Let’s face it, traditionally Mexican-themed bars were full of bad ay caramba stereotypes and dodgy tequila. Now things are looking
up. Alongside the hipster-magnet Le Bodega Negra in Soho, Viva has popped up further east in Dalston.
Viva used to be a florist, not that you would ever guess by looking at this diminutive but effortlessly funky bar. All of the
traditional ‘cool’ touches are evident: bare brick walls, second-hand furniture, funky ‘bits and bobs’ and ornaments everywhere you
look. The lighting is dim with lots of low-hanging lamps over the bar and the wooden panelling gleams as only the walls of a new bar
do, but still it manages to be trendily laid-back where it so easily could have veered into the realm of the cliché. Thankfully, any
temptation to showcase the Mexican theme in the decor has been resisted.
You can expect Viva to be filled with an array of funky haircuts, cool tattoos, and clothing that has been customised in one way or
another. The staff are clearly destined for greater things – at least they seem to think so – although they avoid the overt rudeness
displayed by some of the staff at other Dalston haunts. Some of them even make an effort to smile. Wild.
There’s a good choice of Mexican classics on the menu, from an unusual moqueca (basically, a casserole) with plantain and prawns
through to the more recognisable tacos. Although the grub seems to take a back seat to the drinks (at least it does as Saturday night
gets underway) the clearly fresh ingredients and plates piled high show it’s more than just an afterthought.
This is where Viva really shines. Cocktails are incredibly well priced at just £5-£6 and they show the kind of inventiveness usually
reserved for well respected cocktail bars. The classics make an appearance but come with a twist. For example, a Caramel Manhattan
(£5) offers a strange but not unpleasant sweet aftertaste that complements the bourbon particularly well. Alternatively, the less
well-know Bloody Maria (£5), which substitutes vodka with tequila, is a perfect blend of sweet tomato juice and potent spices that
may just blow your head off with each sip. If you prefer to keep it simple then they do offer decent examples of the classics as they
were meant to be served. An incredibly well-priced Gibson (£5) is actually pretty decent – well mixed and packing a nice punch of
alcohol – and offers real value for money.
The Last Word
Viva successfully brings a Mexican flavour to Dalston and, of course, does it with an effortless sense of cool. Worth seeking out if
you’re in the area.