Taco Libre, Shandwick Place


THE charm of Taco Libre is not just that you walk into it straight from the kiss-me-quick tourist tat at this end of Edinburgh’s Princes Street. And then momentarily think … uh, is this like actual Mexico man? 

It’s also not just about the Colombian waitresses chatting in Spanish to customers, the broken down Spanish Coca Cola fridge, the industrial taco press in the corner – “used every single day”, I will be told. 

Though they all help. Nor really is it the fact that Luis Albert Posada is playing above the diner babble on the ropey sound system, El Precio de Tu Error, since you ask and says Mr Shazam. 

It’s this: the food is just bloody good. Oh, and in an absolute sea of culinary fakes these days this is surely a real deal. Yeah, it’s a bit, um, untidy too. 

Huge tins of chipotle abodabas, green tomatoes, pineapple, all on open display up there; an unused puggy machine to the left of the open kitchen, neon flashing signs, some wrestler tat, skulls – yeah, lots of skulls. 

But this is somehow adding to the whole positive vibe of what is down-in-the-trenches hand-to-hand eating. 

Look at this. My tiny table in veneer and sturdy metal edging is so close to the next that when I turn with a giant chile relleno in my fat fist, the first wave of hot green jalapeno juices beginning to bite, I realise my neighbours are not only close enough for our elbows to be touching, but for our eyes to actually lock. Eek. Er, awkward. 

“Bueno,” I nod towards them, mouth seamlessly changing up a gear to handle the unusual sensations: fresh, soft corn taco then crispy, crunchy fried shell, a sudden very green jalapeno moment inside, spiced minced meat stuffing popping inside that and finally, cooling cheese. 

The Herald:

Ooft. It works. Now, this is Edinburgh so some customers are, of course, eating their tacos with knives and forks, yuk-yuk. 

I, of course, am delighted to see this and then find myself doing exactly the same with the sopes. Deep-fried crispy masa, that corn flour again, base piled with refried beans, guacamole, salsa, fresh tangy onion, feta, sour cheese. 

Honestly? I am a complete slobbering mess by the time I’ve polished off the second of those and moved onto the grilled corn cobs, smothered in mayo, cream cheese and then dusted with more cheese and chilli. 

“Could I have some more napkins please?” I say to the waitress, my hands out to keep juices from melting the sleeves of my M&S 100% polyester suit. 

This is the same smiley lady who will process my bill later as I lounge at the counter and ask nosey questions about who is behind this place. 

“These guys are from Venezuela and Peru,” she and her colleague will say, gesturing at the open kitchen where two taco chefs will look up suddenly and smile. “But the head chef is from Mexico.” Ah. The tacos too are from Mexico, the city though according to the menu. A  suadero; seven-hours brisket.  


Two more of those proper corn taco dudes – and I should say here there is something uniquely flavoured about a proper corn taco – chillies, red salsa, onion, lots of coriander. 

The meat is piquant, almost limey, the flavours deeply embedded, the whole thing a complete nightmare to eat and yet ... eat it all I do. 

Before turning to a pollo asado to repeat the whole slurp, slippery, unput-downable process again. 

Yeah. They do the whole Margarita gig, cocktails, Mexican beers yada-yada, too a dangerously seductive package in an easy-osy comfortable setting as the somewhat steamin’ group of young Edinburghers at the table by the door underline.  

“Say Chees-ay wot-sat again,” a very loud girl is shouting while roaring with laughter. Normally, and only if it’s not me behaving thus, annoying.  

But tonight, in here, everyone is super-chilled. Paying little attention. And I certainly want to linger. Some places just have that ay-caramba vibe.

Taco Libre

3 Shandwick Place


EH42 4RR

Opening hours: seven days 


Menu: tacos, Chile Relenos, Sopes you’ve seen the movie, you know what taco places sell - but this is proper stuff. 4/5

Service: Charming Spanish speaking waitresses float about in a relaxed and friendly way. 5/5

Price: Big, fat sloppy tacos come in at around £8, prices may have gone up for the festival, those relenos were £6. Worth it. 4/5

Atmosphere: Somehow the place manages to have ten times the atmosphere of all those carefully curated fake joints. I liked it a lot. 5/5

Food: Knock out dish of the ight were those stuffed chillis to start, almost a meal, then with proper corn foundations the tacos mopped up in the taste stakes. 8/10

Total: 26/30