Islington’s family-run Desperados is ‘best Mexican restaurant in London’

Restaurant owners Inci and Murat Ketenci outside of their restuarnat Desperados in Upper Street whic

Restaurant owners Inci and Murat Ketenci outside of their restuarnat Desperados in Upper Street which has just been named Best Mexican restaurant in London - Credit: Archant

A family-run Upper Street restaurant has been named the best Mexican haunt in southern England at the annual Food Awards.

Desperados, which serves traditional Mexican food and cocktails, was chosen out of a total of seven shortlisted eateries – including fast food giant Wahaca, which awkwardly has a branch right next door.

“Considering the other nominations I think we did very well,” Inci Ketenci, 44, who runs the business with her husband Murat, told the Gazette.

“People think big companies are always the best but sometimes the smaller, family-run businesses are better because they are more personal.”

According to Mr Ketenci, 45, who first opened the business in 2003 as the first Mexican restaurant in north London, the secret to the restaurant’s success is authenticity and good quality, fresh food.

“We buy all of our food on the day including meat from Smithfields and fish from Billingsgate, and we never used processed food,” he said.

All the restaurant’s decorations are from Mexico – including the chairs, tables, cutlery, and even a VW campervan. They also employ Mexican chefs and source their tequila from the western Mexican city of Guadalajara.

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“When you do ‘traditional’ you’ve got to be careful not to just open a restaurant,” added Mr Ketenci. “You have to bring the culture, food and atmosphere too.”

Mr Ketenci is actually Turkish but spent three years living in Mexico after working in a Mexican restaurant in New York.

He and his wife also run a Desperados branch in Orpington, south-east London.

Since they opened, the restaurant has built up a strong customer base, with patrons ranging from homesick Mexicans to actors from EastEnders and Arsenal footballer Mesut Özil.

“We’ve also had Boris Johnson’s brother Jo, who’s our local MP,” said Mrs Ketenci.

Do they have any future plans for expansion?

“We’d like to go abroad and open a Desperados in Dubai,” she revealed.

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