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Posts Tagged: London

El Camion: A Child of Soho!

El Camion has been proudly part of the fabric of Soho for five years now and on Brewer Street we have found our spiritual home. But what is this magical place we have become part of? What is it about this Soho spirit that now flows through our tequila-coursing veins?

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Soho has always had animals inhabiting it – it does now and it did back in the 16th century when it was just farmland. Sometime in the swinging sixties (the 1660s) the Earl of Leicester built a mansion on Leicester Square, making it the most fashionable address in London. Dignitaries, royals, playwrights and other VIPs flocked to the area to party and the rich used the surrounding acres as hunting ground. The hunting cry, ‘Soohoo!’ was, alas, what gave Soho its name.

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Later that century, city overcrowding meant that building the Soho land began. The street on which we dwell – Brewer Street – was once called Wells Street but then became home to two breweries, and the name followed. You see, our reputation as a drinking den was inevitable – it’s the street! It’s ingrained in our nature.

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Add in a couple of bookshops, strip joints, cafés and a sprinkling of sex shops, and we’re in the place we call home. Looking at the history, Soho has long been the favoured place for debauchery – why change an institution? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All hail the mighty Soho! We’ll drink to that.

Legendary cocktails at El Camion and beyond

This month, our legendary senior bartender, Dick, and his daughter Bea, were featured in The Cocktail Lovers magazine. In the 1980s, Dick changed the face of the London bar scene and pioneered the UK cocktail industry as we know it today. As the inventor of the Espresso Martini, the Bramble, the Russian Spring Punch, the Wibble and the Treacle, Dick also created a cocktail so good we named our basement bar after it: The Pink Chihuahua. Here, in an interview with The Cocktail Lovers back in 2013, he describes how it came about:

“I wanted to make a drink that was pink called the Pink Chihuahua. It was going to be with mescal but the flavour was too strong, so I changed to tequila. I worked on it for about two weeks, when I got it I danced around the corridor. I knew it was a good drink, it pleased me.”

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This got us thinking about other cocktails that have made it into the history books and some of the stories behind them are pretty interesting…

The Cosmopolitan

As is the story with many cocktails, this Cosmopolitan has a hazy history. The origins behind the Cosmo as we know it circle around three bartending legends, Cheryl Cook, Toby Cecchini and Dale DeGroff, although recipes for drinks known by the same name have been found dating back to the early 1900s. Cheryl Cook, however, lays claim to creating the Cosmopolitan in the 1980s by adapting a Kamikaze and adding Absolut Citron and a splash of cranberry juice. Toby Cecchini, though, says that he had come across the cocktail and had transformed it with Absolut Citron to impress the waitresses. But it was Dale DeGroff who made the cocktail famous while he worked at Manhattan’s Rainbow Rooms. He added his signature orange flame and it is his recipe that is followed today.

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The Manhattan

Apparently the whole thing about it being invented for Winston Churchill’s mum in 1874 at New York City’s Manhattan Club is all lies! She was actually giving birth to Winston at the time that she supposedly requested the drink to be made. Instead, a more probable account of its invention was in a bar on Broadway in the 1860s, where it was invented by a man named Black. Yet – there is still another story of it being created on a yachting trip in New York by a Col. Joe Walker, who decided to mix together the only refreshments left in the icebox – Italian vermouth and whiskey. He later experimented with it in his bar in New Orleans and named it after his friends on Manhattan Island.

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The Porn Star Martini

The ultimate modern classic, the Porn Star Martini only came to life in 2002 and is now famous around the world. Douglas Ankrah, of The Townhouse in Knightsbridge, first called this drink the Maverick Martini, named after a dodgy club in Cape Town. The name by which we know it today is apparently down to the usage of passionfruit in the cocktail, which you are meant to eat first, before drinking the Champagne and lastly enjoying the fruity martini. Ankrah went on to found the great LAB bar, which is now often associated with this deliciously lavish cocktail.

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Who knows what might be created next time you’re sitting at the bar in The Pink Chihuahua with our talented bar team… Maybe you will witness history being made!

