Friday, 16 July 2010
The service was ok. The guy was doing two Burritos at the same time, which was pretty confusing and stupid. I think he shaved off 5 seconds from the Burrito making process, but this also meant I didn't get exactly what I wanted. There was no queue either, so a big HUH?, for the serving guy. Oh well. I went for the chicken Burrito as the meat looked the craziest. It had an orange spice rub all over it. For sides they have the usual stuff, along with a coriander and onion mix and pickled chile peppers. I got all that stuff, because I'm good.
FOIL OFF. Hm. First bite seemed pretty good. Salsa was hot, nice flavour to the chicken, but the more I ate, the more I realised that the seasoning on the chicken was pretty gross. Too much. It tasted like one of those old el paso spice mixes, i.e. too much salt, and a little chalky. I wolfed some more, but all I could taste was the seasoning. It mixed with the sour cream and went around bullying the whole Burrito til it all tasted the same.
The rest of the show was unimpressive. Beans were too soft and completely bland, and I could only taste the guac every now and again, which wasn't great anyway, lacking flavour and citrus zing-a-ling. Needed more lime! I also had a tomato salsa, but along with the gooey mess of the beans and guac, the predominantly ripe tomato/onion mix made the Burrito even more soggy. I was glad to see extra peppers, but sadly they were pickled. I hate them. Fresh habaneros plz.
Eh. Not a great burrito. Maybe the other meat options would kick it up a few notches but I was pretty underwhelmed. It was well put together, reasonably priced (£6 for chicken wi/ guacamole), and in a good, central location. Beyond that, it was a bland, inoffensive affair. Even the initial kick of the hot sauce fizzled out and got swamped by the seasoning. Sorry Benito, ur Burrito made me bored.
- hot sauce
- big meat portion
- free chips
- well wrapped
- chicken cut too big/overseasoned
- pickled peppers
- bland beans
- pointlessly hurried service
19 New Row, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4LE
Monday, 14 June 2010
Yeah! Burritos! I realise that a review of LA Burrito shops isn't particularly helpful and not in keeping with the theme of this blog, so I'll just stick to a quick blast through the best one I ate. My preference for this particular Burrito place is in part due to the fact that I tucked into it about 30 minutes after landing and it was paired with a massive mug of cold as hell beer. So a little unfair. But still the winner. Other places should have got their beer colder and their Burritos nearer.
That's the winner there. El Tarasco. The branch we visited (I think there are 2..) was close to LAX. It had a bright, yellow, plastic and simple interior with an open kitchen in the back. The server had a fantastic moustache. Big ass Tortilla chips were served with delicious, fresh salsa which I could have easily filled up on. Instead I got serious with my greedy hand, duct taped it to my beer and waited for my Carnitas Burrito.
The Burrito was BIG. Guacamole and Pico di Gallo were served up next to the Burrito rather than mixed in. Inside was mainly awesome Carnitas, a lot like the Wahaca Burrito. I liked that it was mainly just meat and a little rice and beans inside the Tortilla, with the Guacamole and salsa as sides. The American style with all the business in one Tortilla is great, but with meat this well cooked it was nice to be able to add my own sides to each forkful.
Check that great meat out. I ate it all somehow. I think I shocked our dining partners, but I was a hungry chap. I'd ordered a Kosher meal on the plane as I'd heard it was better than the regular meal but it was crappy. Burnt Lasagne. If I was actually Jewish I would have exploded with rage and tipped over some trolleys, but I felt I should just put up and shut up and not try and be so damn smart the next time I take an airplane. Anyhow, the closest Burrito it resembles would be the Mexican style Wahaca Burrito. I think El Tarasco edges Wahaca as it came with salsa and guacamole sides, wasn't as stodgy and had better meat. Simple and Great.
MORE LONDON SOON!
Monday, 24 May 2010
This sun heat has spanked me to the floor with lethargy. I've just got back after a draining afternoon in the heat. I did errands. I looked sad. I ate a burrito at Wahaca. Wahaca is a Mexican street food place just near covent garden. It's a sitting down place that is sometimes really busy. I've been before and cannot remember what the food was like. Forgettable? Hm. I might have been drunk. Fresh start then.
