Sunday 17 June 2012

Wahaca, Chandos Place, central London

A cavernous Mexican restaurant in a basement near Covent Garden, Wahaca has spicy food, funky decor and a lively buzz. This subterranean space, which is harshly illuminated by large colour panels in the ceiling, has plenty of tables, wooden screens and wide, padded benches on which two rows of people sit back to back. Wahaca's menu, which covers an A3 paper place mat, offers a mix of "street food" (smaller dishes priced up to five pounds) and larger dishes (around a tenner), plus some side dishes for a few quid apiece. If you want to try the "street food", you will probably need two or three dishes, plus one side. While you are choosing, you might want to sample the lovely, fresh guacamole (£3.85), served with tortilla crisps. There is not enough and you will be scraping the bowl.

Personal and polite
Among the smaller dishes, the pork pibil is spicy, juicy, slow-roasted meat (£3.95) served in three tacos with red hot onion - tasty and good value, but you will be reaching for the sour cream. The chorizo and potato quesadilla (about £4) is filling, but surprisingly bland. The black bean and cheese quesadalla has much more flavour. The chicken and crab taquitos (about £5) also get good reviews, but they aren't that substantial. The rice with coriander and garlic (£2.30), which comes in a small pot, is pleasant enough, while the green salad - a large heap of well-dressed lettuce leaves with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds - is a welcome relief from the carbs and the protein. Note, the dishes you order, which are served on small white trays, don't necessarily come together. The drink options include tequila and Mexican beer - a bottle of Corona Extra with a slice of lime in its neck is £3.60. But the spicy food will also have you ordering large bottles of still water (£1.35) and fizzy water (£1.50). The service is personal and polite - you are assigned a waitress who introduces herself by name and will give advice. Although it isn't a great option for young kids, Wahaca can attract families on a Sunday lunchtime and it can get noisy. 7/10