El Camion’s Favourite Mexican Joints Around The World

Now that the sun is finally starting to appear again, it’s got us all thinking about holidays. We get it – if you go on holiday, how will you cope without your regular dose of delicious burritos, expertly-made margaritas and great tequila? It’s OK – we have scoped the globe to find some of the best Mexican joints out there. Amigos to amigos – here are some awesome Mexican establishments in which we, at El Camion, would certainly enjoy a taco or ten.

Los Angeles – El Cholo

The first El Cholo was opened in 1923, making this place the oldest Mexican restaurant in LA. A true family-owned business, you will now find the 4th and 5th generation family members working in the restaurant. Not only is the food real, old school Cal-Mex, they claim to have been the pioneers of the Mexican restaurant industry in America and even brought nachos to California! And they make a mean margarita – in the 1960s El Cholo became the world’s largest user of Cuervo 1800 Tequila and championed premium ingredients in margaritas, making them what they are today. If El Cholo is the great-great-great grandfather of Californian-style Mexican food, then we’re family.

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http://elcholo.com

 

New York – Dos Caminos

A self-proclaimed modern Mexican joint and tequila lounge, Dos Caminos sells over 100 types of tequila. Sounds like a place after our own heart. The Third Avenue restaurant is bright and vibrant, with outside seating and a fiesta-style vibe. Dos Caminos is famed for its Mexico City style quesadillas and its fresh guacamole – that is made right there at your table. Nice touch!

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http://www.doscaminos.com

 

Paris – Candelaria

If you’re not travelling Stateside, why not hop on the Eurostar to Paris and head to le Marais, a hip part of Paris not exactly worlds away from Soho. Here, you will find Candelaria, a tiny taqueria that serves tostadas, tortillas and tacos made in front of your very eyes at the counter. There is a speakeasy style bar at the back where mixologists formerly of the Experimental Cocktail Club will whip up a crazy good margarita or one of their own creations, like the Guêpe Verte, made with tequila, lime, pepper, cucumber, spices and agave syrup.

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http://www.candelariaparis.com

 

Berlin – Santa Maria

Didn’t think Berlin did Mexican food? Well, this crazy little Oranienstrasse haunt is here to prove you wrong. Widely regarded as a pioneer of authentic Mexican food in Germany, Santa Maria celebrates the best of Mexican street food. Not only will your stomachs be well and truly sated by the Michoacan inspired carnitas tacos and chilaquiles, but your thirst will be quenched by their wide range of margaritas. In fact, Santa Maria is the biggest seller of margaritas in the country. Santa Maria – you had us at ‘Hola’.

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http://santaberlin.com/mexican-restaurant-kreuzberg/

The Glorious Daiquiri

You come to El Camion, you know that you are going to get a mean Margarita. You may also have been tempted by our cool, creamy Batidas. But there is one other cocktail from the Latin Americas that we do and we do very well, and that is the glorious Daiquiri.

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The Daiquiri is thought to have been invented, or at least developed, in the late 1800s by an American mining engineer called Jennings Cox, who worked in an iron mine in Cuba called Daiquiri. Apparently, the locals drank rum with limes and, to make it more appealing to his palate, he sweetened the drink with sugar and mixed it with ice, when he could get it.

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Whatever the history, the drink has been a favourite in American bars since the 1940s and it has a league of famous fans, including the late Ernest Hemingway, who loved it so much that there is a variation named after him. It is one of the six basic drinks listed in David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, which features the formula that our very own Dick Bradsell follows, and in turn, taught Simon Difford of Difford’s Guide.

In our Daiquiris we use Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, one of the most prestigious light Cuban rums available. It is a great quality rum and is perfect to mix in cocktails, without losing the authentic Cuban taste.

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Here is our list of Daiquiris:

Daiquiri Natural

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime and cane syrup, fine strained and served straight up. The original Cuban Daiquiri.

Frozen Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, cane syrup and maraschino, blended with ice. Very refreshing on a hot day, and very, very drinkable.

Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa Double)

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, grapefruit and maraschino, available blended or straight up like Hemingway used to like it.

Daiquiri Deluxe

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, fresh pineapple and orgeat, blended with ice. Luxurious.

Strawberry Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh lime, strawberry and liqueurs, blended. Everyone’s favourite – summertime in a glass.

Banana Daiquiri

Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, fresh banana, creme de banane and cream, blended with ice. A totally tropical treat.
Winter is just about over. We make that Daiquiri Time.