The lights were low and the place was cool. Ten points. Also no queue. I was feeling brave so I got a michelada. Spicy beer. It tasted like someone had pissed out V8. Will not do again. I prefer the chelada beer I had in LA. Budweiser with CLAM JUICE. I drank that stuff and pretended I was an old Mexican guy so it would be nice and it became nice. I tried the same mental game with this michelada thing but it did not work. I felt very English and dour.
Meanwhile the food had been ordered and got to the table super quick. I had gone for a pork Burrito because it had habaneros. I love those things. The Burrito was toasted so I went in with a knife and fork, bathed in sweat and choked with fear. I haven't done a knife/fork Burrito for a while and only in bad places. All the terrible Mexican themed restaurants I've ever been to flash before my eyes. Sombreros, Jose Cuervo signs and a plastic cactus swirl around in my head until I go blind and collapse in vomit.
There was no need to worry though. The pork was incredible and was wrapped with pink pickled onions. The tart, sweet crunch of the onions meant that the pork wasn't too overwhelming and kept it fresh tasting. The rice and beans mixed really well, no rice wall like at Daddy Donkey. I couldn't really taste the habaneros but picked up the burn. There was habanero table sauce to top up in any case, so I was a happy chap. Half way through I could pick it up and get down to business. It was a little wet underneath but I didn't give a damn. Not one damn. WOLF. I was done. I was stuffed. Maybe too stuffed.
All in all, a very different Burrito to those that I've had previously. Wahaca have tried to nail something more authentically Mexican than the Californian import that you can find elsewhere in London. So yeah, different, but incredibly good. I thought it could have done with more pickled onion to add a little freshness but that was partly down to the heat outside. I wasn't in the zone for heft. Maybe an option to go for a pico di gallo salsa or something would be the key, especially in the summer months. Or some Guac and less meat and rice. I felt a little too stuffed afterwards. I had to prop myself up against lampposts like a drunk Gene Kelly. Other than that, a sweet as heck Burrito, and really well priced (£6.20) for a smart, sit down place.
- great pork
- pickled onions
- good value
- too hefty
- needs some fresh salsa
- couldn't taste cheese
Wahaca Restaurant. 66 Chandos Place, London, WC2N 4HG
Thursday, 20 May 2010
I used to tell all the players, haters and good food eaters that if you wanted Burrito magic then Daddy Donkey was the place. Unfortunately they have been serving up duff product of late. I picked up a burrito from DD to review at the start of the week but it was so crappy I felt compelled to forget it and try them on a busier day. I did that. I went down yesterday to give them one last chance.
Daddy Donkey is a well known street vendor on Leather Lane, right near my house, so I go there fairly often. I had to drop off my jeans at the dry cleaners on Leather lane so I thought I could tie in a Burrito visit. I've filled my jeans with holes. Crotch holes. I was a little nervous about explaining the issue in public but the guy checked the damage and was like, yeah, no probs, nine quid. He has seen it all. I am happy. This is cheaper than buying new jeans. Why haven't I done this before? And now I get to eat a Burrito. Great day.
I went for chicken with all the stuff. The great extra they have at DD are raw habaneros. I love that fruity burn. I love that. I asked for the stuff, paid the man and legged it towards home. On the way I bought a rubicon (passion fruit) and a pack of world cup stickers. Then I got back. FOIL OFF.
(WILL GET GOOD CAMERA ONE DAY..)
First bite was a load of Tortilla, but eventually I got to the chicken and guac. I don't know if its because of the quite clumpy rice, but the ingredients don't really mix well. There is a rice wall, keeping the guac to one side. It's no big deal. The guac was amazing and the chicken really well marinated, juicy and charred. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a big fan of the habaneros. They add a fruity kick that makes up for the stingy amount of salsa.
