Bright, busy, fresh, tasty…and cheap.
Thomasina Miersstarted this little gem in 2005 after winning Masterchef. She was the first modern chef to win the title, and is still the only female winner in the amateur category for the UK series.
Reservations cannot be made at Wahaca, and you will almost definitely encounter a wait. This is dealt with by allowing you to pass the time with a cocktail in hand, which works well. The service throughout the restaurant is friendly and knowledgeable. Your waiter will tell you their name and have a little joke with you which people seem to like. On occasions however, we have had to pull a few high flying acrobatic feats to get noticed, especially when asking for the bill.
The drinks list is simple and quite strict which I’m sure could be seen as a negative, but each drink offered suits the menu perfectly. On this occasion we visited the Soho branch, and had regular mojitos and hibiscus mojitos, where a lovely sweet pink syrup is added to the mix.
You can have an absolute feast at Wahaca for £10 - £15 a head (+ cocktails). The restaurant has won many awards for their value for money. I love meals where you can share small dishes, and get to taste a bit of everything, and the ‘street food’ section of the menu is a great way to do this. The whole menu changes seasonally so you will never get bored.
One of the most exciting things about Mexican food is the combination of textures and temperatures - spice as well as heat. This is something I love in a meal. Crisp tortilla chips, crunchy lettuce, buttery guacamole, spicy salsas, earthy beans, cool creamy cheeses, and all kinds of tender meats. A few of the street food dishes will tick all of these boxes, and the ‘Wahaca selection’ makes choosing easy and eating excellent value. For £19.95 you receive an assortment of some of the best street food dishes on the menu. It’s enough for two to share, and you can of course add more dishes if you wish.
Guacamole and tortilla chips, and salsas
The tostadas are especially gratifying, as they get this combination of textures, flavours and temperatures just right. They are small (about the size of your palm) crispy tortillas topped with your choice of seafood, chicken or black bean salad. The black bean tostadas come with feta and crema’ and are in the ‘Wahaca selection’.
Chicken guajillo tostada + Black bean tostada
We didn’t get through the quesadillas as quickly. They have more of a doughy texture, and are very cheesy. They are worth trying, but perhaps to share between two or three as they are quite filling. My home-made quesadillas (number one hang-over cure) tend to end as a main meal - much bigger and chunkier than this, with more salad and a citric dressing which helps to combat the stodge. Ottolenghi does a nice version too, with a zingy salsa and lots of fresh herbs. You can find the recipe here.
Broadbean and feta quesadilla, and Green rice and beans + Chorizo and potato quesadilla
The taco bases are a thin soft flour tortilla. They have an interesting, almost skin like texture. We tried the chicken, pork and summer vegetable tacos. They are easy to eat and a nice little taster, although the meaty versions were more of a hit than the vegetarian. Additionally, I am told you should avoid the chicken taco if you are afraid of too much chilli.
Chicken tinga taco + Pork Pibil taco
Wahaca’s taquitos are beautifully presented and fun to dismantle. The menu describes them as ‘two corn tortillas wrapped around one of our wholesome fillings, deep fried and served with crema’. The vegetarian option, below, is summery new potato flavour. The salsa and salad topping work perfectly with the crispy tubes of tortilla, cutting through the fried factor so you barely notice it.
Summery new potato taquitos
If sharing dishes is not your thing, the bigger plates are very generous. You can always start with some guacamole + tortilla chips and/or a small plate to yourself, to ensure a variety of flavours and textures are enjoyed. The salads served in cripsy tortilla bowls are fun to eat, and the delicious burritos are as big as your head.
So, go forth and order plenty. You’ll be surprised just how much you can eat…