 

A glass with lunch at El Camion? Wine not…

Here at El Camion, we are famous for our cocktails, but did you know that we also do wine?? Sometimes (most of the time), a lunch out calls for wine, but unfortunately a bottle of the red or white stuff isn’t always appropriate to order, especially if you’ve got to head back to the office or if you’re being trusted to pick out a birthday present for your partner’s grandmother, or the like. Luckily for you, we serve a great selection of wines by the glass, so you can enjoy a lunchtime tipple, without swinging from the office lights by 3pm.

Santa Puerto

 

White wines

Our white wines pair exceptionally well with Mexican food, as they complement the light spices and flavours of the cuisine, without being too overpowering.

Our house white wine is Viura Pleno, Bodega Brana Vieja, from the Navarra region in Spain. This area has been making wine since the ancient Roman times, so they’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art. This wine is made from 100% viura grapes, which are known for their versatility and are the primary ingredient in white Riojas.

Tastes like: Bright, straw-yellow in colour, it tastes clean and crisp – a bit like green apples or citrus fruits, with floral notes.

Goes well with: As it’s so easy-drinking, this wine goes well with most dishes on the menu, especially chicken, fish or salads, and at just 12%, it’s a great option for lunch. Try it with a Grilled Fish Ensalada or Grilled Chicken nachos.

Prices: £19/bottle, £5/glass

Viura Pleno

 

Our second white wine on the menu is the Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Puerta. This is a Chilean wine from the Central Valley, the largest and most productive wine-making region in South America. Made in a 100% sustainable winery, it is organic, meaning it is good for the environment and not too bad for you, either.

Tastes like: At 13.5%, this wine is full of flavour and is bursting with tropical fruits, like passionfruit, mango and peaches. It also has a herbaceous dimension to it, with a persistent, refreshing finish.

Goes well with: Sauvignon Blanc is one of the only white wines that pairs well with sushi, so any seafood dishes are good, like the Grilled Fish Tacos. The herbal notes also make this wine a good pairing with any dishes made with coriander and fennel, like the burritos and the ensaladas.

Prices: £23/bottle £6.50/glass

Grilled Fish Ensalada

Rosé wines

Our rosé is the Pleno Rosado, Bodega Brana Vieja from Navarra in northern Spain, made from 100% Grenache grapes. Grenache, or Garnacha, as it is known in Spain, is a red wine grape grown extensively in France, Spain, Australia and America. It is one of the most widely distributed grapes in the world, down to its versatility both in the vineyard and the winery.

Tastes like: With an intense strawberries and cream aroma, Pleno Rosado tastes like strawberry and raspberry fruits. Although it is dark in colour, it is light and crisp on the palate and it lifts flavours with its refreshing acidity.

Goes well with: As an ideal accompaniment to ethnic cuisines, fish and poultry, this wine is great with Mexican food. It’s a fantastic match with any of our dishes that are made with black beans – why not try it with a Yucatan Beef Tostada.

Prices: £21/bottle £5.50/glass
In our next blog, we will explore the red wines on our menu. Enjoy your lunch!

El Camion Turns 5!

This month El Camion celebrates its 5th birthday! It’s crazy to think we have been rustling up burritos and shaking margaritas to the hungry and thirsty Soho public for half a decade now. Considered an industry local, a party den or simply the place to chow down on nachos like nobody’s watching, we will be celebrating our 5th birthday in style very soon. There will be tequila.

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In the mean time, here’s a look back at our 5 years on Brewer Street in reviews.

2010 – A Hedonist’s Guide To…

‘This is an after-work joint for local industry insiders (for whom work finishes at midnight) who know to stick with perfectly crafted cocktails, and that the best secret party is hidden in the arse-end of Soho.’

http://www.hg2london.com/bars/bodega/—dicks-at-el-camion—london-uk

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2011 – The Cocktail Lovers

‘This is a lovely, friendly good time bar. Better still everything about enjoying cocktails in London just gets so very much better knowing that Dick Bradsell is around and doing his stuff.’

http://www.thecocktaillovers.com/2011/08/baja-room-el-camion-soho-w1/

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2012 – London On The Inside

‘With decent grub, super cocktails and quirky decor you could easily whittle away your pay packet here and we’ll definitely be giving it a go.’

http://londontheinside.com/2012/07/23/review-el-camion/

 

