Photo by TikiChris
Most Americans in London feel they are on personal quest to find good Mexican in the UK. Get a bunch of us in a room together and we’ll inevitably start talking about the burritos here or the enchiladas there – but the consensus is pretty much always that it’s never as good as home.
Well, friends, the quest is over. I give you, Wahaca.
I was invited to the Westfield location of Wahaca along with about 20 other Qypers to sample a few new items from the winter menu. What I didn’t realise is that we would be sampling EVERYTHING. Seriously, like 11 dishes. It was amazing.
Co-owners Mark Selby and former Masterchef winner Thomasina ‘Tommi’ Miers were there to welcome us warmly and explain a bit about the ethos of the restaurant. They offer affordable (read: super cheap) and authentic Mexican streetfood designed for a British audience – and I think that’s the reason Wahaca succeeds where so many others have failed. It doesn’t try to imitate other popular Mexican restaurants. It has its own style.
Since 11 dishes is quite a lot to write about, I’m going to condense this to highlights.
Smoked herring –
Perfect example of the whole Mexican food for an English palette. A lovely chilled fish with fresh lime and spice served over a tortilla with olives and capers. Great little starter.
Black bean soup – Interesting presentation. First we were served this:
Shortly followed by a lady who came around to each bowl and did this:
The result was a lush black bean soup with little surprises of fresh avocado, chicken and cheese. Yum!
I’m not usually a superfan of mole. It’s too thick, too heavy and just generally makes me feel a bit blah.
This you could have poured into a bag and fed me intravenously. It was the most scrumdiddlyumptious dish I’ve had in a long while. Served, enchilada-style with rice and shredded chicken.
Baja-California fish tacos –
I think I just made squeaks when I ate this. Words could not fully form in my mouth, that’s how yummy. Each taco comes with a delicately flash-fried piece of plaice with chipotle mayo, salsa, beans and spicy slaw. I think by the time these found their way to our table, we were about 8 or 9 dishes in. I was SO FULL, but honestly still wanted to eat the whole plate. Delicious!
This is a quesadilla of what is basically the fungus that grows on corn (though it’s described on the menu as ‘Mexican Corn Mushroom’ lolz). I’m not generally a fan of mushrooms, but this was actually quite nice. The pickled veggies on the side were ace – a really nice way to balance out what is a pretty rich little number.
Winter Buerza Salad –
This was probably my least favourite of the night. There was just too much going on – all the tastes became a bit muddled. Included was butternut squash, organic spelt, diced orange, ancho chilli, feta avocado,pickeld hibiscus flowers, fresh mint, pumpkin seeds, salad leaves, totopos and radish in house dressing. Yikes. All that and it still needed a bit of sweetness.
Vegetable PiPian –
A carbtastic overload of mushrooms, crumbled cheese and rice. The tomatillo salsa was amazingly fresh, but for me this wasn’t a stand-out dish. Many of the ingredients were things that we had tried before in one dish or another, so for me it was a bit ‘been there, done that’.
Pork Pibil –
Three lovely little pork tacos served with some nice pickled onions. This is what Wahaca means by ‘streetfood’. Not overcomplicated, just good spicy pork you have to eat with your hands.
Never met a piece of fried cinnamon-sugar dough dipped in chocolate that I didn’t like. Wahaca’s churros are no exception. The Americans at the table joked with Mark that we couldn’t believe they didn’t have fried ice cream on the menu like ChiChi’s. What a sham!
Congrats if you’ve made it to the end. I’m sorry I didn’t review everything, but it seriously would have been a novel. Trust me though, it was all amazing. Do yourself a favour and try it out.
There are Wahaca locations in Covent Garden and Westfield, with one opening in Canary Wharf in November 2009. I’m going to point out – because apparently it’s quite the bone of contention with foodies and reviewers online – that they do not take reservations or bookings, even for large parties. Even if you have to wait though, it’s worth it.
If you want to see the pictures of the other things we enjoyed, check out my Flickr set from the night.