A second branch of the trendy Mexican restaurant opens to a City audience and is geared up for the after work crowd with a chic design, accessible eats and Margaritas.
Lupita East occupies a tall brick building on the lower end of Commercial Street, drifting towards Aldgate East. You enter up a short flight of stairs to a restaurant bathed in light and white brick, which gives it a clean and modern appeal, especially when met with a lime green and white mosaic pattern that freshens up a few walls. Group dining is catered to well with larger tables available, while smaller booths and individual tables take up perimeter alcoves for couples, pillars and partitions offering some privacy in a fairly open-plan room. The main feature, however, is an odd cluster of gold, metallic light fittings that dangle over a table on one side of the room, like a flock of futuristic bugs.
There is a distinct buzz on weeknights as a predominantly after work crowd unwinds over tacos and tequila. Despite the high-end design features and décor, this is the kind of place where you’ll want to muck in and kick back, and is perhaps not recommended as a first date destination. Indeed, groups seem better off in this relaxed environment and many diners will be seen loosening ties and shrugging off their suit jackets. Staff are helpful in explaining menu options and translating for any newcomers to Mexican cuisine, but regardless, a paper menu on the table gives you a full diagrammatic breakdown on taqueria etiquette. At Lupita you’re encouraged to do things the Mexican way – so get stuck in with your hands and feel free to holler at the waiter when your Margarita runs dry.
If you’ve visited any Mexican street food joint in the capital then you’ll know exactly what to expect at Lupita, with enjoyable totopos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas all up for grabs at affordable prices. Totopos clasicos (£7.95) may not be the way to kick things off though, as the tortilla chips topped with guacamole, crème fraiche, salsa Chipotle and crumbled cheese are a little bland and non-descript. Chicharrón de queso y guacamole (£7.95) is a much better selection to share – a giant cone of grilled cheese arrives at the table ready for you to snap bits off and scoop at fresh guacamole with.
The tacos menu is varied and includes traditional fillings like pibil or pastor pork (both £5.95), as well as a nopales (grilled cactus) option (£5.95) for veggies and gobernador tacos (£6.95) with shrimps, cheese and chipotle sauce for something a bit different. Quesadillas offer a similar range of fillings, a chorizo option (£5.95) coming with onions and potatoes, too. It’s a reasonable option, if a little bland, but you can customise your choice with table sauces of varying degrees of heat. Meanwhile, enchiladas suizas del poblano (£12.95) is a much more filling dish, a bowl of three chicken wraps swimming deep in poblano chilli sauce, cheese and crème fraiche. The poblano sauce is deliciously piquant and it’s just a shame the chicken buried deep in tortillas doesn’t carry more depth of heat, instead having a one-dimensional spice.
Chances are you won’t be making it to dessert after such carb- and cheese-based snacks beforehand. But if you can muster the strength, the flan de cajeta (£3.95) is a worthy contender, its sticky, sweet caramel coating balancing beautifully with its wobbly custard base. And churros con chocolate (£3.95) show the Spanish influence on Mexican cuisine. The sugary doughnut sticks have a dash of cinnamon though, and the little pot of syrupy chocolate has a subtle espresso aftertaste, showing some ingenuity.
Cervezas and Margaritas is the best way to sum up the drinks list here, with a Classic Margarita (£6.95) a good place to start and a bottle of Sol (£4) a good punt for beer drinkers. But explore the beer list further, as there are some rarer Mexican finds on offer, such as Negra Modelo and Bohemia. The wine list is less impressive though, limited to just seven bottles of white, red, sparkling and rose. But thankfully the wines show some continuity, all hailing from Spain, South America or indeed Mexico itself.
The Last Word
A few menu options at Lupita East show flair and others are a little lazy, and so Lupita East doesn’t really make itself stand out from the many Mexican street food venues in the crowd. But if you’re looking for cheap after work eats and some fun in the City, this is a great place to unwind, Mexican-style.