5 things you should try at Casa Pastor, Coal Drops Yard

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Head to waterside King’s Cross for a hedonistic Mexican haunt – and top tacos


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Is there such a thing as too much avocado? That’s our sole concern at the end of an otherwise excellent meal at this new King’s Cross centrepiece. Oh, and if we’re quibbling, we’d prefer the small plates to be more staggered: being presented with them all at once can turn a sitting taco a tad chewy after only a few minutes.

But I’m guessing a slower tempo is impossible in a place so big, and so packed. After all, Casa Pastor’s backstory is what drives the crowds in: its big brother is renowned Borough taqueria El Pastor, while owners the Harts Brothers are the masterminds behind Soho tapas haven Barrafina, which has a branch upstairs, too (read our review here).

Casa Pastor
Stylish: interior. Photos Sam Ashton

If you haven’t yet been, this is a characterful corner of Coal Drops: there are original Victorian brick walls and arched windows, Mexican murals, antique-patterned cement tiles and tropical trees. The brightly coloured large outdoor terrace is in fact a second restaurant – the rowdier Plaza Pastor – a better option for casual drinking and snacks, while indoors the marble mezcaleria bar takes pride of place.

Above the 80-cover dining area, a mezzanine level adds height: the idea is that the metal staircase, balcony balustrades and shelving units all reference the motels and apartment buildings of Mexico City. But it’s probably safe to say no-one here is paying any attention to details like that – they’re too busy having a good time. That’ll be the mezcal, then.


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Tacos

Too easy to sink by the duo, some are fiery, some less so. Least impressive (despite the server saying it’s her fave) is the mushroom, with queso, onion and pumpkin seed; but the fish tacos that follow are outstanding. A light Corona-battered sea bass comes with shredded cabbage and zingy salsa, while raw translucent prawn is sticky with mojo de ajo (garlic, lime and chilli): so delish we order another.

Tostados

The best dish of the night is a Mexican riff on that old Barrafina classic, tuna tartare (our main pic, above). Squatting on a blue corn tostada (basically a big tortilla chip), the fat crimson cubes are served on a whorl of avocado with a potent hit of chilli. Utterly majestic. A chicken tinga one dazzles less but would have held its own had we not tasted the former; still, the braised, shredded meat, with onions, jalapeno sour cream and avocado is hardly unimpressive.

Casa Pastor
Sea bass ceviche. Photo Sam Ashton

Salsas

These are worth selecting – try five for £5 (or £1.50 each): as the menu says they’re key to tasting the tacos and made in-house. Ours range from the moreishly mild pleasures of Mexicana (tomato, onion, jalpeno and lime) to the grassy thrill of the coriander-based Verde Fresca. Meanwhile the Chile de Arbol is packed with health-giving fire, while our hottest choice is Del Vic, made from charred habanero (amongst the strongest chillies) and lime. Ouch.

Oysters & Ceviche

Who can resist a pearly oyster? Especially gilded with mezcal, an orange slice and worm salt – exactly what you think it is – making it simultaneously briny, smoky and citrusy. And don’t miss the classic sea bass ceviche, a rather milkily comforting bowl marinated in lime juice, with pico de galo, the salsa of chopped tomato, onion and peppers. Crowned with avocado. Obvs.

Mezcal

There’s a lengthy menu of the agave-based spirit: it’s tempting to dive in with a 150ml carafe (£27+), but we start tentatively with a 35ml shot of silky, smooth Siete Misterios Doba (44% ABV), its smokiness lifted by hints of grapefruit and apple. We move onto cocktails: Negroni Rosita is a smoky take on the classic, while a Jalisco (El Jimador tequila, spicy Cocchi Risa, cava and hibiscus) balances bitter and vanilla notes. It goes without saying we’ll be back to make further indents next time.

This is box title
Tacos £5+, Tostados £5.50+, Casa Pastor, Coal Drops Yard N1C, more info here

Main image: Helen Cathcart


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