Latest opening: Zapote

By Restaurant

- Last updated on GMT

Images: Sim Canetty-Clarke
Images: Sim Canetty-Clarke

Related tags Zapote Yahir Gonzalez Tony Geary Mexican cuisine London Casual dining Restaurant

The former Eyre Brothers restaurant site in Shoreditch is home to a new Mexican restaurant and bar.

What:​ Billed as a contemporary Mexican restaurant and bar, Zapote occupies the site that was home to influential Iberian restaurant Eyre Brothers for 16 years as well as the much shorter lived St Leonard’s. The spacious venue features a 65-cover dining room and a 45-seat cocktail bar as well as a horseshoe-shaped counter with space for a further 12 seats.

Who:​ Zapote is the first restaurant from chef Yahir Gonzalez and hospitality veteran Tony Geary. Born in the city of Aguascalientes in north-central Mexico, Gonzalez began his career at the age of 15 working in a local French restaurant before moving to Spain to study at the Centre Superior Hosteleria de Galicia. He went on to work at Spanish restaurants including A Rexidora and Pepe Solla before he relocated to London in 2010 to become executive chef at Aqua Restaurant Group’s Spanish restaurant Aqua Nueva. Geary also started his career at the age of 15, working as a hotel bellboy before going on to study hotel management. His first general manager position was at East@West in London, moving on to be deputy general manager of Sketch, working with chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz. In 2008 he opened, as general manager, Aqua Nueva and Aqua Kyoto, where he stayed for 14 years and where he met Gonzalez.


The food:​ Gonzalez’s menu is described as being both innovative and traditional, with a modern spin on familiar Mexican dishes. He’s kept the format pleasingly simple with the offer split between those containing meat and fish and those suitable for vegans or vegetarians. Dishes range from £7 to £29 although most sit around the £13-£16 mark (most meat-free dishes are £9) and include beef tartar taco; roasted bone marrow, slow-cooked ox tongue with cashews, chile de arbol, and tortillas; grilled chicken thighs in a peanut mole sauce; dry-aged beef ribeye with salsa roja, and habanero; yellowfin tuna and spicy crab tostada; and black bean pozole with hand-picked white crab (pictured). There are only two desserts to choose from, a coconut crème with pineapple and coriander; and a punchy coffee mezcal ganache with pistachio and sweetcorn pastel. Dishes on the all-day bar menu, meanwhile, include small plates such as crispy pork skin, pico de gallo (£6), totopos and guacamole (£8) and whitebait with habanero ali-oli (£7).

To drink:​ Zapote’s mostly-European wine list includes a number of organic, biodynamic and skin-contact varieties. The entry-level option is just £24 for a bottle of English wine and there’s plenty to choose from in the £40-£50 price bracket. Cocktails reflect the seasonality of Gonzalez’s food, unsurprisingly with a focus on tequila and mezcal.


The vibe:​ Zapote has retained the stripped back aesthetic favoured by Andrew Clarke when he opened St Leonard’s and the kitchen’s large (and medieval looking) grill remains a central focal point of the restaurant. The pair have opted for a neutral colour palette of chalk pinks and blues with an abundance of cacti and a large, colourful mural on the end wall creating a bright space that evokes Mexico rather than shoves it down your throat. Not since the likes of Wahaca has a casual Mexican restaurant of such size opened in the capital, so it will be interesting to see if it can create the vital buzz required by such an operation.

And another thing:​ Zapote takes is name from the Mexican fruit, a type of persimmon with bright orange flesh that has influenced the restaurant’s colour palette. Gonzales’ wife’s family runs a ranch in Mexico which specialises in dairy, corn and cattle and which has a branding-mark in the shape of a zapote, which has been used for the restaurant’s logo.

70 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4QX

Related topics Restaurant Openings Casual Dining

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