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Taco Libre review: The perfect spot for a casual Mexican meal and some very good craft beer

Very tasty indeed, and ideal for a casual bite with friends

Taco Libre
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Address: 199 King Street North, Dublin 7
Telephone: 01 534 4584
Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: €€

In a matter of years, Capel Street has evolved into one of Dublin’s most interesting stretches. You could start at the quays, and take a global tour through Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Spanish, Brazilian, Turkish and Moldovan cuisine, before landing at the other end at the junction with King Street North, where you’ll find the recently opened Taco Libre taqueria.

Owned by the Galway Bay Brewery group, which is clocking up quite the number of bars, this is more of a restaurant than a pub, although you'll find that the bites, tacos, nachos and sides on the concise Mexican-inspired menu go incredibly well with their very good craft beer.

The buzzier space is to the front, with tables of small groups; we’re perched on comfortable high stools in the room at the back, which leads to a semi-open kitchen. It’s brightly coloured and well lit, with blue panelling, brick walls, pendant lights, and plenty of interesting paraphernalia on the walls – a vintage Coca-Cola sign, posters for Mexican wrestlers and, of course, Dia De Los Muertos.

The kitchen here has considerable pedigree. Bruna Schmohl Russo, the Brazilian head chef, trained in D.O.M in São Paulo and il Palagio in Tuscany, and her sous chef is Mexican. It is evident in the first thing we tuck into, a sizeable bowl of tortilla chips with guacamole and two salsas (€9). The golden tortillas, curled into irregular shapes, are made in-house with masa harina flour imported by Lily Ramirez-Foran of Mexican Picado. The guacamole, with tiny dice of tomato and red onion, has a considerable kick to it as do the two other salsas, a vinegary hot sauce, and a smoked roasted morija. There are beers on tap, but we start with a Craft Cocktails Margarita (€11.50), from a menu of six options.


A bit of strategy is called for when you’re ordering; first, you don’t want everything to arrive together, and second, you need to get a sense of how large each dish is. For instance, five elote croquettes (€6), one of the options on the bites menu, seems particularly generous.

Deep fried until golden, the crunchy crumbed exterior yields to a softer mixture that has the distinctive taste of charred corn, mixed with cheese and a nice bit of acidity and heat from jalapeños. A crema for dipping adds a fresh sourness to each mouthful. The temptation is to order more from the bites section, but we’re keen to try all of the tacos, and as they’re priced individually, this is an achievable feat.

There are four taco options, all wrapped in soft, palm-sized, homemade tortillas and priced at €2.75, except for the tempura prawn one which is €3.25. Nori seaweed and white radish pickle bring a decided Japanese influence to the crunchy prawn, which is in batter that is just a little heavier than a typical tempura, dolloped with a little of that crema.

Chicken thighs – always so much nicer than chicken breast which tends to be a bit dry – and here the pieces of free-range chicken have a good roasted flavour, sitting on refried beans and topped with a mole sauce, sharp pickled red onions, a scattering of coriander and a dab of sour cream.

A little less successful is the beef taco, which although generous and loaded with slow-cooked meat, corn, red cabbage and a dollop of guacamole, is just a shade too salty.

The pork packs the sort of flavour that will have you ordering more, although unfortunately, as is the case on a lot of menus, it’s not free range. It is very good, with freshness from coriander and a sweet and acidic fruitiness from mandolin-shaved slices of pineapple.

There has been a slight mix-up. Our waitress has brought us doubles of the tacos (which we later discover she removed from the bill), so we’re filling up and our plans to tackle the crispy taco are scuppered, as is any thought of dessert, for which the options are two boozy milkshakes, a Margarita one and a stout and chocolate one.

If you are looking for the second coming of Mexican food, Taco Libre is not quite up there with the Los Chicanos food truck, but it is very tasty indeed and when you add in great beer and cocktails, it becomes the perfect place to head with your mates for a casual bite.

Dinner for two with two cocktails and two beers was €62.50

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column