 and was soon introduced to Mexican cuisine from the housekeeper next door. Tacos! At that point, I think it was the best thing I had ever tasted. To feast on Maria's tacos was better than Christmas. Since then, Mexican food has become a staple in the US. Our shared border has spawned Tex-Mex and Mexicali cuisine, each with its own twists on the classic. El Tigre, as Ramon is known, specialises in Mexicali. Fresh, flavourful and vibrant, it brought me right back to my childhood.
Chef Ramon has a family restaurant in Guadalajara. From there he came to London and opened a food truck near London Bridge. Now, he has permanent digs at The Gunmakers, a typical, neighbourhood Victorian Pub with a lovely covered patio, just off Clerkenwell Road. The outdoor space suits the food very well and a Margarita (£9) even better! It would have felt like a holiday if I hadn't been slaving for the magazine! A splash of orange blossom made the drink unique and well worth a second round.
The menu is entirely fish and vegetarian. Plates are meant to be shared. Next time I will go alone! My blonde companion is very pretty but does not eat like a bird (unless you mean 5 times their body weight every day!) Aguachile de camarón (£10) was dish of the day. Butterflied shrimp are marinated in "chilli water", primarily lime juice and chilli. The acid from the lime juice cooks the prawns perfectly, leaving a nice bite and they just sing with flavour.
Cheese and onion quesadillas (£7) had a beautiful mix of cheeses and came with a fantastic salsa roja. This refers to any red tomato sauce. El Tigre's is reduced to a delicious spicy ketchup. I ate it with a spoon!
Baja fish tacos (£9) come with batter fried cod, white cabbage and chipotle mayo. Simple and tasty, all they needed was a view of the sea!
Calabacitas (£8) are tacos with courgettes, baby corn, hibiscus flowers, feta cheese and salsa verde. How anything so healthy can taste so good is a mystery. The hibiscus is dried, giving it a chewy texture and the tart taste played well with the spicy salsa.
There is no pudding at present but an ice cream taco is on the way. I shall return!
On the way out, I got to meet the man himself. I mentioned that my grandmother lived outside Guadalajara in the ‘70s in a town called Chapala and asked if he knew it. Did he know it??? His grandmother also lived there! That called for a round of tequila shots. To our "abuelas"! Our grandmothers. And one more for the road!