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Review: Barrio East – A Mexican Cantina in Shoreditch

Published 23 June 2013

You are never short of places to brunch in Shoreditch. Among the sea of skinny jeans and vintage lovers, there are countless cafes and restaurants open on the weekend to cater for all the local hungover hipsters. I know because I live just a few minutes’ walk from the High Street and as much as I would like to think that I am a trendy hipster, sadly I’m not. At best I am an ‘almost hipster’, which inevitably just means being a plain geek.

I do like to brunch though, and it’s one of the best things about living out east; so when I heard that Barrio East was introducing a weekend brunch, I donned my hipster trousers, old vintage coat and briskly booked a table.

barrio east cantina shoreditch

I took ‘The Scot’ with me one sunny Saturday and we were happy to walk into a relaxed space compared to the usual queuing malarkey you find at The Diner, The Breakfast Club, Allpress Espresso, but to name a few. The brunch area is bright, to say the least. Loud pinks and yellows pop up from the walls but with the large windows looking on to Shoreditch High Street, the decor is comfortably loud.

barrio east shoreditch

I couldn’t come to a cocktail bar at brunch without ordering a Bloody Mary and to my delight I found that Barrio offers several combinations you can pick from. I opted for a Gin and Smokey Chipotle & Bacon Bloody Maria *pause for breath*, which was strong, spicy and sweet with a hint of savoury goodness.

Bloody Mary

The menu is brunch food with a Mexican twist with breakfast burritos, beans on toast (the Mexican way) and tortillas. I ordered the Mexi-Can – poached eggs on wholemeal toast, smashed avocado, chorizo and jalapeño peppers.


Attractive and bright, just like the decor. Underneath the mountain of tortilla strips and jalapeños, the poached eggs and avocado (two of my favourite things) were fresh and went well together. The chorizo though was dry and overcooked which was a shame as on the menu it was prized as a special from Tom Hixson. As much as I wanted to finish off the mountain of raw jalapeños, I had to admit defeat and leave most of them and then like a wuss, ordered a Batida to cool down with.

Batida cocktail barrio east

It’s a mix of condensed milk, coconut and lime. I found it refreshing and sour in a good way, although it may not be to everyone’s liking as The Scot found it sour in a bad way. I finished it nonetheless and would order it again.

Intrigued by the meat-on-meat combo, The Scot ordered the Chivito Sandwich – thinly sliced rump steak layered with bacon, melted cheese, red peppers, onions and fried egg all served with herbed potatoes. It was actually not as heavy as I thought it would be and has more of a breakfast feel rather than a Man vs Food challenge.

Chivito sandwich

Beyond the brunch area, Barrio bar is actually deceivingly huge, with two large spaces in the back (one of them with a caravan) and even an outside patio. I left thinking that I should definitely return in the evening for their cocktails the next time I feel trendy enough to hit the Shoreditch scene, and I might even nurse my hangover with brunch the next morning.

Hannah Chung is an enthusiastic eater of food from around the world – you can find more of her food adventures at her Cook Eat Dream blog or follow her on Twitter at @cookeatdream