I remember the thirty-five sweet goodbyes
When you put me on the Wolverine
Mexican restaurants used to be pretty thin on the ground in London but now there’s a veritable slew of them, no doubt down to the avalability of ingredients like the many varieties of chilli peppers that we couldn’t get over here before. The latest is called Wahaca and occupies an unloved spot in Covent Garden that hosted Bad Bob’s (I think) and latterly The Springbok.
It’s a bit of a strange space, is Wahaca, not packed with tables and was there really supposed to be no ceiling or maybe I’m just to old to appreciate cutting edge restaurant design. A few days into the opening though and everyone’s on best behaviour – I was greeted and shown to a table straight away and had the menu concept explained. I think it was AA Gill who didn’t want to know about any concept in a restaurant that wasn’t “I order, you bring, I eat, you clear away”. Still, it’s nice to have a bit of enthusiasm even if being asked if everything was ok after each mouthful began to pall after the 20th time. Ex-Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers was working her cotton socks off in the kitchen which is a good sign and the place was, if not quite jumping (like a Mexican bean) was pretty busy with 20-somethings, mostly women, enjoying themselves. As did I.
A little cocktail action to start, a Margarita, was nice and limey, the chiccarones I had with them were a bit on the lightweight side. The Guacamole exhibited the main problem with the food – it really needed a bit of pepping up. A little bit of salt, some of the beautifully smoky habanero hot sauce (which despite being told all the time how hot it was, wasn’t) and a bit of lime cheered it up no end.
Most of the dishes benefited from the same treatment. I was told by the co-owner that they didn’t want to spice things up too much and preferred to leave it to customers' individual preference. Fair enough I suppose but a bit at odds with the aim of authentic Mexican market cuisine.
I stuck to the Street Food section of the menu and liked the Black Bean Tostadas and the Pork Pibil Taco although the corn tortillas were a bit heavy. There was also a rather toothsome piquant pickle that went with a couple of dishes. The chorizo in the Quesadilla was nice and smoky but the oil had seeped out making the tortilla a bit greasy. This would be a distinct advantage though if you’d had one Modelo Negra too many. A big bowl of chocolate ice cream was very good and had a surprising chilli finish. They aced the mint tea test.
I wasn’t completely convinced by the food but it’s fresh, inexpensive and doesn’t leave a nasty taste in the mouth. A sort of Latin version of Leon. If they could inject a bit more oomph or soul into the food it would be so much better. Holy Frijoles !