The extras were all in order. The beans had a good bite and the rice was well cooked. The rice does stick a little as mentioned, but it's well flavoured. The cheese has a good, mature bite, as seems to be the trend with Burritos round here. There was also exactly the right amount of lettuce which gave the Burrito a good fresh crunch, but didn't overpower, which is one of my pet hates. Sour Cream was pretty thick which means it doesn't spill, but I found it a bit cloying.
The main problems throughout though were too much Tortilla and a split at the bottom. I think the culprit is rice overload and not a good enough wrap. Mine had spilt its guts at the top and had a big hole at the bottom, like a really sick chap in a war/shrapnel + salmonella. I didn't get anything extra so portions must be a bit off. The last couple I've had both split. I didn't think it would be too much of a problem but when I got to the bottom I had a rice and bean explosion. Not great. It went on the floor. The excess Tortilla just made each bite a little too doughy and overwhelmed the ingredients. They need to work on a Burrito band aid, like the chap has done with my trousers. Double wrap is not good enough.
Daddy Donkey used to be top drawer, hands-down winner in my mind, but it no longer compares to places like Chilango or Freebird. The individual components are all fine, but the wrapping isn't great and the Burrito doesn't come together very well. I've also had problems with the other meats on offer before as well. The chicken is really good, but the steak is really overcooked and the pork not marinated, over-salted and cut too big. A few tweaks and it could be top dog again, but right now, DD has taken a minor tumble.
- badly wrapped
- tortilla split
- rice cloying
- sour cream too thick
- ingredients didn't mix/RICE WALL
Leather lane, Clerkenwell, London
Monday, 10 May 2010
CHIPOTLE DAY! Arriving with very little fanfare, except for a smug web post I found, Chipotle opened its first London restaurant today. Obviously I couldn't miss out on something as important as this. Every review of London Burrito places always has some American ex-pat whining that nothing is as good as Chipotle. LET'S SEE 'BOUT THAT HUH?
I guess there are enough Burrito freaks and obsessive American tourists in town because the queue was massive. Forty minutes later I had got to the front, pretty sick from the awful pop-reggae that was being churned out. Service was great, chirpy and fairly fast. The serving size looked a little stingy but I was happy to put my trust in the good ship Chipotle. Urgh. Price was sad. £6.95 for a steak Burrito and if I've got it right, £1.40 extra for Guac. It was free today, but that takes the price up to £8.35 for a steak Burrito with Guac which is CRAZY TOWN.
FOIL OFF. The hot salsa was the first hit. Decent enough burn and an earthy, smoky flavour. Great Job. I then got some steak. The first piece was alright, fairly tender, but the next piece was gristle. No good. For all the protestations that their meat is the best, most free-range, cared for and hugged dead stuff in the whole world, this wasn't a good sign. All the steak after this was really chewy and I even got another piece of gristle. The marinate on the steak tasted pretty good but it was cooked really badly.
The coriander/lime rice was tasty and perfectly cooked. Black beans also perfecto and the portion size of each was spot on. Unfortunately the rest of the extras got swamped, I think mainly by the amount of salsa or there just weren't enough of them. I only got one hit of the cheese halfway through, which admittedly was really decent and sharp tasting and the Guac was also pretty sparse (but ace), although this was partly down to it being spooned into the burrito badly.
So, overall, not a great Burrito. The meat was really poor, the serving size seemed stingy and it's more expensive than other Burrito places in London. The restaurant is a decent size and we found somewhere to sit despite the queue, which is good, but the Burrito making part needs improving. One last fail is the choice of Tabasco as a table sauce. They do have three varieties, but they're all as crap as each other.
- meat flavoured well
- tasty rice
- hot, smoky salsa
- steak cooked badly
- too small
- too expensive
- extras didn't mix well
114-116 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JR
PHOTOS FRM: http://twitter.com/whybray
Saturday, 8 May 2010
My basic plan was to visit lesser known Burrito places to begin with so I would keep myself interested, but when I found out that one of my friends had never had a Burrito I had to get him to Chilango quick fast. It's the most consistent Burrito Haus in London so I felt confident they could make a convert of my pal.
