Wahaca was packed when we arrived. It was the week after opening, 5pm on a Saturday and the place was mobbed. As soon as we stepped through the front door, we were met with the buzz of people enjoying drinks at the bar, a gaggle of hostesses who were intermittently showing guests to their seats, and the pleasant hum of social activity.
Very quickly, Wahaca is basically a Mexican restaurant with a difference – really great quality food at really great prices – and the first Scottish branch opened in Edinburgh earlier this month. Being a massive fajita fan, I was super excited to try it out as quickly as possible and luckily our plans to see Billy Elliot at the Edinburgh Playhouse (excellent, by the way) were timed perfectly.
Back to Wahaca. We were taken past the bar and open kitchen (don’t you love being able to see the chefs at work?) and upstairs. As we climbed, we stopped briefly on the landing to peer over, taking in the crowd of people below enjoying an early dinner, or perhaps the tail end of a late lunch. Up we went another flight, our eyes and noses overwhelmed, until we were seated at our table beneath woven baskets and upcycled milk cartons acting as lampshades. The place was huge with plenty of bright colours to enjoy, and it was super busy, but not once did our table feel overlooked by, or too close to, our fellow diners.
The menu was a bit daunting; aside from the regular main dishes (burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, etc) there was a section for street food and quite honestly we had no idea where to begin. This turned out not to be a problem as our waitress came over to take our drinks order and explain the menu to us: either order a regular dish, or order a few tapas-style dishes from the street food section. We decided this would be a great way to sample the food, so on her advice we ordered between two and three dishes each along with a classic margarita for him, and a virgin mojito for me. Soon afterwards, our food began to arrive. Little by little, our waitress brought us Mexican dish after Mexican dish, tiny tacos, and crispy tostadas, one by one they started to fill the space on our table for two.
With all honesty, we enjoyed every bite of every dish. For me, this doesn’t happen often when ordering tapas style. Usually I’ll save a bit of my favourite dish to finish on, but at Wahaca I could happily have ended with a bite of anything (and everything). That said, though the steak tacos were amazing, I fell for the more interesting sweet potato and feta taquitos and the oh-so-fresh and super light corn and black bean tostadas. We greedily dipped our forks into every dish, arguing lightheartedly over who was going to eat the third and final plantain taco (interesting but worth the risk), scooping the deliciously tangy and sweet tomato salsa onto tortillas that would inevitably break inside the salsa dish… All part of the fun and, despite polishing off the lot in under thirty minutes, we ordered dessert.
Being the sweet treat of choice for any Instagrammer, you may find it hard to believe that I’ve never tried a churro. Never, nope, not once. So I felt it my duty to my fellow bloggers to pick the churros (essentially, a long doughnut for those who don’t know) and, of course, they were yummy. Served with a cup of melted chocolate, they were my kind of pud. However, we also ordered the coconut-crumbed plantain (banana) with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, and my goodness, I can’t tell you how superb they were! Sticky and sweet and crunchy and soggy, the crumbed plantain was served hot with ice cream that melted over the sugary mass, swirling into the caramel sauce, straight onto my spoon and right down the already overflowing hatchet. It was truly the best dessert I’ve had in a long time. In fact, it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time and I urge you all to go, swiftly, to Edinburgh (or any town near you) for the Wahaca experience. You, your purse, and your friends won’t look back.
What we ate
Grilled British steak tacos with cheese
Corn, black bean and guacamole tostadas
Sweet potato and feta taquitos
Guacamole with tortilla chips
Tomato salsa with tortilla chips
Corn bread with honey dip and creme fraiche
Churros y chocolate
Coconut-crumbed plantain with vanilla ice cream and caramel ‘cajeta’ sauce
These dishes were around £4 each and we had a cocktail (well, mocktail for me) each – our bill came to just £46 for a variety of excellent, fresh food in a really fun environment.
A bit about Wahaca
Founded by Thomasina Miers (winner of MasterChef in 2005) and Mark Selby (who used to develop restaurant models), Wahaca’s intention is to find a balance between healthy and hearty food – and the dynamic duo totally nail it. It’s exactly the kind of food I like to eat, somewhere between a real treat and fresh, healthy goodness; it’s the recipes and the skill of combining great flavours that make this the healthy way to enjoy great food. What’s more, Wahaca is affordable – and actually really yummy with it – and Miers and Selby work bravely towards the sustainability agenda, having external third party sustainability assessments on their restaurants. I also love that Wahaca sources some ingredients from Mexico, choosing to work with cooperatives that work with local farming communities. They even source their tequilas from small, family-run businesses, something that I guess stems from Thomasina’s time living and working in Mexico.
Did you know?
20p from each street food dish is donated to charities and campaigns in Mexico and the U.K.
Check out wahaca.co.uk where you can find the full menus (food, drinks, takeaway, gluten free, kids and breakfast), as well as music and recipe suggestions, and discover more about the clever marketing idea that is the A Dash of Wahaca chilli sauce, available in some restaurants and supermarkets.
Images: Kris Miller