For some, Mexican food is a rag tag tumble of mush, best eaten when you’re landlocked or stuck for something to drag to the table.

Thomasina Miers’ series of restaurants; Wahaca crushes that vision of Mexican food like it was a troublesome piñata.

If you answer yes to any of the following; there’s a good likelihood that you’ll like your time at Wahaca.

To start;  do you like Mexican food? If not, then never fear, I still think we can convert you.

Do you like tortilla chips that are warm, and house made?
Do you like having a choice of tequilas in your margaritas?
Do you like being able to splice a burrito, or soft tacos with a bumper salad that actually has flavour?
Do you like churros, dusted with cinnamon and dunked in chocolate?

The newest Wahaca outpost in Soho is my favourite of the four (Shepherds Bush, Covent Garden and Canary Wharf). It’s open and welcoming, with entrances on two streets. It has a groovy converted-warehouse feel, with high ceilings, muralled walls and colours that pop like exclamation points.  They don’t accept bookings, but the three times we’ve been we’ve always found our way to a table. If for some reason there isn’t one, then downstairs is a tequila bar.

The menu is large and laid on your table like a placemat. The cheerful and young waitstaff will occasionally circle what you’ve ordered to help keep score. It’s also not a bad way to mark a path through the gamut of choices.

But to start, if you’re not after a Mexican beer ( of which there are four, including Modela Especial), then it’s got to be a margarita.

The margaritas come in blown glasses that feel sturdy in your hands. If you’re keen on a salted rim, be sure to ask for one. From there guacamole, tostadas and salsas are  listed as ‘nibbles’ and the serving size is just that. Any serious table of guac lovers may need to order two.

Anyone bamboozled by choice could take a middle path with the ‘Wahaca selection’.

For just under 20 pounds it’s a mini banquet of soft tacos, filled with mellow shredded pork, three vegetable tacos and two huiltlacoche quesadillas (pronounced kweet-lah-KOH-chay). For an ingredient that’s sometimes known as ‘corn smut’ huitalacloche is a tasty kind of fungus that grows on corn. Paired with mushrooms and cheese it’s rich and savoury, almost slightly truffled in flavour. It’s the bomb. Don’t miss these.

The ‘Wahaca selection’ also brings some black bean tostadas and chicken taquitos. Both the beans and the chicken have gruntish flavours, the chicken smokey, the beans deep and savoury- but if you’re like me you might get overwhelmed with the degree of frying and crunch that comes with taquitos and tostadas.

And really, it’s just so hard to go past the burritos and salads.

For  £6.85 a chicken tinga burrito is a toasted and folded flour tortilla with a filling of beans, cabbage, rice cuddling up with  a good whack of onion and the smokey heat of chipotle.

A British steak burrito comes with nuggets of grass fed beef and a similar dosing of spice. These are man-sized meals. The choice of whether you pick them up with your fingers, or more delicately approach them with a knife and fork is yours to make. We went with our hands.

The salads, are a roaring delight. A winter special of fuerza brings thick chunks of cucumber, gem lettuce, mint, pumpkin seeds, fetta and nubbins of avocado together with organic spelt and sweet potato. Sure it would have rocketed to another level if the sweet potato was warm instead of roasted-yet-fridge-cold, but the zippy dressing, crunch of crumbled corn chips and earnest addition of spelt make it a salad that needs to be reproduced, and often.

Winter fuerza salad

If you feel like some extra indulgence then there’s the cheese -heavier selections of enchiladas, or you could go straight towards dessert and some of the best churros and chocolate sauce that I’ve had outside of Spain.

There are a few minor quibbles; if you’re aching for a glass of wine, you’re going to drink it out of a tumbler. The toilets downstairs at Soho are multisex and there’s often a bit of a queue. But really, that’s it. 

There are so many other things to like about Wahaca, from its the social conscience- there’s a zero landfill policy at the Soho outpost, and two items in the ‘street food’ section that give a 20 p per dish donation to a  UNESCO charity that educates street kids in Mexico City. Then there’s the coding on the menu which lets you know which dishes have turned up the heat, and the general warmth that you’ll get from the floor staff.

But more than anything, Wahaca is such a cheerful place.  For me it brings back every positive memory I’ve had about time in Mexico. I can’t eat one of their fish tacos without feeling Baja sand between my toes and I find it hard to plough through their guac and chips without transporting myself back to Tulum, and searching for a turquoise horizon beyond their windows.

And the best thing about Wahaca’s version of Mexico is that you don’t have to worry for a second about what dangers it might wreak on your digestion.

Some of the best of Mexico, coupled with the wonders of British refrigeration technology.

Seriously, what’s not to like about that?

Wahaca Soho
80 Wardour Street Soho
Tube: Leicester Square/ Tottenham Court Road

Wahaca Covent Garden
66 Chandos Place 
Tube: Covent Garden 
Wahaca on Urbanspoon

Leave a comment