"In an ideal situation, if you wanted to have tacos at your house or desk, how would you want them to arrive? It's kind of obvious when you think about it: everything needs to be separate and you have to be able to build it yourself."
That's Jonno, half of the taco-toting duo behind La Pistola, a brand-new delivery-only Mexican kitchen, exclusive to Deliveroo. Jonno has teamed up with up-and-coming American chef Brad McDonald, to live out the dream of bringing quality, authentic Mexican food to your doorstep.
It's time to build some tacos.
If building your own tacos is the only way, then there's one question to ask next. What would the guys put in their own ideal tacos? Jonno's up first. "I would take Brad's red Adobo roasted chicken breast, with coriander lime and a bit of chipotle aioli. I always put guacamole on mine, which is seen as a no-no, and I would put tonnes of chilli on top."
Woah, we have to stop him there, we didn't know that guac on tacos wasn't cool! "It's not classic, if you go to Mexico city and you sit down at the stalls outside they never have guacamole for you. It's a western thing to eat it with tacos, it's not super traditional." Like a good teammate should, Brad chimes in in Jonno's defence, "Why not? I'll eat guacamole, I don't give a shit! Mexican food should be eaten al gusto, which means to your taste."
Brad is the culinary brain behind the menu, so that opinion carries some weight. What would he order? "Classic cochinita pibil, with lime pickled red onions over the top. It's pretty ubiquitous, you can find it everywhere – but the one that we do it's pretty spot on. We enhance the marinade with some guajillo chillis which kind of round it out, we try to add a bit more depth inside of our braise."
"When I ate Brad's food for the first time, it was leaps and bounds above anything I had ever had before."
Jonno brings some pedigree to the table too: his stepfather owned London's first Tex/Mex restaurant – the famous Texas Lonestar – in the '80s. Twenty five years later he found himself managing La Bodega Negra and working at Casa Negra, where he met Brad. "When I was young, I had this impression in my head for years that Tex-Mex was what Mexican food was, but it was a very Westernised version of it. Once I did those two [restaurant] openings and ate Brad's food for the first time, it was leaps and bounds above anything I had ever had before. Brad – ignore that."
Brad laughs and takes the reins. "I love you too Jonno. I would back you up, there's nostalgic value to eating the Tex/Mex, it's comfort food. But, at La Pistola, we've really focussed on ingredients. When it comes to Mexican food, I always wanted to see more authentic flavours of Mexican cuisine. It's a matter of sourcing, and that takes time."
"You give a tomato to a Mexican chef, the first thing he's going to do is he's going to burn it."
We were surprised to find out that it wasn't always so easy to get the ingredients lots of us now take for granted. Brad explains, "When Jonno and I were working at Casa, we were working with a purveyor who flew produce directly over on a plane from Mexico City. We were ripening all of our own avocados. We would buy up 400/500 pieces at a time – unripe, and then ripen them to perfection ourselves."
What a difference three-and-a-half years makes. But inevitably, those advances mean that the competition has improved too. With Mexican restaurants popping up everywhere, what can you do to stand out from the crowd? Johnny says that it's about quality – not just in terms of ingredients, but personnel too. "There's a lot of time, effort and skill that's gone into putting these all together. The quality of the ingredients, and the quality of execution all come from Brad."
Having developed a brand new menu from scratch, Brad's obviously given the concept a lot of thought. Given that we're uninitiated, he gives us a crash course on the state of Mexican cuisine in Europe. "A lot of what is lost is in the difference between cooking in the French/European style and cooking in Mexican/Latin American style. They're completely opposing styles. If you give a Frenchman a tomato the first thing he's going to do is peel it, then he might juice it. You give a tomato to a Mexican chef, the first thing he's going to do is he's going to burn it."
"If you go into a Mexican restaurant and you don't feel like the flavours are bold enough, it's because they simply don't understand how they actually cook in Mexico."
This is what you're getting with la Pistola, an informed approach that is all too rare in this part of the world. Globalisation might mean that we have easier access to Mexican food, but it doesn't mean we can suddenly get authentic Mexican food. Brad sums it up better than we ever could. "It's just a primary difference, a perfect example of how one culture develops flavour versus the way another culture develops flavour. If you go into a Mexican restaurant and you don't feel like the flavours are bold enough, it's because they simply don't understand how they actually cook in Mexico."
So now you know what to expect – quality, authentic, soulful food – just as you would get in Mexico City (just with some guacamole). Before we part ways, there is one more question to ask, what's the name about? "It's about speed – quick draw, get it to you fast." drawls Brad, sounding like some kind of culinary Clint Eastwood. There you have it! If you want great tacos, delivered fresh and fast, you need look no further than la Pistola.