Age: Taco Queen had a long residency at nearby record store/club, Rye Wax. It moved just over a year ago to this new permanent setting.
Previous Incarnation? This small shop front housed a Gregg’s until fire damage in the 2011 riots closed it down, making Taco Queen emblematic for the shifting shape of Peckham.
Where exactly? In the very heart of Peckham on Rye Lane, sandwiched between a shop-turned-flat and a hair salon, and a stone’s throw from boozy late night fave, Canavan’s pool hall.
So what goes on in there? On a Saturday afternoon Taco Queen is packed with hungry hungover locals getting their fill of Tex-Mex comfort food (which is mostly eaten with fingers so be prepared to get messy). There are of course non-Peckhamites too. The size and feel of the restaurant also makes it perfect for spontaneous date nights and intimate meals, but it’s not ideal for large groups.
What do I eat? They mainly serve tacos (no surprise there) but with quirky and unusual variations on your old favourites, and with ample veggie and vegan options. Be warned – portions are generous: it’s easy to over-order. Past experience has taught us to pick a small dish, like the delicate but sumptuous Baja fish – cornflake battered cod with chipotle mayo, lime and mango wrapped in a soft shell taco (and under 4 quid!) – and then something to share. We love the veggie nachos steeped in cream, cheese, guacamole, pickled chilis and, amazingly, jack fruit asada which tastes a little like pork and is very moreish.
What do I drink? A soft drink named Jamaica, made from homemade hibiscus syrup, may look like the juice from a melted ice lolly but is just on the right side of sweet. We hear the cocktails are lethal and delicious (but not sure our livers can handle it on this particular afternoon), and they make it easy for you with just four to choose from. They also serve beer on tap, ales by the can, classic fizzy drinks and some choice wines.
The interior: discuss. Sparse, exposed plaster walls and hanging light bulbs, plus the reggae humming from the speakers, give Taco Queen a low-maintenance, laid-back vibe. There are minimal splashes of colour from the artwork (most of which is by a local graphic designer) and of course, a few carefully placed plants. All in all it manages to be both chill and buzzy.
What’s the service like? It often seems to be a 5:1 customer:staff ratio so they do pretty well. They’re renowned for their friendliness; ask any Peckham regular and they’ll be able to describe an obliging and chatty member of staff.
Do say: “Another great option for next time I’m in Peckham.”
Don’t say: “Is there a Wahaca around here?”