La Bodega Negra, Soho
La Bodega Negra’s basement restaurant can be found in the heart of Soho, behind a sex shop door, down some stairs, through some beautiful hostesses and past a celebrity crew (think Kate, Alexa and Miquita). It absolutely reeks cool, from the dark, cavernous room with roughly plastered walls, to the ironic playlist of 90s hip hop and cheese pumping, way too loudly, from the concealed speakers. Unlike the open-access café upstairs, a cheaper and less intimidating version, the downstairs restaurant requires strict reservations with exact timings (your slot if 7-9 and not a minute longer) and an expectation that serious money will be spent here, from the cocktails to the sharing tacos to the sparkling water, mains and Patrón shots. Take a date here if you are, or want to be, a well-to-do trendster, if you’re happy to spend a lot and, obviously, if you like Mexican food. Like the infamous La Esquina in New York, which is also hard to find and littered with celebs, La Bodega is likely to be popular for a while, more to do with its style than sustenance. But it’s a stonker of a date, slick, fancy, and of the moment- until La Esquina opens in London.
The mains, such as the Pork Belly with Mezcal and Salsa Verde, are high end Mexican food done really well. However, don’t order for yourself, order for the table. This is the sort of place where the first focus is your tequila based-cocktail and some sparkling water, then an onslaught of dish listing- some soft shell crab tacos, some pulled pork ones, a couple of ceviches, a main and a salad. Then pick at them for the next hour as if accompaniments to the drinks. It’s oh so decadent- too much food and an appetite that only yearns for it once two cocktails down. Since it’s nice to take your time, and the place stays open late, I’d suggest the later sitting at 9pm- there’s nothing worse than being wacked with a big bill and then hustled out.
Despite being charming, there’s something discomfort-inducing about the hostesses and whole entrance and reservation checking process. Therefore, if you made the booking, arrive around 10 minutes early and be seated alone. This way you can shed some layers, get comfortable and wait for your date to be presented to you. The first few minutes will pass quickly with talk of how edgy the place is- make sure you draw the La Esquina parallel in the least twatty way possible. Dive straight into drinking and nominate one of you to do all the ordering, with a token request put in by the passive party, just to show they have gumption. Allow the waitress to persuade you into the next cocktail, and the next. When finished with the food, and by no means wipe the plates clean, order some shots to finish. Move to the bar area, which will almost definitely be packed tight enough for you to press up against each other. Register a spark, give up on the queue and head upstairs to find a nightcap spot (B-Soho?)or head home, together.
Mon dieu, c’est cher.
5. So dark, so glam, so money.