A little more Mexican street food

Those who read this on a regular basis will know that I have a fondness for the Wahaca restaurants after an introduction to their style of food on the South Bank in London.

Since discovering this delight of Mexican street food and realising they had a branch in Clifton in Bristol, I have been itching to try the food there.

Using a gift voucher I went there for a quick lunch. One of the quirks (or is just a nice feature) of the Wahaca chain is that every restaurant has their own unique style. I think what surprised me most about the Bristol branch was the TARDIS style dimension, it is very much bigger on the inside then it appears on the exterior.

It was quiet early and I think I was the only person the restaurant, which surprised me, I was expecting it to be busier. Certainly I have queued for the South Bank restaurant and down in the heart of Bristol the food places are very busy (even from mid day).

As is my usual lunch, I went for three items from the street food menu. These are small dishes and three is more than ample for lunch (in some cases with the larger ones you could get away with just eating two).

The menu had changed since my last visit with new market treats and of course the regularly changing specials menu.

I was tempted by the new hibiscus glazed wings, alas they must have been popular and were off the menu. Still there were two other things from the new market treats menu that sounded rather nice.

My first choice was the Huitlacoche empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, truffley Mexican corn & melted cheese.

Huitlacoche empanadas

These were delicious. The filling though was, as might be expected when using mushrooms was a rather unappetising grey mush. Despite that, I did enjoy the parcels and really liked the presentation. One thing that I have started doing myself which was on this dish was adding thinly sliced radish as a garnish, for crunch and flavour.

My second choice were the crispy prawn tacos. Corn tortillas stuffed with chopped prawn, chillies, spring onion & coriander, cooked until crispy, served with guacamole, tomato salsa & chipotle mayo.

crispy prawn tacos

The tacos had been filled and rolled and deep fried giving them a nice crunch. You could taste the prawn filling and it was still fresh and tasty. The accompaniments of salsa and guacamole worked, but I did feel I had slightly too much chipotle mayo.

For my third choice I went with one of the specials, Beef mole taco, this was unctuous, slow cooked beef shin, cooked in a rich Oaxacan mole. It was served in warm corn tortillas with sweet plantain puree and fiery chile de arbor salsa.

Beef mole taco

You got two beautifully presented open tacos, the beef was rich in flavour, tender and tasty.

Overall three delicious dishes and very tasty.

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad!

I have been to a few of these new “gastro” burger places and have enjoyed most of them. In Newcastle overnight for a meeting the next day, myself and a colleague from work were looking for a place for a bite to eat. We chose Byron.

We were given a warm welcome from the staff and given a really nice table by the window. It’s quite a large place and for a Tuesday night I thought it was quite busy. It’s a relatively smart décor combined with a warm atmosphere made it quite a pleasant place to be on a cold wintery evening.

Looking over the menu, I decided that I didn’t really fancy beef or chicken, so went with one of the vegetarian options.

This was a grilled Portobello mushroom, with goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and aioli. Served in a squishy bun.

I had it alongside some fries and the house salad.

The burger was nice and full of flavour. The combination of ingredients worked well and it was very tasty.

The fries were crisp, hot and fresh, maybe a little too much salt, I prefer my fries without salt.

The salad was a nice simple salad, alas it was overdressed, I would have preferred it with the dressing on the side.

Overall a really nice meal, great service and nice environment. It was quite a limited menu, it’s just burgers, but if you are looking for a burger then why not have a look.

…but you don’t like it!

Kingston upon Thames

Down in London for a family visit, it was time for lunch. Kingston has a lot of wonderful places to eat, however with young children we chose Zizzi, partly as one wanted pizza and the other is gluten-free (and Zizzi do a nice gluten free pizza).

It was a Saturday lunchtime and the place looked packed standing outside, I didn’t hold out much hope that we would be able to get a table, especially as we hadn’t booked. However the branch of Zizzi in Kingston has an upstairs, which was a lot less crowded and we able to easily find a table for the seven of us. I quite liked the nautical theme of the decoration and furniture.

Zizzi in Kingston

I do like the rustica style pizza at Zizzi and have had their Carnosa before which I enjoyed. Going over the menu I was tempted to have the Carnosa again, but saw the new Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma. This was described as slow-cooked pulled pork and crispy crackling on a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella with pepperoni, sunblush tomatoes, thyme & smoked chilli jelly.

Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma

I almost always avoid menu items with pulled pork in them, as I don’t like it. They usually contain a sticky sweet barbecue sauce, from the menu description it was apparent that this pizza didn’t. I should point out I wasn’t certainly expecting any kind of authentic Italian experience here either.

I like how they use the term, Fior di Latte mozzarella to make it sound exotic and authentic, what it actually means this is cheap mozzarella made from cow’s milk and not the buffalo milk that “proper” mozzarella is made from. However when it comes to topping a pizza, I don’t believe it makes too much difference when it comes to flavour. I do though think it’s amusing they are using the Italian terminology to make the pizza appear more “authentic”.

The rustica style pizza is a stretched pizza base, which is more authentic than most pizza you can buy, it’s also similar to the Romana style pizze you can get Pizza Express. I like the crisp and texture of this pizza. I liked the crunchiness of the crackling and tasty pork. The other toppings all added to the overall experience.

I did enjoy this pizza and found it a delicious combination of tastes and textures.

The service was friendly and fast, however though I ordered a starter, it never arrived, the waiter had forgotten to put it through to the kitchen!

The other starter arrived just as we started to eat it, all the main courses arrived, it was bread, so less of an issue, but even so…

So, nice environment, great pizza and okay service. Even if it is busy, you should still as a restaurant be able to manage, I was expecting Saturday lunchtime to be busy, so should Zizzi.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.

So what’s close by?

I have really enjoyed my previous visits to Wahaca, visiting central London and looking for somewhere to eat, I did wonder if there was a Wahaca close by, a quick search and 0.2 miles away on Charlotte Street.

This is a very different establishment to the one on the South Bank, more traditional in appearance from the outside. Inside it felt more like the one on the South Bank, the furniture was very similar. The staff were friendly and welcoming. Inside there were the similar tables and chairs, but as the place isn’t made from shipping containers, the walls were brick and the ceilings high.

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with one of the specials as they were different from those at my last visit. There was a choice of two, so I went with the lamb taquito, this was slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla.

slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla

Unlike my previous experience with taquitos, these were very tasty, strong flavours. The fried tortilla was nice and crip and I enjoyed the accompanying slaw.

I also went with the Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

These were smoky chargrilled chicken, avocado, guacamole, chipotle mayo and fresh slaw. This was delicious and refreshing. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

I did also order a dish I had before, and went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole. As before they were delicious. I was asked if I wanted grilled cheese with them, I said no, but they arrived with the grilled cheese. I felt this added very little to the dish and wasn’t really needed, pleased that I wasn’t charged for this extra.

Another enjoyable visit to Wahaca and some great food.