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2013 – Londonist

‘If you’re up for a dance, Mexican vibes and a damn good time, head to The Pink Chihuahua (‘Dick’s Bar’), quite possibly the friendliest bar in Soho, with warm welcomes and staff with a talent for remembering names and favourite drinks.’

http://londonist.com/2013/10/where-to-get-a-drink-after-midnight-in-london.php

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2014 – I’m A Londoner

‘El Camion has something else up its sleeves; a Mexican restaurant menu that has kept loyal fans flocking straight back over the years to Brewer Street. It seems to have survived, almost solely, off a word-of-mouth trade on the competitive streets of gastro Soho. The long and short of it is: those who like it, love it.’

http://imalondoner.com/el-camion-mexicano-soho/

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2015 – Difford’s Guide

‘In the basement, below Sage Conran’s excellent Mexican restaurant you’ll find the Pink Chihuahua, a basement bar which is often presided over by bartending legend, Dick Bradsell.’

http://www.diffordsguide.com/pubs-and-bars/370/london/the-pink-chihuahua-at-el-camion

Difford's Guide review

Delicious Batidas at El Camion!

Batidas aren’t something you’ll find on every cocktail menu, which is a shame because they are damn tasty. They are also noted as a good remedy to cure a fiery stomach if you’ve been on the sauce the night before. Sweet, creamy and blended with ice, Batidas are a treat of a cocktail – and that’s why we’ve dedicated a whole section of our menu to them.

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Batida means ‘shake’ in Spanish and typically refers to a milkshake. In Portuguese it means the same, except when referring to a road accident, where it is usually used to describe a car crash. Not to confuse (or mix) the two.

A drink originating from Brazil, Batidas are made with Brazil’s national spirit, cachaça – which can be replaced with vodka where cachaça is not available, but that would be a little like sacrilege. Cachaça is known as Brazilian rum, as, like rum, it is made from fresh sugar cane juice that is fermented and distilled.

The cachaça is mixed with fruit juice or coconut milk, cane sugar and, ideally, condensed milk to make it creamier, and then blended with ice. It is served in a tall glass. With an umbrella if you like.

An umbrella always looks good

An umbrella always looks good

At El Camion we use Sagatiba Cachaça, an ultra-premium silver cachaça that has a smooth sweetness, making it perfect for cocktails. The sugar cane used is hand-selected in fields near the Sao Paulo distillery and is pressed within 24 hours of cutting. Fresh spring water is added and it is then distilled five times, resulting in a clean, sweet spirit. The tasting notes are at first sugary and intoxicating, then mellow out into velvety, caramel flavours.

Sagatiba Cachaça

Sagatiba Cachaça

Our Batida menu:
Coconut Batida

Sagatiba Cachaca, cane sugar, coconut cream and condensed milk. Blended.

Strawberry Batida

Sagatiba Cachaca, cane sugar, strawberry and condensed milk. Blended.

Passionfruit Batida

Sagatiba Cachaca, cane sugar, passion fruit puree and condensed milk. Blended.

Pineapple Batida

Sagatiba Cachaca, cane sugar, fresh pineapple and condensed milk. Blended.

Peach Batida

Sagatiba Cachaca, cane sugar, peach liqueur and condensed milk. Blended.

El Camion’s Top Cocktails

Not only do we make the best Mexican fare in town, but we’re a dab hand at mixing cocktails too, with some of London’s most talented bartenders at the shaker. When you’re out for dinner, enjoy scanning your eye over our cocktail menu, where we use premium spirits with inventive ingredients to bring something fresh and innovative to the palate.

Take a peek at some of the most popular cocktails here at El Camion.

Tommy’s Margarita

One of BarChick’s faves, we mix Altos tequila with agave syrup, bringing a sweet agave kick to your classic margarita. Shaken with fresh lime juice and served on the rocks, this is a zesty taste of the Mexican party spirit.

Margarita

 

Pink Chihuahua

So good we named our members bar after it. Or did we name it after our members bar? What came first – the chicken or the egg? Altos tequila shaken with lime juice and almond syrup is delicious enough, creating a fruity, tart concoction. The addition of fresh pomegranate juice mellows the flavour and gives it its beautiful rose hue and, with a topping of shaken egg white, the texture is smooth, silky and completely moreish.

