Mexican Magic in Oxford Circus

Following an initial success on Goodge Street, Mexican eatery Benito’s Hat opened a second venue in Covent Garden in the summer of 2010, hoping to cast a wider net to ensnare would-be punters with its mixture of taco and Tequila. It appears to have worked, as the time has now come for a third venture, spelling a Benito’s Hat-trick for the chain.

Based at Oxford Circus, the new site looks instantly familiar, packed with the vibrant green, red and white colour scheme from before. However, unique to this branch is a downstairs gallery which showcases an eccentric range of photographs direct from talented Mexico City students. It’s a nice touch, and the frequently rotated selections are all available to purchase in-house.

As for the food, it couldn’t be simpler: pick a burrito, taco or salad, and have it filled with your choice of pork, chicken, beef or vegetables – all made fresh for around £4 to £6, and soups and sides can be added for those with larger appetites. Having tried the food at the opening of the Covent Garden restaurant the year before, there were some dishes that lacked that essential punch, but that is now definitely a thing of the past.

Classics such as tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole (£1.50/£2) are a treat to share with your fellow amigos, but the real stars are the tacos (£4-£5). In particular, the balsamic vinegar and cumin flavourings of the slow cooked pork taco were my favourite, but the steak and chicken choices also impressed. More surprising was the vegetarian option – a grilled affair of courgette, pepper and chayote ( ‘vegetable pear’), which had a great depth of flavour.

The drinks on offer are as much a reason to go to Benito’s Hat as the food. The salty, sharp margaritas (£5.50) are a quaffable classic, with watermelon or pomegranate versions available to try for an extra pound, and the grapefruit and tequila paloma (£6) is another easy recommendation. In terms of beer, the delicious Negra Modelo (£3.50) is a must.

Having met owner Ben twice now, I can see why this chain is going from strength to strength. He is clearly very passionate about tasty, fresh, authentic food, and has priced things very sensibly. Furthermore, I get the feeling the whole venture is a real family affair, which tends to go hand in hand with really taking care of your customers. For example, Ben’s father was drafted in to do some crucial last minute painting the night before opening, and that’s not something you’d expect Ronald McDonald Senior to do, is it?

12 Great Castle Street
Oxford Circus
Tel: 020 7636 6560

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