Review: Mi Cocina Es Tuya, Café Latino Crystal Palace

By - Wednesday 9th April, 2014

Mi Cocina Es Tuya is a little gem waiting to be discovered in Crystal Palace

61 Westow Street, SE19 3RW tel. 020 8771 4078
Time from East Croydon   30

South American specialities in Crystal Palace. Photo author’s own

As the only Venezuelan restaurant in London, Mi Cocina Es Tuya (literally and charmingly, ‘My kitchen is yours’) attracts a pretty specialised clientele, drawn by the South American delicacies it offers. I, on the other hand, had wandered in off the streets of Crystal Palace unaware of this small café’s uniqueness. I’d wrongly guessed it might be Colombian from the yellow, blue and red striped flag at the front.

I was soon made to feel welcome by Alexis, owner of the café, who runs it along with his wife Mary. I was given a menu to choose from and brought a healthy welcome of fresh mango juice while I made up my mind. A guitar strummed some Latin music in the background, helping me relax in my new surroundings.

I decided to order two empanadas – one beef and one chicken, which at £1.50 each seemed like a very affordable option. To drink I ordered the interesting-sounding Guayoyo (wha-yo-yo) coffee – a straight black filter coffee that comes served sweet with the sugar cane syrup that area is famous for producing.

A generous serving of pabellon de carne. Photo author’s own.

Empanadas might remind the middle-aged of Findus Crispy Pancakes but are a whole lot tastier

My empanadas arrived quickly and I was given a choice of a cool guasacaca (wah-sa-kaka) sauce or a hot salsa picante to eat with them. These looked like mini Findus crispy pancakes for anyone brought up in the seventies! I can assure you, however, that they are much tastier. The fried cornmeal exterior hid a generous filling of shredded beef and peppers or equally tasty chicken. There was also a cheese version for vegetarians.

Impressed with my tasty first course, I decided to stay longer and order a main meal from the menu. After some discussion with Alexis I decided on the pabellon de carne, a plate of rice, black beans, fried plantain and more of the shredded beef I had enjoyed so much with my beef empanada starter. The meal arrived quickly, a generous serving neatly arranged on a large white plate. The black beans in sauce proved a good companion to the shredded beef, and while fried plantain was a new food for me, it was delicious – a sweet, soft, fried potato chip being the best way to describe it. £8.00 for a full plate of food seemed a respectable price for such a hearty meal.

Colombiana stirs Venezualan national pride rather as Irn-Bru does among Glaswegians

Things had gone well so far and so I had no reluctance in ordering a dessert. From the limited range, I decided on the torta tres leches (three milk cake), and a bottle of Colombiana to satiate my thirst. This is a Colombian soft drink much like Irn-Bru in taste and colour, and stirs similar feelings of national pride as Irn–Bru does for the Glaswegian Scot!

For anyone with a sweet tooth the torta tres leches was a creamy delight. Layered sponge and cream drenched in creamy milk with a generous dusting of cinnamon over it all, it proved a delight worth savouring. Hot churros – freshly-fried sweet flour fingers served with warm chocolate, famed across the Latin world – are another dish sure to win the heart of any dessert fan.

This is a little gem of a restaurant/café waiting to be discovered on the Crystal Palace triangle opposite Sainsbury’s. There’s also a tourist board’s-worth of material on the South American continent, all of which I found fascinating. It’s one for lunch or an early evening meal, as it’s open only until 4:30pm weekdays and 6:30pm at weekends, but well worth the short journey from Croydon to the heart of Venezuala via Gipsy Hill.

Kasper Seward

Kasper Seward

Kasper grew up across the border in leafy Wallington, but has lived in Croydon for the last 8 years. After a mixed education in the cultural arts, and several years volunteering with local conservation group The Downlands Project, Kasper has become a professional volunteer devoting his time and energies to issues he sees as important.

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  • Anne Giles

    Sounds delicious! I am an Anglo-Argentine and simply love South American food!

  • Kasper Seward

    Thanks Anne- there are so many interesting flavours aren’t there? Now is a good time to visit this little cafe/restaurant as they have just had a refurbishment of their cafe and now have a very smart and modern dining space to eat and converse about all things related to South London and South America.