Buen Provecho: Seriously Good Mexican Street Food

May 23, 2010


Buen Provecho

I love SE London, I think we’ve established that. Some areas though, really make you dig deep. For me, these places are the Old Kent Road and Elephant and Castle. The latter, thankfully, is now benefiting from a bit of regeneration. One new initiative is a food market, which is there every Sunday and occupies the same space as the weekday market, piled up in the labyrinthine space between subway and tube station.

The market is small but there’s an interesting set of stalls; we passed Ethiopian food and coffee, and jerk chicken. For me to pass a jerk stall and not buy any is pretty much unheard of but I’d been tipped off about this Mexican guy by the same woman who prodded me in the direction of The Meat Wagon last summer and I trust her tastebuds (thanks Catherine).

Arturo Ortega Rodriguez makes, in his own words, “authentic Mexican food” and boy, is it good. We bought 3 tacos each for a fiver, with 3 different fillings. The pork meat, marinaded in orange juice and achiote, with the texture of pulled pork, was incredible. Sweet and smoky, we wolfed it down, amber juices dribbling down our chins and arms.

Arturo blisters the tacos on a hot plate, before loading them with your chosen meats plus a dollop of deep mole sauce; you seal the deal yourself with spoons of spanking-fresh condiments – hot salsa, creamy guacamole, crisp onions and the most amazing ‘salsa asada’, a roasted tomato and chipotle concoction. I only remembered when I looked at the photos that he sells it in tubs to take away. Kicking myself doesn’t even cover it.

He’s been doing his thing for about 3 years apparently, and usually sets up in Waterloo at lunchtimes. I want a job in Waterloo. He was also kicking out chilaquiles (“tortilla strips topped with chicken and red sauce with crème fraiche and cheese”) and quesadillas, those spectacular melty cheese tortilla towers.

We stuffed our faces perched on small plastic stools by the side of the stall, enjoying a bit of people-watching (which can get quite fruity in the Elephant) and wiping our mouths literally every two seconds with the provided sheets of kitchen roll. Mexican food has got to be the next thing to take off  in London, don’t you think? Aside from Wahaca what have we got apart from the ubiquitous burrito?

Elephant might be the kind of place you put firmly in the ‘avoid, avoid, avoid’ category, unless your idea of a good time is getting lost in a subway maze for an hour and then catching a bus to just about anywhere but I promise you, this place really is worth the journey.

You can find Arturo at the Elephant food market most Sunday’s (although not for the next 3 weeks – he’s on holiday) and lunch times in Waterloo (I’m not sure where, I haven’t been there – please comment if you know).

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    Reply Fiona Beckett May 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I think Will would tell you they were pioneering authentic Mexican at Green & Red pre-Wahaca but whether they have salsa asada or not, I don’t know. Sounds fab!

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    Reply Chris May 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Looks great – please someone tell me where he is in Waterloo! I could go for lunch

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    Reply laurafleur May 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I’m practically waiting at the bus stop already. Was just the other day pondering the lack of good Mexican in London (in a long queue for a table at Wahaca) but this sounds amazing! PS – they do a pretty tasty burrito in Greenwich Market.

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    Reply katy May 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    looks awesome. my husband is constantly complaining about the lack of good mexican food in nyc. maybe i need to take him to london!

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    Reply Gourmet Chick May 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Four tacos for a fiver is a real bargain – good find

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    Reply Sarah May 23, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I thought that looked familiar! He’s on Lower Marsh on weekdays. Usually I get my lunch break too late to avail myself of any of his vegetarian options, but I have tried the quesadillas – yum.

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    Reply LexEat May 23, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I loved the enthusiasm and excitment bursting from your post!
    I’m salivating just from reading it!

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    Reply we are never full May 23, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    i have to say, finding good mexican in london was like trying to find a good pizza in des moines. just wasn’t easy! but it’s great to see a place like this where i can even tell, visually, that it just looks right.

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    Reply Ibzo May 23, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I’ve been going on about this guy for…well, three years or so now, actually. Obviously no one listens to me though. I’m a big fan.

