El Gordo Fine Foods
El Gordo's certainly not about ambience. There's plenty here to suspect that its previous incarnation was a Kensington market butcher shop (increasing the suspicion is the fact that the proprietors at Segovia Meats next door run the joint). Harsh light fluorescing off a vast rank of identical glass display cases and men in pristine white coats behind every counter. Combine all that with a conspicuous absence of any seating and it means you're takin' home or eating on the hoof.
This place's disguise isn't very convincing until you realise that El Gordo isn't a bakery disguised a butcher shop; one look at the sheer preponderance of empanadas scrawled wall-to-wall on whiteboard menus like some mystical equation and you realise this place is actually a science lab disguised as a bakery! And from the array of flavours they've managed to stuff into their empanadas, I'd say they were mad scientists.
Sure there are traditional fillings; the Jumbo beef ($4.75 each) is a cumin scented tomato and beef affair walking a safe line and offering flavours that while unsurprising, are both pleasantly earthy and plentiful for the size of this massive pastry pocket.
Slightly more creative, spicy chorizo gets stuffed into the 'mexican' ($3.75 each) to excellent effect and is even better in the salsa verde version with pulpy, piquant green sauce baked in.
But El Gordo's definitely in its element with the fantastic chicken and kimchee empanada ($3.75 each the top photo). What evil genius thought to stuff shreds of warm, chilli powdered chicken and the wonderful spicy sour crunch of pickled cabbage into this Frankenstein's monster of a turnonver? I don't know who but I love that man!
The culinary mash-ups on offer at the El Gordo empanada lab might not be what you call traditional Latin American street food but their flavour experiments are a tasty success.