June 25, 2014

Have You Heard About the Mexican in a Sex Shop?

             I am currently on my summer vacation from university and visiting my parents where they live in Germany (hence my lack of posts). The beauty of this is that I am only about an hour and a half plane ride away from London. Spontaneously one weekday, I decided to plan a quick three-day stopover back to the big city with my friend. I really was missing it and I guess I just couldn’t stay away for too long, so a whirlwind trip was just what I needed. I threw some clothes in a suitcase, and jetted off to London, where my friend and I would prove to have a couple of very jam-packed days.

             Now, I don’t want the title of this particular post to put you off from reading. I am by no means going to start waxing lyrical about my adventures in an actual, literal sex shop. To be frank, that would just be tasteless and lewd. I am, however, going to be introducing you to another one of London’s hideaway locations, which exists right in the heart of Soho.

             The problem with secret places is that when you don’t know where you’re going, it’s actually very difficult to ask for directions, as you can imagine. My friend and I also had another hurdle to overcome: a lack of technology. As soon as we landed in London, my phone conveniently decided to stop working, taking its GPS capabilities with it. Luckily, we had maps that had been printed off in Germany prior to our departure. We also split the cost of the hotel WiFi here and there if we were in desperate need of Internet access.

             I joked with my friend that our social skills were really going to be put to the test during this trip, because without a phone coddling us, we really were on our own. I actually really recommend taking a day or two to see what life would be like without your phone, because it’s an enriching experience to say the least. You’re forced to hone in on your surroundings and pay attention at heightened levels. What was infuriating about our quest to the sex shop was that it was supposed to be located three minutes from the Leicester Square tube station, and we simply could not find it. Perhaps problematic was also the thought that we would have to ask people how to find our way to, well, a sex shop.

             I started pouncing on unassuming pedestrians, who inevitably turned out to be tourists themselves, and just as clueless as us. I then started prowling the area for anyone with a smart phone, batting my eyelashes so I could reach my long lost friend, Google Maps. Eventually, we stumbled across a pub, where two very obliging men attempted to help us, but to no avail. The one with a very pronounced Liverpool accent asked a pub staff member, and we finally struck lucky. A London local emerged from his workspace and directed us in the right direction, with just 10 minutes left to spare before our reservation time!

             Have you twigged it yet? Yes, my friend and I were going to be dining at a Mexican restaurant called La Bodega Negra, under the guise of a sex shop! As I stood outside snapping photographs, onlookers must have deemed me odd or creepy, or both. After all, staring us right in the face were neon lights glowing with the promise of “Adult Video” and “Peep Show.” There my friend and I were, happy-go-lucky, and entering in the side door advertising “private dance downstairs.” As soon as the door closed behind us, I had a moment of horror, because I thought I had actually entered a genuine sex shop. To my left stood a mannequin draped in slick leather bondage gear, while two men seemed to appear out of darkness and ask us if we were okay. With a decent amount of trepidation, I phrased what should be a statement as a question, “We have a reservation at 6?” Luckily, they took my bait and seemed to know what I was talking about, so my friend and I had finally arrived, our bellies fully rumbling by this point.

             We followed a giant red lit-up arrow and approached the cellar-style restaurant to be greeted by extremely accommodating staff. A certain warmth emanated from the restaurant and candles flickered as the only source of light in the dim, intimate setting. In direct contrast to the catacomb-reminiscent underground, modern music like rap blared overhead. This was one trendy space indeed, as we would soon come to discover as more patrons filed in throughout the evening.

             The only indication that we had entered through a “sex shop” existed in a raunchy wall decoration behind me with fishnet tights flying everywhere. All other evidence seemed to float away to make room for the spacious and romantic interior. The staff was very attentive and friendly, asking whether we needed anything explained on the menu. If you are not a well-versed Mexican food aficionado, then I suggest you take them up on their offer! My friend and I had perused the menu online back at the hotel, resorting to Google to look up some of the main dishes offered. La Bodega Negra does not mess around with their Mexican food! After much hemming and hawing, we decided on the beef tacos (playing it safe, I know).

             Our dainty tacos were presented on a stand made specifically for that purpose. We dug in while we watched the table next to us feast on the many other variations of tacos in rounds. With our order, my friend and I received two tacos each, but you can be much more adventurous than us and take your pick from a variety of other options (an octopus and chorizo skewer, spicy yellow fin tuna, or the Quesadilla Rustica, just to name a few). The tacos were bite-sized, filled with succulent beef and just enough vegetables to eat without embarrassing yourself.

             Afterwards, I had to indulge in their decadently creamy tiramisu. It came presented in a covered glass jar with the restaurant’s logo (a demonic scorpion-like creature) on top, laced with coffee traces and adorned with crumbled amaretto biscuits. Bliss.

             For a less menacing outer appearance, La Bodega Negra also has a café and bar located just around the other side of the “sex shop” that serves lunch and dinner Mexican-style. Unlike its counterpart, the café/bar proudly displays its name amid a teal décor.  

             For La Bodega Negra’s full menu, visit their website here. I’m a big fan of secret London, and it never fails to boggle my mind that in a city teeming with people, London still manages to surprise me with its less well-known haunts. I’m not going to give you any hints on how to reach the restaurant, but rather, my task to you is this: try and find this aptly hid and undeniably unique culinary marvel without technology, just like we did! Ask people, use a map, look at the signposts and road names. London is a lot more beautiful when viewed outside the screen of a smart phone, so look up and look alive! When you reach your destination, believe me, victory will taste all that much sweeter.