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    Reply Greedy Diva May 24, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I am generally underwhelmed by Mexican food in London, but those tacos look good.

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    Reply TheWinesleuth May 24, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I agree with Greedy Diva’s comments. I really want to try those chilaquilas but I’m afraid I will be disappointed, yet again.

    It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to get one of the easiest, tastiest, cheapest foods in the world here in London. Mexican street food ain’t hard. I remember back in uni, after paryting all nite in Tijuana, on the way back across the border, we’d stop at one of the many taco stands lining the road back to the States and have freshly made, piping hot corn tortillas filled with carne asada, a sprinkling of cilantro and a dollop of guacamole – Heaven! And how about a good bean and cheese burrito? I have yet to come across one here – no rice, just pinto beans refried perfectly and the cheese oozing out….

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    Reply Kerri May 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Looks great, I’m going to hunt him down next time I’m in Waterloo. Totally agree on the rubbish Mexican food in London too, bring on the good stuff.

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    Reply Jake May 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I had a box full of their tacos a few weeks back – and took some sauce away too – it all tasted amazingly good – but back at base I tasted the sauce again and thought I could detect that tingling taste of MSG! It was so string we chucked it. If you see him again do ask!

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    Reply Lizzie May 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    That looks AMAZING. How cruel of him to go away for three whole weeks! Good tip – I will get down there asap.

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    Reply Carla May 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Just like Greedy Diva and The Wine Sleuth I’m yet to come across decent Mexican (or generally Latin American) food in London, but always open to try new places and give people the benefit of the doubt.

    Feeling particularly hopeful about this one seen as Elephant & Castle has a massive Latin community.

    Thanks for the tip!

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    Reply Sharmila May 24, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve been meaning to get here for weeks, and then he goes away on holiday!

    Ah well, it does look good. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted authentic Mexican food, having never been to Mexico and generally thinking the stuff you get in this country is just a bit wrong.

    I look forward to trying those tacos out.

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    Reply Sue May 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    From this site

    Taking its place next to the boisterous fruit and veg sellers and other food stands Buen Provecho is nothing more than a small gazebo on the junction of Waterloo Road and Marsh Street SE1. A Mexican ‘tricolor’ hangs on the back canvas and working hard in front of it Arturo Ortega Rodriguez goes about his business. Silver trays of food steam under their metal lids. A pot of rice hisses on a hotplate and a colorful selection of home made salsas tempt the passing trade from blue and white enamel bowls. Arturo busies from pot to pot ready to serve those lucky enough to stop off with the best Mexican food in London.

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    Reply shayma May 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    feel extremely greedy after reading this post, Helen. people have such a negative impression of Mexican food (i suspect) bec of Tex-Mex. The chilaquiles sound gorgeous! may i be so bold as to post the link to one of my favourite mexican food blogs? it’s written by an ace chef for the Mexican Cultural Instit in DC- http://www.patismexicantable.com/ x shayma
    ps love the green guacamole photo atop the pork.

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    Reply Rich May 24, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Fantastic! There’s the outside chance we could play Mexico in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup and I’ve been hoping for a more authentic option (sorry Wahaca) for my ‘Eating The World Cup’ story..


    great review, I live in Camberwell and walk past that sign at Elephant daily yet haven’t even contemplated going down there until you posted the review so thanks for that!


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    Reply An American in London May 25, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I was planning to show up this coming Sunday ’till I read your last sentence saying he’s away the next three weeks! It’s on the calendar, though. I’ll travel far and wide for fresh tacos! Thanks for the tip.

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    Reply Naomi May 25, 2010 at 11:51 am

    They usually reside on Lower Marsh (kind of to the side of Waterloo station) most weekday lunch times. I have never given them a go, but I think I will now!

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    Reply Catherine May 25, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    So glad you enjoyed Arturo’s food. It is so luscious. He is definitely at Waterloo this week and next……..I just called him to check. He is usually there Tuesday through to Friday.

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    Reply Katie May 25, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    That looks like seriously yum food – I love Mexican. Wish Ealing would pull up its socks and get a dose of the SE London world food scene! Very jealous.

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    Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen May 26, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Sounds totally fantastic!

