Sunday, 23 January 2022

Barrio Comida, Durham, Mexican taqueria review

Barrio Comida, a North East-based taqueria, has been on my to do list for a very long time.

It's owned by Californian chef Shaun Hurrell who's worked as a sous chef at London's St John as well as James Knappett’s Kitchen Table and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley.

Starting out as a celebrated Newcastle pop-up, Barrio Comida now has a permanent space in Durham, located just across the bridge from the cathedral.

From the moment you walk in the door you can tell that Shaun has a meticulous eye for detail. With its metal open plan kitchen, muralled brick walls and panoramic views, it's one heck of a looker.

The attention to detail continues with their food.

On arrival, you're served a quartet of salsas which are made in house using imported Mexican ingredients. Complex in flavour, they all deliver different degrees of chilli pain.

A fruity and delicately smoky salsa roja, made with guajillo and morita chillies, was my pick of the bunch. The fact it was also the mildest was purely coincidence, of course.

A fresh and cleansing tomatillo, coriander and green chilli based salsa verde and Lao Gan Ma chilli crisp-esque salsa macha were also tip top. Salsa de arbol was probably one scoville too many for me.

To lessen the chilli burn, a pair of drinks most certainly did the job. A frozen margarita (£8) was smooth and packed with citrus with only a gentle wallop of booze. Creamy horchata (£3), made with rice milk, was nutty with a warming note of cinnamon.

Having ordered big on the taco front, we only made room for one side dish, papas adobas (£4). And what's not to love about crisped tender heritage potatoes coated in earthy chilli sauce and served with creamy grated queso and citrus-twanged guacamole?

Onto the main event and it's worth flagging just how good Barrio Comida’s tortillas are. Made in house every day, they're soft of texture with an excellent corn twang.

My pick of the tacos were carnitas (£7), topped with a tangle of tender, exceptionally well-flavoured slow-cooked pork, crisp puffed pig skin and zingy vegetable escabeche.

Baja fish tacos (£7) were my next favourite. Crisp lightly battered flaky fish was topped with a mountain of cleansing shredded white cabbage, pink pickled onions and creamy tangy crema.

Soft shreds of Hidalgo-style slow-cooked lamb (£8) delivered the intense meaty flavour which makes it my favourite meat.

Lastly birria de res tacos (£9) saw pieces of slow braised beef paired with a good ooze of creamy melted cheese. They had good flavour but it was a dipping cup of seriously beefy consomm√© which took the dish to the next level.

We had a superb meal at Barrio Comido and their tacos are some of the best I’ve eaten in the UK. It's no doubt going to be a regular pitstop whenever I'm back in the North East.

The details:

Address - 34 Church St, Durham DH1 3DG
Telephone - 0191 370 9688