The place is bright, green and friendly. It's the perfect antidote to a hangover. Service is really friendly too which is a big plus. You get the usual choice of chicken/pork/steak. I can vouch for the chicken and pork as I've tried them both and they rock, but the standout winner is the steak, grilled medium rare. I took a Steak Burrito with hot salsa and Guac.
Feeling a little scatty and brain wild after a booze filled friday, I chatted crap with my Burrito date about the decor. The furniture is well picked out, offering a relaxed place to chow without getting formal, riding the line between a canteen and fast food joint. Anyway, what the hell am I doing, it's eating time. FOIL OFF.
The Burrito was wrapped well. No spills. Thumbs up. The first thing I noticed was the strong sharpness of the cheddar (I think..). I can never taste the cheese in most Burritos so its good to have a hearty, mature cheese hit straight away. The steak is really great, chunky, medium rare and tender plus a hint of the grill which I'm a big fan of. I thought I preferred the thin cuts at Poncho No. 8 but Chilango definitely edges this arm wrestle contest.
Another problem I've had with a lot of Burritos is the rice, which is often undercooked and crunchy. Fail. Chilango's rice is always up to par, as it is today. Doesn't overbear the Burrito but mixes really well with everything else and is perfectly cooked. The hot sauce oversees the whole extravaganza with a great, fresh burn, that reminds me of one of my favourite hot sauces, a green habanero number. It's made with fresh coriander which gives a great crunchy zing. Awesome stuff.
The only humdinger is the guac. It tastes great but it's pretty cold compared to the rest of the Burrito. I've thought about this before and am in two minds. My pal's only criticism was the cold guac, so I'm mulling it. I dunno. I think it does distract a bit, meaning that you end up focusing on the cold guac when you get a bite of the stuff, rather than the whole Burrito. As I said, I'm on the fence with this. I think it adds a freshness to the Burrito and am guessing its kept like that to keep it from going bad. It's no major wipeout and it's still as good as the Daddy Donkey stuff.
The only other minor criticism was sour cream spilling all over the place, but when weighed up, its a tiny moan. Maybe if the napkins weren't recycled they'd pick up more of the spill, but look chaps, we've got to save the world, one recycled napkin at a time.
Chilango is the best Burrito (so far!) in London and amazingly consistent. Top drawer meat, friendly service and some of the best salsas I've ever tasted. Highly recommended. (Burrito Virgin converted!)
- medium rare steak
- great hot sauce
- good wrap
- friendly service
- tasty guac
- cold guac
- cream spill!
27 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 0PN
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
I want to like this place. It's local, open til late and the chaps that work there are super friendly. It's just that every time I've paid them a visit the Burritos have been a bit duff. Well, my buddy came over to watch football and told me he fancied a Burrito. WHY NOT, I thought. Why not, indeed. Let's give those Burrito bros. another chance. Heck, I've only had the pork, maybe the chicken is the dealbreaker.
I was too distracted by nonsense football chat to pay much attention to the Burrito assembly but was a little concerned by the use of tablespoon to dish out the guacamole. Seemed a little stingy. I couldn't actually see over the counter and into the heart of the Burrito, so had to say a little prayer that the tablespoon was stacked three inches high and wobbling all over the shop like an over full ice cream factory visit.
FOIL OFF. Good work. The tortilla could have done with a bit more toasting, but a good wrap. No spills like last time and packed really tight. BITE IN. Straight off I was troubled by the lettuce. Too much of the stuff and it was thick cut, overpowering everything with bitterness and crunch. Second to hit was the hot sauce which was pretty fiery, but not very flavoursome. I could also detect some sweetness from the Pico di Gallo, which I'm not a big fan of, but couldn't really taste the salsa itself. Same for the Guac and the cheese. I knew I was right to be worried by the tablespoon.
The main problem though was the chicken. I've had the pork before which I found far too salty, so I thought i'd give the chicken a try. It was also really salty and slightly overcooked. Not a total dried out disaster, but close. Apart from the saltiness it didn't really taste much of anything. The nail in the coffin though was the rice. Undercooked. Completely dragged the whole thing down.
