“Ethical, sustainable, all round good egg, Mexican food restaurant chain from London Town…that’s come to Manchester”
I should set the record straight here. I’m not a connoisseur on Mexican food. (It’s chilli con carne in it? – Ed), but after keeping abreast of the hype surrounding this Northern launch of Wahaca, the excitement generated has been almost biblical. It’s one of the flagship signings for the Corn Exchange complex that has been transformed at the Victoria end of town. Accolades have flooded in from all corners, including a remarkable run of fifty odd five star reviews on Trip Advisor within minutes of opening! It’s been on the list ever since.
And so it came to be. The Cooktwit was at a loose end. He had to fill an hour between work ending and the start of a triumphant Motley Crue gig at the nearby arena. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Wahaca. Working around the country as I do, I’m used to dining alone (awww – ed). Tonight was such a night. I ventured in from the front, it’s a smart welcoming entrance, colourful and loud. The pleasant front of house reckoned it would be twenty minutes for a table, even for one, on a Tuesday night at six! I was handed a bleeper and set up shop with a bottle of Corona. Within ten minutes I was whisked round the back to face the faceless atrium that is the ‘work in progress’ centre of the corn exchange. The place was rammed. Parties of mixed ages chattered loudly, families as well as business.
I settled in my table, beneath a metal mezzanine, upbeat tunes were banging forth, Maddy, my pleasant young waitress for the evening, explained the extensive, printed napkin come menu both verbally and by drawing all over it with a magic marker. She explained the cauliflower cheese was her favourite! I decide to go ‘street food’. It was recommended that three should be selected to satiate a frame of my size. It was also explained that the dishes would arrive as and when chef has prepared them. Sure enough mine all arrived together!
First up Taquitos. Two corn tortillas filled, rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salads and salsas. I chose the Sweet potato and feta version (£3.95) which came with caramelised red onion and wrapped in crispy blue corn, dotted with salsas and chipotle mayo. It looked pretty good, very appetising, but my first venture into the plate with my selected utensil (a spoon) resulted in the whole thing exploding all over the plate, such was the crispiness of the cigar. When I eventually got a mouthful the temperature variance between the case (hot), the potato (warm) and the feta (cold) made for an unpleasant feeling on the palate. The flavours were good though. Some zing ventured forth from the various salsas but overall a little disappointing.
I then had a special. I think they were called ‘piccadilos’. Basically this was three, spicy pork and beef minced patties wrapped in a lettuce leaf (£4.25). Again it was tasty enough but once again suffered from the variance in temperature. Cold lettuce with luke warm contents.
Best of the three by some distance was the Beef Tacos. Three toasted soft corn tortillas filled with grilled British steak (£4.50), the beef was flash grilled skirt steak with a chipotle salsa. These were of even temperature and very good. I dotted some of the dishes with the chilli salsa and chilli sauce from the bottles supplied on the table. These added a welcome piquancy.
Having downed the lager I ordered up a coffee and a dessert. My coffee came almost immediately. My dessert some fifteen minutes later! To be fair the coffee was very good, but dish of the night was the Churros y chocolate (£4.25) Mexican doughnuts with a rich chocolate sauce (although fortuitously I got caramel sauce as well). These were excellent, clearly fresh and hot. They were arguably the best Churros I’ve ever had. The caramel sauce in particular adding a major touch of indulgence.
In conclusion the whole hour with drinks cost me £23. Pretty good value really. If I’m honest given the hype and my own expectations I left a little underwhelmed. It’s clearly a popular place. The service is bright and peppy. I reckon it’s more suited to a party night out. The first floor (which was shut tonight) looks pretty smart too. I reckon the view over the atrium would be good.
Would I go again? Yes, I’d give it another go, but I would go for a bigger plate meal, though I’d definitely go back for the Churros………
The Corn Exchange