Tom Parker Bowles and Olly Smith: An East London market stall and fizz to pop for New Year

For the authentic flavour of Northern Mexico, Tom voyages to an East London market stall.

Netil Market, midway between Bethnal Green and London Fields, is new East London to its core – the usual street-food stalls selling bao buns, ‘hand-rolled’ sourdough bagels and hot doughnut sundaes; plenty of ‘discerning boutiques presenting curated articles and crafted wares’. And its very own radio station, operating out of a metal shipping container.

Sonora Taquería
Sonora Taquería ‘booms and bellows with carnivorous swagger.’ Image: Giulia Verdinell

Just before lunch on a briskly cold, late November day, and the market, if not quiet, is certainly subdued. Save one stall, by the entrance, where punters linger patiently. ‘Why the wait?’ asks one bemused non-local, gazing at the queue. The man in front of me, haphazardly bearded, wearing mud-splattered Dior trainers and a coat that looks robbed from a nearby grave, glances up from his phone. ‘Because they’re very good.’ And he’s right. Sonora Taquería is very good indeed.

It starts, as all good tacos do, with the tortillas themselves, tortillas de harina, made with wheat rather than the more usual maize. Plus a healthy dollop of lard in the dough. Prepared and pressed fresh every day, they’re a little more delicate than the classic tortilla, and a speciality of Sonora, in the northwest of Mexico, high-desert, cattle and canyon country, where the food is as robust as the landscape.

Sonora is also the home state of co-owner Michelle Salazar, and the excitement of finding good Norteño food in London is immense. Beef, as you might expect, is the star, on a menu that is admirably brief. Their barbacoa, while not made with the more traditional pit-roasted beef head, works wonders with cheek and short rib. This soft mess booms and bellows with carnivorous swagger, studded with raw onion, the tortilla lined with a chewy, browned cheese crust. Finally, a splodge of hot, sharp homemade salsa, and a big squeeze of lime.

I eat them on the side of the road, urgent and grinning, a hand-held symphony of balance and bovine brilliance, the golden juices pouring from taco to street. They’re mighty and messy and gone in two greedy bites. I think about them most days. Next, carne con chilli, slow-cooked in a Colorado chilli sauce, quietly rich and carefully spiced. Munch, dribble, splat. Munch, dribble, splat. Bliss, especially when washed down with mandarin Jarritos. Two and a half hours of travel for two minutes of lunch. Time exceptionally well spent.

Sonora Taquería, Netil Market, 13-23 Westgate Street, London E8, £7 for two tacos. Open noon-3pm Friday and Sunday, noon-5pm Saturday

Drinks: Olly’s fizz to pop for the New Year

My advice is to splash out on your first bottle, savour its splendour, then hit the bargain stuff. This year I’ve been wowed by English fizz. Ridgeview’s Oak Reserve is like nothing I’ve tasted from England and worthy of its £75 tag. For top talent, Tommy Grimshaw at Langham Estate is one to watch. At just 24, he already has a bright future ahead. In hands like his, I’m thrilled to raise my glass to British bubbly.

(12.5%), £9.50. Double whammy of bargain and brilliance, best value to sip and surge into 2021.

JOSEPH PERRIER CUVÉE ROYALE BRUT NATURE NVJOSEPH PERRIER CUVÉE ROYALE BRUT NATURE NV (12%), £38.95, Super zesty bone-dry bubbles from a small producer that deserves great fame.

POL ROGER BRUT 2013POL ROGER BRUT 2013 (12.5%), £69.95, Majestic, scrumptious precision, this flavoursome and focused fizz is beyond brilliant. Splash out.

RIDGEVIEW OAK RESERVE NV SINGLE VINEYARDRIDGEVIEW OAK RESERVE NV SINGLE VINEYARD (12%), £75, Radical English fizz that’s rich, nervy and thrilling. A detonation of delight.

LANGHAM CORALLIAN CLASSIC CUVÉE NVWine of the week LANGHAM CORALLIAN CLASSIC CUVÉE NV (12%), £26, Bright as a sunlit vapour trail carved by an apple slice. Top British bubbly.