In all honesty I wasn't totally bummed out like after the Tortilla Burrito, but it was a pretty bland, lifeless Burrito. No freshness or wow, just a big fat whatever. Burritos shouldn't be whatever. They should make you feel zinged up and ready to cartwheel. Once the fist of food has subsided in the gut place. I just felt apathetic. It nearly made me not bother voting. BUT I WILL. LIKE YOU BETTER, OR YOU DIE.
Sorry Burrito Bros, we can't be hermanos.
(No picture this time srry. I was too busy being all underwhelmed and shit)
- well put together/no spills and a good size
- alright hot sauce
- far too salty
- not enough guac/extras
- undercooked rice
- overcooked meat
17 Clerkenwell Rd, Islington
Monday, 3 May 2010
Tortilla was the first place I had a 'proper' Burrito in London. It was awesome. The last few I've had from their Islington branch though have been awful. However, I'd just picked up a sweet bargain and felt in the mood to reassess my prejudices. I was feeling a little too lazy to go up to Chilango and before I knew it I was in the thick of it, ordering my little heart out.
I opted for the medium chicken (keeping one eye on my health, alright?). The service was surly as hell, as usual. I had to ask for each addition to my Burrito individually which got a little frustrating. I got the feeling that the server really didn't want me to pay 50p extra for Guacamole. Maybe she hates it or something? I don't, so BACK OFF.
I'll spare you the walk home except to add that the sun is out and I'm glad to see it back. I got that foil off the top and...we've already failed. The Burrito was split all down the middle and I got a Guac hit to the leg. It didn't get through to my real leg, just a surface wound, but still pretty unforgiveable. I was watching a few get wrapped before mine and the server kept missing the tuck off each end. Poor form.
I persevered and took a bite. Having exhausted all manner of cheap cuts of meat while a student I'm pretty sure the "Chicken breast, marinated for hours in a mellow adobo," as the website advertises, is actually thigh or something. It was really fatty and had no signs of it ever touching a grill. Not Great.
The main problem though is the hot sauce. I may just have the palate of a child and be missing the sensuous subtleties of the Salsa, but all i can detect is the harsh bitterness of dark chocolate. It also has a really thick consistency, which turns the Burrito into a gloopy ball of yuck. It tastes like the chilis may have been a bit burnt. The over-abundance of chili seeds doesn't really add any heat but just means you get to crunch through flavourless seeds long after you've finished the burrito. I didn't finish mine actually, cause it was gross as hell.
Sorry Tortilla, your Islington branch is truly balls.
- I just missed an enormous queue
- The guac was OK
- The hot Salsa is disgusting
- The Chicken was not breast meat/really fatty
- Some arsey service
13 Islington High Street, N1 9LQ
Friday, 30 April 2010
Now just need to invent the Guac-pack (Guacamole dispensing backpacks) so I can squirt a hit out when I feel the craving.
So pretty and delicious. Try it yourself chaps and chapettes, here's the recipe via Daddy Donkey:
400g of soft Hass avocadoes (approx. 4 x medium-sized avocadoes)*
*The real secret to creating your own Daddy Donkey “Ultimate Guacamole” is selecting the highest quality, fresh, soft Hass avocadoes. There really is no substitute when it comes to the colour, flavour & texture of this particular variety of avocado.
75g of red onion, diced finely
30g of pickled jalapeño chile, diced finely (approx. 1 x medium-size jalapeño)
Juice from 1 soft medium-sized lime
20g of fresh coriander, washed and chopped roughly
Salt to taste (approximately 1/2 tsp)
Cut the avocadoes in half and deseed, leaving one of the seeds to one side. Placing a seed in your guacamole once finished will help to stop the avocado turning brown so quickly.
Scoop the avocado flesh out with a metal spoon into a mixing bowl.
Using a stick blender or rolling pin, crush the soft avocadoes into a sticky paste making sure to leave some tiny pieces of avocado for additional texture.
Stir in the red onion, pickled jalapeño chile, lime juice, fresh coriander and salt.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving.