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    Reply Maunika May 26, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Only just saw this Helen. Shocking that I missed seeing this post! The food looks sooo good could dive straight in for a bite. Four tacos for five quid… defo have to try next time I’m in london.

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    Reply gastroanthropologist May 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I will be taking a field trip to see this guy. Those tacos sure look tasty.
    A native Californian in London and I have yet to have a good mexican meal – 2 tries at Wahaca and while it is passable during moments of desperation I would never take any friends who visit from back home there.
    I so hope Arturo delivers! Will soften the blow of the London “summer”!

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    Reply tobias cooks! May 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Looks marvelous, would like some of those too!

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    Reply Mickboy June 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    walked down to Elephant today to taste these tacos – they did not disappoint. Might become a regular Sunday fixture.

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    Reply gooeycheese June 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    yep it is official, the food served up here on this little stall is top notch, i had the Pork (cochinita) pibil, the same dish i have been in love with after eating at wahacas. I decided to try and attempt it myself and was pleasantly suprised with how easy it was to get results similar to what id eaten here and wahacas! if you wana check it out ive posted it on the blog.

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    Reply Charlie June 24, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I’m going to Lower Marsh to seek this chap out tomorrow!

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    Reply Anaid July 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Hello everyone!

    I hope you can help me. I have heard so many good comments about this place that I am desperate to get to London and have some tacos. I don’t live in London, but I am planing to visit in a couple of weeks. Does any of you know if I can find “Buen provecho” serving food during the weekends? I’ll appreciate any information, it is my birthday soon and would like to celebrate with food from home 🙂

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    Reply Mathilde's Cuisine July 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    This place looks amazing. As you said Elephant & Castle isn’t the place where I usually go but it seems that there is a lot to discover

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    Reply Liam August 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I’m not sure if someone else has mentioned this yet, but arturo’s stall is on Lower Marsh at the ‘Cubana’ end.

    I’m often seen sneaking 3 of his fresh tacos in during my lunch break. Fantastic.

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    Reply Tlaloc Man December 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Wahaca is more of the Brit-Tex.
    (Take away the Mex).

    Go to Lupita, Mestizo, Tacuba, and Santo if you want real Mexican food.
    All of these have Mexican chefs. Not the tourist that spent some time in Mexico and fell in love with the food… yawn…

    We only hope Buen Provecho could be open during the weekends so that the rest of us could go more often.

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    Reply Brian January 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I’m so glad I work on waterloo road simply for this guy! Everyone at our office loves him. Only complaint is he’s not there everyday (though has been more regular recently). Price of the meal box has gone up by a pound to £6 becuase of Lambeths crazy 700% rise in the price of permits but its still a bargin. Better than another Pret sandwich!

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    Reply Helen January 23, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Tlaloc Man – It is open on weekends. I went on a Sunday to the Elephant and Castle Market you can see above. There is hope!

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    Reply Catherine February 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Wah! He isn’t there on Sundays anymore. Only at Waterloo during the week. Check out his Facebook page.

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    Reply Helen February 4, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks Catherine, you are always on top of these things!

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    Reply Ziu February 25, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I DO work at Waterloo. I DO pass this guy every time I go out for a lunch time stroll. I have NEVER tried his food. D’UH!

    I will i will i will!!! 🙂

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    Reply Sabrina Ghayour March 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Just googled Buen Provecho and look whos blog i stumbled upon?? Tripley hungry now thanks to your pics! Hmph.

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    Reply tuercas March 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    The problem with mexican food is it doesn’t taste the same outside of mexico, the ingredients are just perfect there, thus the the suspected MSG.

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    Reply Lyndon April 11, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I’ve eaten here loads of times; I lived in California for 9 years and this food is the best I’ve had outside of Ca so far. Authentic Mexican here though; he doesn’t do burritos (which are Cal Mex technically) as he comes from Mexico City. Go early as the pork may run out. No MSG for sure!

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    Reply Rozita Ortiz November 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Can anyone tell me if he is still there I’ve only just found out about him late.com lol but I need this in my life RIGHT NOW!!!!

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