Some days are grimmer than others; the long days that never seem to end, and present you with a neverending stream of bad news, are the grimmest of them all. I had one last Thursday, and I’m sure you’re no stranger to them either. In fact, I know you know the feeling: the shock of reality hitting you like a brick wall, while you stand in despair, asking yourself “What now?”.
You could bury your head in your hands, and await death by inertia. You could reach out to the empty mug next to you, and choose death by caffeine. You could drown your frustrations in sugar – death by chocolate is never a bad idea. Or you could fight the blues with a glorious meal, indulging in a Mexican food feast that will erase all your troubles: Death by Burrito.
Death by Burrito is no Man vs. Food challenge, and no exotic torture technique either. The name belongs to the Rebel Dining Society‘s Mexican pop-up, currently on a seven-day-a-week residency at Battersea’s Candlemaker Pub; its most extreme feature is a platter of extra fiery chicken wings. I had the chance to sample its excellent fare on a tasting evening that rekindled my flame for Mexican cuisine, and succeeded in the arduous task of wiping out some of my long-standing culinary pet hates.
The first one to go was my unconditional hatred of tequila (never a favourite, always a trigger for predicaments I’d rather not recall). Product of a cocktail-meets-slush-machine affair, DBB’s frozen margarita was too handsome to resist, like the most dangerous youth love interests. The flavour of lime prevails over the boozy notes, appealing to margarita detractors and lovers alike: you’ll only taste the tequila and salt when you reach the bottom of the glass, far too late to give up on your new favourite drink.
My wariness of nachos vanished almost as quickly. Despite them being proverbial crowd-pleasers, they usually fail to please me: every time I’m near a sharing platter at the pub, I cast suspicious glances on the lashings of sour cream, cheese, salsa and guacamole they come with. On this occasion, however, they hit exactly the right spot.
Death by Burrito taught me that guacamole is bloody good when it’s freshly made, and that pomegranate seeds – not what you’d usually top it with – complement it very well. It showed me that warm salsa and nachos make one hell of a pair, pushing my inner fussy child to dig out and savour all the bits that hadn’t come into contact with the sour cream and cheese (getting used to those two will take much longer, I’m afraid).
The pork belly and kimchi tacos were the only dish that left me cold, owing to the bitter flavour of kimchi, which completely overtakes the pork’s more pleasant taste. It was my first encounter with kimchi, but I barely had the time to mull over my disappointment: the next sample – a lovely chipotle chicken taco, jazzed up by a sprinkle of lime – was already on its way to my plate. Its citrusy flavour was refreshing, and the chicken soft and juicy, just the way I like it.
Those tacos and nachos were the prelude to a marvellous whirlwind of flavours, leading the way to two variations on the theme of chilli and agave glazed chicken wings. The first helping was an irresistible mess; the kind of food you eagerly devour with your hands, only to find your fingers covered in a hot, sticky sauce that you can’t help but eat away. The second round was a challenge for the brave: deceptively innocuous at the first bite, lethal for those who went for seconds and experienced its fierce fieriness. “I should have stuck to one”, they said. The fact that they didn’t is testament to how addictive DBB’s cuisine is.
I loved the fish tacos more than everything else – more even than those luxurious chicken wings. Tequila and beer battered fish plus soft tortilla plus chilli mayo is the recipe for an epic win: a whole that glorifies each of its parts, and leaves you craving for more.
Eager as I was for a second fish taco, I missed out on the candied bacon and pickled jalapeno burgers: tiny works of art, perfectly formed and beautiful to the eye. I heard my date (a definite double-burger-with-extra-bacon-and-onion-rings person) feebly argue that the patty was slightly undercooked, only to wolf down a second portion two seconds later, with immense satisfaction.
The Candlemaker‘s atmosphere is as worth a trip to Battersea as Death by Burrito’s menu. This spacious, stylish pub delights customers with a range of features that few venues offer all together. Comfortable seating? Check. A cosy outside area to enjoy warm spring days and late sunsets? Check (in fact, there are two). Board games? Check. And now, for the pleasure of food enthusiasts, there’s this killer Mexican pop-up too. “Killer” as in “irresistible”, of course: I’m alive to tell you about it, and feel compelled to go back for more.
Death by Burrito at the Candlemaker Pub
136 Battersea High Street
London, SW11 3JR
(nearest Overground station: Clapham Junction)
Open every day for lunch and dinner
Note: I attended the Death by Burrito tasting as a guest, invited by Miss Cakehead. All opinions are my own.