And Bob’s your Uncle…. HOLY GUACAMOLE!!
We had to get the train to Ipswich so I realised this was the perfect time to check out the Burritos from the east part of London. I dragged my bass/pedals/drum crap round Spitalfields for a while, sweating like a man who hasn't been told how to dress when the sun arrives, before finding this Poncho place. It's a bright, healthy looking place, like a smoothie bar/health tonic establishment, which made me feel 100% guilt free about my second Burrito in as many days.
The staff were friendly types, which went a long way to smash my hangover paranoia to bits. I went for steak, Staz for chicken. The first bite was loaded with hot salsa. Incredible stuff, rich and with an instant fire kick. Pretty much the best hot salsa I've ever had in a Burrito. No prolonged, tear inducing, seizure burn either. The steak was cooked medium rare and cut into thin strips which means you get a good mix. You lose a bit of the charred taste but I still prefer this to the big chunks you get at Chilango. The meat distributes better. Burrito science right there.
Only problem = The tomatoes in the mild salsa (red onion/tomato/coriander) were way too big for my liking and there was a little too much rice. The rice thing wasn't much of a problem with my Burrito as I had the hot salsa to flavour it, but Staz's mild one was really bland. The big tomatoes meant that there wasn't enough salsa to go around. As a result the other stuff got lost. I couldn't taste any cheese/sour cream, just rice and chicken. I reckon finer salsa and coriander with the rice would sort it out right proper.
However, both the chicken and the steak were delicious, especially the chargrilled chicken, and the Salsa was off the hook. Poncho no. 8 is close to Burrito perfection, but not quite the King of the jungle at the moment, hence the slightly sad face score. Could easily be a solid 9 with a few tweaks. I'll definitely go back. Also need some of that insane salsa asap. Hell yes.
Address: 5 Steward Street, London E1 6AJ
-medium rare steak/great chargrilled chicken
-friendly, fun shop
-too much rice/rice a little bland
-cheese/sour cream/guac lost in the mix
-tomatoes in mild salsa are too big
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Having just polished off a miniscule amount of work I realised I had room in my stomach for a celebration Burrito. Daddy Donkey rite? HELL NAW, NOT TODAY. My girlfriend reminded me how many Burritos I've eaten in the last two weeks, so I needed to make myself feel less guilty. Change of scenery: Freebird @ Exmouth Market, the other nearby Burrito stall.
I went here a few times last year and for some reason had them pegged as not great, so was eager to be proved wrong. I put on my new coat and blew my nose hard. I was singing 'Freefalling' by Tom Petty (in my head), probably because the title has the word free in it, and the burrito stall is called Freebird. A better choice might have been that Lynyrd Skynrd song right? No, It sucks.
The place does chicken, carnitas and steak, along with a choice of rice, refried beans or black beans and salsa/cheese/sour cream/guac. I went for carnitas, which was properly shredded, not in gross chunks and it all came to £5.50 inc. Guac. Cheap Win. I was a little worried by the wrapping. It felt like a panini/melted shoe in the foil. Slight concern as I hopped home.
NOT TO WORRY THOUGH. Total WIN. The carnitas was amazing, herby and a little sweet, with the perfect amount of of rice/beans. None of that overbearing rice and bean double carb attack that I've had at Tortilla/DD before. Salsa was hot and everything mixed well. Guac not quite as delicious as DD or Chilango, but still good and chunky.
Freebird has shot up out of the park in my brain stored burrito rankings. I didn't have to wait in line and the Burrito was awesome. Will definitely have a torturous mental battle now when trying to decide where to go for Lunch. It is a hard knock life.
-great herby carnitas
-good hot, rich salsa
-decent chunky guac
-good balance of rice/meat
-slight sweetness from mild salsa
-rolled a little flat
-more coriander plz
Address: Freebird Burritos, Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London
P.S. TOTALLY FORGOT TO DO A PHOTO THIS TIME. Will get into the habit of holding off eating for a second and taking a picture of the burrito. I know people like to see photos and stuff. I'm sorry. I was really hungry.