Co-founded by 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, Wahaca promises a Mexican eating experience with a street-style twist. Situated on the outskirts of the St David’s Centre opposite John Lewis, the restaurant oozes modernity yet with a hint of Mexican liveliness. The many lights hanging from the second floor ceiling create an intimate yet sophisticated atmosphere, bringing street-food into the realms of the restaurant and managing to retain the bustling atmosphere that characterises the ethos of street-food.
The menu is inundated with recognisable classics as well some more hybrid takes on traditionally Mexican cuisine. Although initially intimidating, the vastness of the menu is explain by the waiting staff who were friendly and helpful throughout the meal. Adopting a tapas style set-up the menu toys with the main ingredients of pork, steak, chicken, beans and vegetables, incorporated into staple Mexican dishes such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas. The tapas style menu is great if you’re a bit indecisive, enabling you to try a host of things and with prices from £4.50-£5.00, it is relatively affordable to have 2-3 dishes. If you’re going with a group of friends as well, the tapas style reduces the chance of the inevitable sense of food envy as you can have a bit of everything. Indulging in the cocktail menu is also a must. With many variations on the classic margarita, as well as other cocktail menu regulars, the menu is vast. Opting for the ‘wahaca-colada’ was a wise choice and a great balance between fruity and creamy.
After pondering the food menu for a decent while, the two of us opted to share the duck confit taquito, sweet potato and feta taquito, chicken and parmesan tostada, steak and cheese tacos and black bean and cheese quesadilla. A personal highlight was the sweet potato and feta taquito, and despite straying away from traditional Mexican flavours, manages to steal the show. Co-founder Thomasina said it took her awhile to come round to the idea herself after going off sweet potato during her pregnancy. Thankfully she came round to the idea and for that we praise her! Hybridising the flavours of Mexican food is risky but in this case it works, creating a smooth texture that works perfectly against the crispiness of the taquito.
Although one of the more flavoursome dishes, the steak and cheese tacos were slightly disappointing as we were met with slightly soggy and doughy tacos, as opposed to an expected crispy taco shell. Similarly, expectations fell slightly short with the chicken and parmesan tostada which was an unusual concoction, similar to a classically Italian caesar salad. Whilst it was tasty, it felt out of place next to Mexican classics such as black beans and chipotle sauce. However the black bean and cheese quesadilla rekindled my initial excitement for classic Mexican dishes, proving a highlight of the meal.
After somehow making room for dessert, we opted for a salted caramel ice cream and traditionally Mexican churros with chocolate sauce. The churros really stole the show, making a perfect ending to the slightly diverted Mexican menu. The deep-fried, doughnut-esque pieces were perfectly doughy with the bitterness of the chocolate sauce suitably offsetting the sweetness of the Churros.
Marketing itself as ‘Mexican Market Eating’ is slightly restricting considering many of the dishes include unconventional Mexican ingredients and flavours. However the project of bring street food into the realms of the restaurant is a successful and enjoyable experience. Wahaca is no doubt an interesting venture, twisting Mexican classics and playing with flavours in order to create something quite exciting. If you are expecting Mexican classics with heat and richness you may have to adjust your expectations, but this doesn’t mean you will enjoy your evening any less as you indulge in a street-food ethos.