As I sat down to write this blog I thought of things that go REALLY really well together. Tea and baked goods. Netlix and Chill. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Bank Holiday Mondays and sunshine. Macaroni and cheese. Betty and Chester (my one-eyed wonder cats). Because there’s a new iconic duo on the block: Club Mexicana and Pamela.
I was reflecting today, that this is a place I never knew I needed so much until I’d actually been there. Located on Kingsland Road, it’s the perfect joint in which to kick back, drink beautifully put-together drinks, laugh with mates and eat beautiful food. What makes me feel genuinely delighted is how great a venue it is for everyone: whether you’re vegan, veggie, flexible, a meaty, even Ron effing Swanson; I defy you to have a bad time here.
Pammy isn’t my favourite blonde bombshell – that accolade belongs to the one and only Miss Dolly Parton – but fittingly, Pamela Anderson is an outspoken animal rights activist and an absolute babe to boot. Pamela also happens to be one of my favourite names and I am delighted that this bar lives up to it. Low lights, great music and kitsch pictures of various Pamelas on the walls; it’s a very easy place to while away your time.
The drinks at Pamela are pretty special. First things first, for vegans they are spot on. They clearly mark the wines that are non-vegan – so fantastically helpful. The cocktails are a joy. I went for a Pammy Special: a ‘Des Barres’ – Jalapeño-infused Eristoff, Kiwi Juice and a Coconut Ice Cube. I’ve never tried a coconut ice cube before but they’re incredible and I might demand, diva-like, that all my summer drinks come with one. Because it was a school night and I’m not hardcore in the slightest I didn’t try another cocktail but the next time I’m there I’ll be ordering the Peanut Split Old Fashioned (Peanut Infused Rittenhouse Rye, Briotte De Banane and Bitters) faster than you can say ‘Oh God I miss the Obamas please don’t say this Trump nightmare is really happening’.
And now to the food. I have written about my love for Club Mexicana a few times. I think it’s safe to say that this feels like them evolving, becoming more bold and experimental, whilst staying true to themselves. It’s really exciting. All their dishes are 100% vegan and they make everything – EVERYTHING – from scratch. Using only ethically sourced ingredients from independent suppliers, they are making the tacos themselves – from their own masa made daily with dried corn – and they’re pretty damn special.
I started with a few of the small plates including the Mexican Street Corn with a chipotle mayo, ancho chilli crumb and lime zest that I thought would be pretty decent but was easily in my ‘what are the first 3 things I’ll be ordering when I’m next at Pamela’ list. Charred and smoky but creamy and zingy. I genuinely didn’t know corn on the cob could be so punchy and will never want to eat corn any other way.
Then onto the ‘Chicken’ Wings with salsa verde and pickles. Club. Mexicana. Nailed. Them. Juicy, tender, with a crisp breadcrumb and a salsa verde I could bathe in. Another one for my ‘what are the first 3 things I’ll be ordering when I’m next at Pamela’ list.
The Banging Kale Salad – lime and soy marinated kale with pico de gallo and pumpkin seeds, again surpassed my expectations – and was a gorgeous palate cleanser for what was turning into a waistband-expanding adventure.
Being the hero we all need, I managed to try EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Tacos. The Baja To-Fish Taco was my fave (and the last entry onto my ‘what are the first 3 things I’ll be ordering when I’m next at Pamela) but there were no losers here. The Tofish Tacos had a deeply pleasing avocado and pickled red cabbage topping that looks and tastes fancy. The Carne Asada Taco – with arbol chilli salsa, refried pinto beans, pink onions, radish and coriander- had a really rich and deep taste and would win over meat-lovers I reckon. The to-fish cerviche tostada was incredible – so piquant and tangy – I think it made every single one of my tastebuds do a little dance. And the Jackfruit Tinga Masa Pancake was stunning. The pancake itself was delicious – filling and perfectly spiced with pleasingly crisp edges and the pumpkin speed puree addressed any scepticism I might have had about it working by being so creamy and a perfect foil to the spice. Club Mexicana should be proud of these tacos – each are beautifully made and excitingly distinct.
Even though I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another bite and must have been waddling by this point, I couldn’t resist trying the Margarita Key Lime Pie. Thank goodness. This was the best vegan dessert I’ve ever eaten. A crumbly biscuit base topped with zingy limes and whipped coconut cream. I can’t envisage a scenario where I could ever come to Pamela and leave without buying a slice of this pie.
The service throughout this meal was sheer perfection. Our lovely waiter had all the information to hand that we asked for, was fun and easy to talk to and the perfect blend of attentive and unobtrusive. If you are opening a restaurant it’s people like this you dream about representing you front-of-house. So yeah, a glowing review of a brilliant new place in the heart of Dalston. Thanks Pammy, thanks Club Mexicana – beautiful food and beautiful drinks in the most convivial setting. I will be back.