A new restaurant and bar due to open in early February is set to continue London’s love affair with Mexican cuisine. In the wake of recent hit Mexican openings — Kol, El Pastor Soho and Cavita among them — Zapote will open on Leonard Street in early February.
On the menu, Zapote looks to be offering a refined riff of classic Mexican flavours. The menu will offer the likes of beef tartare and bone marrow tacos, scallop ceviche with persimmon and roasted sweetcorn, charred lamb neck with aubergine and tamarind tortillas, and grey mullet recado rojo with grilled corn and smoked cod’s roe. The 65 cover restaurant is promising to lean strongly into its Mexican ideals, with tortillas made on-site using native Mexican corn varieties, with chillis, spices and other dried goods shipped — quarterly, in a nod towards sustainability — in from the South American country, too.
The launch comes from chef Yahir Gonzalez, who most recently spent considerable time at Aqua Nueva, the Spanish restaurant at the top of Regent Street, where he met co-founder Tony Geary.
With prices for the smaller plates looking to start at around £6, Geary said of Zapote’s affordability: “We have positioned ourselves as an accessible neighbourhood restaurant serving exceptional Mexican cuisine — we also have a shorter bar menu with no dishes priced at more than £8 and glasses of wine from £6.” Wine will include a number of organic, biodynamic and skin-contact varieties.
He added: “Mid-market dining options are becoming more and more scarce due to rising costs in rents, energy, food and of course staffing. Restaurants often have no choice but to increase prices, so providing good value is something we are striving for.”
Besides the food, Zapote looks set to offer a substantial bar that will take over a hefty portion of the long room. The bar will seat 45 normally, with 12 further seats at a horseshoe-shaped counter. A cocktail menu will unsurprisingly focus on mezcal and tequila-based drinks, and the bar will have its own all-day menu, too.
The opening represents something of a change for Geary, who formerly spent 14 years with the Aqua restaurant group, progressing from restaurant general manager in London to managing director of the global restaurant estate, looking after more than 20 restaurants.
On the shift, Geary told the Standard: “It was always a long-term dream to open my own restaurant from when I first started in hospitality at the age of 15, but I wanted to gain as much experience as I could beforehand.”
“At Aqua I was overseeing over twenty restaurants in five different countries, with a team of close to 1,800 people. My day to day was strategy, budgeting, marketing and ongoing recruitment — and a lot of travel — now I’m doing all of the above but just on a smaller scale”.
Zapote takes over a site that is most closely associated with St Leonards — sometimes an apostrophe, sometimes not — a restaurant opened by Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, before the pair parted ways. The restaurant was briefly an enormous hit before fizzling out, finally closing sometime around the start of 2022.