Habanera, a Mexican Taco & Tequila Bar in Shepherds Bush.
Sunday in the early afternoon for brunch.
We actually stumbled across Habanera by chance when we were turned away from the over-full Hummingbird Café a few months ago. The apologetic hostess took one look at our miserable, hungry faces and sent us down the road to Hummingbird’s sister restaurant. This place is quickly becoming our go-to brunch spot – Brian and I have been about 3 or 4 times by now. Each time we’ll swear we’re going to photograph and review the obscene amounts of food we order, but we’re usually way too enthusiastic to hold out long enough to take any photos. I’m proud to report, however, that we’ve finally managed some self-restraint!
We showed up at about 12:45pm to the usual warm welcome and scored a booth by the door minutes before the Sunday brunch rush. Habanera is an interior dream but the front booths are particularly atmospheric with its aromatic open plan kitchen fenced by low multi-coloured brick, and collages of painted candy skulls and Frieda Kahlo portraits all over the walls
While we mulled over the menu, our waitress brought over some brunch cocktails (hey, it was past noon!) I went for the safe Mimosa – zesty and fresh – and Brian opted for the more mysterious Michelada, which turned out to be salted and spiced beer with lime. The Michelada was interesting to say the least! I’m not a big beer drinker as it is, but even my intrepid foodie boyfriend was a little perplexed, and changed his mind about it a few times. “You can smell lime, but can’t taste it,” he said. “It’s confusing. It’s the kind of thing that you taste, and then immediately make someone else taste it.” Then a few minutes later: “It’s growing on me. It went great with spicy food, not so great with the sweet stuff.” But in the end we both wussed out and stuck to the mixed citrus mimosas – delicious!
Brian spent about 10 minutes making hopeful puppy-eyes at the kitchen counter where all manner of beautiful plates appeared intermittently, but our breakfast was served up quite promptly, still wafting steam from its short journey from the kitchen. We went all out: a Breakfast Burrito for me, Chorizo Eggs Benedict with a side of sweet potato fries for Brian and a plate of waffles (served with bacon!) to share. My burrito was the kind of carefully constructed piece that you just roll up your sleeves and submit to. Bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese, chorizo, avocado, spinach and salsa enveloped in a floury tortilla – there was no way this wasn’t getting messy, but it was totally worth it. The bacon gave a little crunch to the predominantly soft wrap, and there was just the tiniest hint of spice from the chorizo and salsa to balance the buttery eggs and avocado.
Brian’s Eggs Benedict swapped out the traditional ham for generous, spicy chorizo and featured the most perfect poached eggs either of us has ever seen – no exaggeration. He’s usually pretty stoic, but these eggs made him almost poetic: “The yolk is creamy without tasting raw, the white is firm without being rubbery – it’s even kind of pretty! I want to eat this for the rest of my life.”
We were nearing full bellies at this point, but Habanera has mastered the art of lighter than air waffles. They’re somehow both fluffy and chewy, but never so sweet as to weigh them down. We topped them with perfectly crispy bacon and swirled them around the little bowl of maple syrup with relish.
Busy as they were, the wait staff were totally patient and attentive (but never overbearing – as my mum would say, they didn’t try to sit in our laps). Having taken our time enjoying the mimosas and poring indecisively over the menu, we waddled out full and merry more than an hour later, already planning our next visit for my birthday, when we’ll undoubtedly drop all pretence and order the bottomless mimosas!
Disclaimer: Habanera didn’t invite us to review their food; we’re merely humble brunch enthusiasts. Either way, you can rest assured that my reviews will always be 100% honest – food is serious business.
Featured image via Habanera.