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