Pink chihuahua

Espresso Martini

The world-famous Espresso Martini was invented by none other than our cocktail aficionado, Dick. Wyborowa Vodka with fresh espresso, Tia Maria, Kahlua, and a dash of sugar is the answer to your prayers when you’re feeling a little less than party. Served straight up in a martini glass, it tastes like strong coffee with notes of chocolate and the texture is smooth and frothy.

Espresso martini

 

Also give these two a try:

Chilli-pina-rita

Another one of Dick’s creations, the Chilli-pina-rita is as exotic as it sounds. Altos Blanco Tequila is given a tropical hit with fresh pineapple spears, pineapple syrup and lime juice. Fresh red chillies bring a fiery dimension to it, awaking those tastebuds and delivering a helpful swift boot to your metabolism. Fresh, vibrant and spicy, it’s a great pre-dinner choice.

El Diablo

A favourite with those who like their cocktails how they like their dancing: fresh and fruity. Altos tequila mixed with lime juice and ginger ale, then topped with crème de cassis. Served long over ice, it is the taste of summer, whatever season we’re in.

Sangrita, You Say?!

As a house policy we don’t serve tequila with salt and lime. Instead we serve a homemade red sangrita, made with fresh pomegranate juice and hot sauces. All our tequilas are made from 100% agave and are some of the finest tequilas coming out of Mexico – we don’t want to sully them with salt!

 

Sangrita

 

Don’t confuse sangrita with sangria, though. Sangrita, meaning ‘little blood’, is a customary companion to a shot of straight tequila and is traditionally made from leftover juices (like orange and lime), pomegranate, fine pepper powder and spices. Its peppery, citrus taste compliments the tequila, also peppery and citrusy in taste, and highlights the tequila’s crisp acidity.

 

Tequila and sangrita

 

Traditionally, sangrita and tequila are poured into separate shot glasses and sipped alternatively, so that the sangrita cleanses the palate between each sip. We won’t judge you, however, if you decide to chase your shot of tequila with the sangrita. It’s more fun that way. It’s also used in a drink known as ‘The Mexican Flag’, where three separate double shot glasses are filled with lime juice, tequila and sangrita.

 

Mexican flag

 

Make your own sangrita!

A basic traditional recipe:

1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 to 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. real pomegranate-based grenadine
1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder or 3 dashes hot sauce
1-2 slices jalapeño

OR… just pour the juices left over from a fruit salad into a cup, along with some hot sauce, chilli powder, pepper and pomegranate juice, mix it altogether and there you have it – a traditional slap-dash sangrita, the way it was meant to be. Now onto choosing the tequila…

Late Night Menu at El Camion!

You lucky things, you. Not only do we treat you to the best margaritas in town, the meanest tequila shots around AND the simple pleasure of being in a venue as cool as our Pink Chihuahua basement bar, BUT we are now feeding your peckish mouths until 2:30am!

No need to spill out onto the street at closing time and head towards the nearest food vendor serving whatever is left – we can actually hear your bodies thanking us. Here at El Camion, we think that late night food doesn’t have to be bad food and that great drinks and great food are meant to go together.

Tasty treats at El Camion

Introducing… our new and extended Late Nite Menu! From 11pm to 2:30am, we will be serving your favourite nibble, our crispy tortilla chips, with five different choices of salsa or with fresh guacamole. We can also whip up a quesadilla or two for you, with melted jack cheese and your choice of fillings from Chicken Tinga, Chorizo, Mushroom and Spinach and Pork Carnitas. We’ve also got the new addition of Spicy Chipotle Chicken Wings for a meaty treat to keep your hunger at bay.

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For something a little more substantial, we’ll be cooking up burritos, tacos and, as of recently, nachos way into the night with our tasty fillings and toppings, ranging from Picadillo Beef, Chicken Tinga, Pork Carnitas and Black Bean (or Portobello Mushroom for the tacos). With all of this amazing grub available for longer, the night is your oyster! Plus, if you are that way inclined (a vegetarian), we can gladly and easily make everything veggie, and it will be just as tasty.

Burritos at El Camion

The Pink Chihuahua is a members club and entry is granted to members on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to become a member, just pop in to see us on Brewer Street.

Happy munching cocktail fans!