Eating Out: New La Taqueria every bit as good as the original, or most other places
274-276 Ormeau Road
028 9064 4477
ONE of the Americans at the big table in La Taqueria on the Ormeau Road in Belfast has a theory. It’s one that proves controversial to at least one of her compatriots. Maybe the rest agree, maybe they’re too busy tucking into their lunches. Maybe they’re much better than I am at tuning out conversations that have nothing to do with them, no matter what level the audio creeps up to.
Her thesis was that only the likes of McDonald’s or Burger King, places where you ask for the stuff, and, as it’s already sitting there, they hand it to you straight away, provide the only real fast food you can get here.
Really? she’s asked. What about a chip shop? Nope. You might have to wait 10 minutes for your pasty bap. How’s that fast? How indeed.
The restaurant that used to sit on this site in the south of the city, Le Petit Ormeau, produced beautiful French bistro-style classics, but my God they took their time getting them to you. While the food was fantastic the service was, eh, not.
If you wanted an impeccable croque madame in Belfast it was the place to go. If you wanted it within an hour of walking through the door, it was never guaranteed.
The food in La Taqueria is slow. Not the service, that’s impeccable. Cheery, knowledgeable, helpful, unobtrusive.
It’s slow before you walk through the door. All the slow is behind the scenes. Time has been taken to get it right. Like its sister restaurant in the city centre, that’s especially evident in its meat.
Crackling-coated, collapsing pork; soft, deeply flavoured beef; vibrant, smoky chorizo. It’s all here, it’s all good. We’re here on a Friday early afternoon, when the menu is noticeably different to what’s on offer in the evening.
There’s still all that meat and tacos and other bits and pieces in common but there’s also scrambled eggs and potato hash. We’re in brunch territory, which also means we’re in cocktail territory. Just as in the Castle Street original, La Taqueria’s cocktails are on the money – the pisco sour a very good one, the margarita a perfect one.
The technicolour Day of the Dead-esque renderings on the walls, the wooden tables, the filament lightbulbs it’s the law that anywhere wanting to consider itself even a little bit edgy simply must use, all strongly evoke the first La Taqueria, which opened two and a half years ago.
When a well-established, quality place opens a satellite location, it invites the pressure of replicating what made the first one so good. They effortless clear that hurdle here. Everything is every bit as good as you’ll find in the original. It’s as good as you’ll find most places.
The refried beans are as black as coal and taste like they've been chiselled from deep underground. Earthy, savoury, with a touch of smoky chipotle spice, the small portion for £3.50 is plenty for two and comes with some of that crispy pork scattered on top and their excellent tortilla chips for scooping.
The selection of tacos with various combinations of sausage, spuds, eggs and spice go for between £4.50 and £6 and are great value for the quality you get.
The tacos choripapas consist of a pile of that killer chorizo with onion, potatoes and scrambled eggs on two tortillas, all ready to be bundled together and scoffed in double quick time.
For a little more – £7 and £7.50 – respectively, there are hulking great tortas, Mexican sandwiches which, had at this time of day, operate like filled sodas from the Aztec gods.
The cabeza de res – beef head – may be the best thing you’ll find between two bits of bread anywhere.
The meat, mainly cheek but don’t rule out the possibility of more wobbly bits you probably won’t want to Google videos of, is amazing.
The beefiness is enormous, with a little chilli heat floating around and more cinnamon, peppery warmth. The juices, helped along by the melting, beautifully flavoured fat, soak into the bap the way they should.
The richness could be overwhelming, which is where the scallions and squeeze of lime top it off perfectly. If you’re that way inclined, you can leave the coriander on to do the same job.
Two coffees, thick with brown sugar and cinnamon, jolt us back into life when it would have been easier to call for another margarita and slide into a gloriously slow afternoon.
Refried beans £3.50
Taco choripapas £6
Torta cabeza de res £7.50
Pisco sour £7.75
Cafe de Olla x2 £5