Benito’s Hat, Leadenhall Market

A child. A small Mexican child runs home. He’s late. Not only is he late, but he’s missing a shoe. He knows he’s in trouble. The fear of seeing his mother’s face turn that special shade brings the boy to tears. So by the time he reaches the steps of his house he is a rather pathetic sight. But when the door opens the tirade he feared never comes. Instead he is hoisted up and placed at the table in front of a rich mahogany plate of mole. Looking up at his mother baffled by her lack of fury he squeals with delight when he sees a pack of animal biscuits brought down from the highest shelf. As she crumbles them and mixes them into the mole while patting the boy’s head, he feels that indescribable sensation known as home.

You may call that heart warming. Personally I call it bad parenting, but either way that small boy has never forgotten it. I mean it never happened, as far as I know, but why the hell else would you put animal crackers in your mole? Apparently because it tastes good. Mix it with a cranberry chipotle sauce and you may well have created one of the most unconventional festive treats I have ever tried.

Sitting in the President’s Bar (a little bit over the top, methinks) our evening got off to a fantastic start with two margaritas and a bowl of nachos with a zesty green salsa that genuinely took my mind back to a particular taco stand in Mexico City, and that’s before the alcohol kicked in.

I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my reverie into two tostadas: one chicken tinga and one balsamic pork. Luckily they were both delicious enough to soothe the transition, and the balsamic pork in particular was so dark, melt in the mouth and rich in flavour that both me and my sister swore blind that it was beef. I still think it was. I was lied to.

The main sharing plate followed, which had elements I loved and some I didn’t. Bigger dishes of the balsamic pork and chicken tinga to go with our basket full of tacos was predictably delicious; and the black beans with chorizo were a step above those I have had elsewhere. Unfortunately, the star of the show was a let down. The mole. No matter how many ingredients they pour in (including the animal crackers) I refuse to be won over. This is not a comment on Benito’s Hat’s interpretation of it, but the fact that I am yet to find a mole I like. Sorry, Mexico. One day maybe, but not today, and probably not tomorrow.

Finally, we finished with a Mexican chocolate cake. It was nice, in the same way my childhood invention of bread and butter sprinkled with dry hot chocolate was nice; but when the two key ingredients appear to be Nesquik and condensed milk, I’m pretty unlikely to rave about it.

Eventually, after an evening of tacos, tostadas and margaritas, we left with the incredibly warm farewells of the staff and executive chef, Felipe. If I can leave you with one thought to remember it’s this: if you are looking for Mexican food with an authentic, fun feel in a friendly atmosphere then get down to Benito’s Hat. If you want refinement, then well… maybe don’t eat Mexican, you’re missing the point.

Benito’s Hat
107-112 Leadenhall Street

Tel: 020 7283 2776

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