Walking into the DF Mexico restaurant on Tottenham Court Road, I was overwhelmed by the different stylish prints across the walls and the blend of quirky decorations. It truly felt like I was surrounded by an array of different cultures, from those of an American diner or Mexican cantina to that of a stylish English restaurant.
The diner serves dishes inspired by the interaction of U.S. and Mexican cuisines and their influence over each other. DF Mexico originally began as an experiment after Wahaca founders Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby completed a road trip in the two countries.
The team behind Wahaca, a chain of London-based Mexican street food restaurants, launched their second DF Mexico diner almost a year after the first, which was opened in 2014. DF Mexico, which is named after the Mexican name for the country’s capital, the Distrito Federal, opened its second branch on Tottenham Court Road in September, 2015. This followed the opening of its first at London’s Old Truman Brewery near Shoreditch in July, 2014.
The founders’ road trip sparked the idea for a modern Mexican diner with dishes such as the NYC Torta – a Mexican sandwich served New York style in a toasted brioche bun with smashed avocado – and Mexican-American steak tacos made with grilled steak, crispy cheese, chipotle salsa and tomatillo guacamole in soft corn tortillas.
The interesting and eclectic graphic designs displayed across the diner depict connections between American and Mexican cultures. To reflect Mexico City’s growing design scene, the diner displays 30 original graphic prints from emerging Mexican artists such as Uriel Marin, Sanez and Neuzz. Architecture and design artist company Softroom designed the interior to create the feel and energy of contemporary Distrito Federal, keeping the restaurant connected to its roots in Mexican culture.
Everything from the inside of the restaurant to the food was a unique blend of American and Mexican cultures: The music was always interesting and constantly changed, featuring up and coming artists alongside old school tunes and even their ultimate DF playlist, which they display on their website and play in the restaurant.
Although the atmosphere was great, the food was very mediocre. I ordered the chips and guacamole and expected to have salty and crispy chips, but they were bland and tasteless. The guacamole was good, but not good enough to offset the bad taste of the chips.
If the food did have a good flavor it was offset by the addition of way too much spiciness. The steak tacos were actually very good, they were soft tacos topped with marinated steak, a red pepper salsa, ‘avocado mojo’ and grilled cheese. Usually, I am not too much of a cheese lover, but the grilled cheese on top helped tame down the spice just a little bit. The avocado was very good, and the steak tasted fantastic, however, there was way too much spice in the salsa. It was difficult to eat because I had to grab sips of water in between each bite. The beef burrito was similar, just a lot blander. The burrito could have used some more heat or a crunchy element to direct attention away from the mushy texture of beans and rice.
The dessert was what I was looking forward to most when I looked at the menu. The Malty One, an ice cream sandwich which was two oat cookies dipped partly in chocolate filled with malted milk ice cream and malt crumbs. The ice cream sandwich was mediocre as the cookie was flavorless and crumbly.
While the restaurant’s atmosphere was fantastic, the food didn’t exactly live up to the expectations that I had. Some of the food was bland, or too spicy and was generally all over the place. Overall, I would rate the restaurant a three out of five, as it wasn’t as good as I had thought that it would be.