Salsa Down To Benito’s Hat Restaurant For A Taste of Mexico

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With prizes of a large bottle of tequila, or the chance to see your cocktail features on the menu for a month, three teams of four wannabe chefs took up Benito’s Hat’s recent challenge to make an authentic salsa, tortilla and unique cocktail. Following a demonstration by Felipe Cruz (head chef and partner) of course. Each team spent 15 minutes per food station, before rotation to the next. Throughout the evening of Mexican cooking, what struck me was how simple ingredients and cooking techniques, could produce such tasty food.

Benito’s Hat is a small chain of London restaurants named after Mexican national hero, lawyer and political activist Benito Juarez, the country’s first indigenous president. In the UK, Benito’s strive through their fresh food and traditional decor, to deliver Jaurez’s warmth and love of Mexico to its customers. Benito’s is the brainchild of ex lawyer Ben Fordham who hit upon the idea of having his very own restaurant while studying in Texas.

On return to England, he began moonlighting at London Mexican restaurants, where he honed his skills.  Importantly, he was aware the perception of Mexican food here – as stodgy and over filling, needed dispelling. After consolidating his courage and effort, he opened his first store in Goodge Street three years ago, concentrating on serving food with freshly sourced ingredients. Since then, two more restaurants have been opened, (Covent Garden and Oxford Circus).

Other existing Mexican eateries include Tortilla in Upper Street, and Mexicali who have a branch in Soho and Notting Hill.

In the front seat of Benito’s is Head Chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz, with more than twenty years experience.  Interestingly, he is the only head chef in any of London’s Mexican eateries actually born in Mexico. This uniqueness magnifies the authenticity of Benito’s. While Felipe is more than an expert, he admits he is still learning. Though Benito’s chefs are of all abilities, all potential recruits are required to enrol on a three month crash course where Felipe puts them through their paces. The hiring of any chef thereafter is dependent on performance during this period.

So what does the future hold for Benito’s? Benito’s are excited about plans for expansion into redeveloped King’s Cross in early 2012. With many businesses in the area, their fresh and fast food preparation is likely to satisfy the demands required by today’s businesspeople.

Benito’s Hat sells everything you’d expect from a class Mexican restaurant. This includes burritos and tortillas with the usual pork, chicken or beef filling. Beverages on offer range from fresh waters ‘aguas frescas’, to fruit juice, beers and cocktails. Soon-to-be-released dishes include beef tongue (Lengua) and a main meal made from tofu which is suitable for vegetarians.

For menus and more information see

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