Mexican maestros ‘coup' for the Gipsy Queen
NW5 pub has struck gold by luring Luardos to rustle up some of the best tacos in the capital
Friday, 22nd March 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Luardo’s menu offers tacos, burritos and quesadillas
FROM turnip foams to sticky ribs – it’s been a rollercoaster eating out at The Gipsy Queen.
This handsome pub in NW5 has historically struggled to hit the right notes in the kitchen. For a while, before new owners arrived, a chef served fancy food on squares of slate, like a nightmarish episode of MasterChef. Later, the pub switched direction – offering trays of loaded nachos and Cajun chicken from Chicago Rib Shack.
Now – thrillingly – it has struck gold by luring in Mexican maestros Luardos to rustle up some of the best tacos in the capital.
“It’s been a bit of a coup,” admits the manager on a busy Tuesday night.
Luardos have been trading around London for over a decade, starting with a pitch in Whitecross Street Market from their blue Citroën H van. You may have spotted them in Camden Market, too, as part of street food collective Kerb in West Yard.
Now their headquarters is The Gipsy Queen, a pub in Malden Road that’s building a loyal following.
If you’ve never been, this pub is quite a find – off the beaten track but with plenty of tables, a log fire, board games, secret garden and long bar pouring more than a dozen craft beers from cask and keg. (Right now, specials include an iced-coffee pilsner.)
The Gipsy Queen is not a sports pub – it’s far too cosy and friendly for that. But they do show the big games, with two big screens tuned to Sky Sports and BT Sports.
Luardo’s menu is a succinct selection of tacos, burritos and quesadillas, all made with care and quality ingredients.
“It’s all fresh, often organic, ethically sourced,” explains Reuben, the charming pub manager.
We started with chunky chips made from cassava, the root vegetable doused in zingy mango salsa and chipotle mayo – revelatory finger food to enjoy with a beer.
A pair of pork tacos were so moreish we instantly ordered a second batch. Slow-cooked Dingley Dell pork shoulder is topped with strands of pink pickled onion, tufts of coriander and a tomato salsa.
They also top tacos with roasted vegetables, chicken, steak or beer-battered king prawns.
For a larger dish (around £10), choose from burritos, burrito bowls (more like a salad, no tortilla) and the oozy cheese quesadillas, served with your pick of meats or vegetables and their homemade chilli sauces.
Skip the desserts – all the action here is on the savoury side.
As a street-food business, Luardos is by nature mobile and light on its feet. But its residency here is apparently for “the foreseeable future”.
If you can, visit on Taco Tuesdays, when all tacos cost £2 (around half price) from 5-10pm. Local delivery is also possible via UberEats.
It’s a great relief to see The Gipsy Queen back on fine form. Local rivals like The Stag had better watch out.