Image: Sim Canetty-Clarke
Jason Allen 10/03/23
Zapote | A Top-Tier Independent Mexican Restaurant in Shoreditch
There are very few things more risky than not taking any risks at all.
So, in a way, the guys behind Zapote are playing it very, very safe.
Because the restaurant they’ve opened is entirely self-funded and independent, with no big £-shaped safety net from an angel investor or hospitality group. But then, the guys in question include Tony Geary, who’s spent virtually his entire life in the hospitality game, heading up the team at Sketch, and becoming the head of the entire Aqua group and its global collection of 20+ restaurants. And it was there that he met the Mexican head chef at Aqua Nueva, the supremely talented Yahir Gonzalez, and a mutual dream was formed. So basically, if anyone can make it work, it’s them.
And so far, they’re nailing it.
The restaurant itself is a hop & a skip away from Old Street, just down from a long run of pubs & bars, with punters spilling out onto the street clutching plastic pints. The space is signposted by what looks like a bright orange neon acorn (but which is in fact a sapote – a soft, sweet Mexican fruit). And walking inside, you’ll immediately notice just how big it is. Now, ordinarily being big shouldn’t be a problem, but here, all that space might otherwise end up robbing the place of its intimacy. The solution? They’ve divided up the place into two – a horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar in one half, and a colourful dining area in the other, all separated by a row of bench seating. It’s a simple fix, but it works wonders for the atmosphere.
Then there’s the menu. London’s only recently become home to some truly great Mexican restaurants (thanks largely to places like Kol and Cavita), which means that you can now get fantastic tacos. And good lord, the tacos here are great – they come in a little basket all wrapped in cloth, and they taste like they’re fresh off the pan because, well, they’re fresh off the pan (and were made in-house that day).
Among others, you’ll use them to eat the classic zingy al pastor; the rich beef tartare spread with roasted bone marrow; and the sweet white crab with black bean pozole, which comes served in an entire crab shell. Other standout dishes include the perfectly crisp & tender chicken thighs, which come in a little bed of mole sauce that you’ll want to lick off the plate. And for dessert? There’s a wedge of pistachio cake topped with a sweetcorn cream (shaped to look exactly like it’s still on the cob), all sitting in a thick swirl of coffee mezcal ganache.
As for the drinks, well, that horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar isn’t exactly siting idle. They’ll whip up some excellent mixed drinks (the mezcal-laced house Zapote cocktail is particularly good), and even a michelada-style beer if you ask for one. And you should. Because it’s hard to go wrong at this place.
In fact, you won’t be taking a risk going here at all.
NOTE: Zapote is open now, Tuesday to Saturday. You can find out more, and book a table at their website right here.
Zapote | 70 Leonard St, London EC2A 4QX
Want to visit more local gems? Check out the best restaurants in Shoreditch…
70 Leonard Street, London , Shoreditch, EC2A 4QX
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8.8 | Great
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