Mexican food made… for Dinner at the Manor!

My dining adventures continue. You can rely on the Christmas period to bring lots of greedy opportunities into life and I’m never one to turn one down! This weekend saw me within a one mile radius of Thomasina Miers’ chain Wahaca, and seeing as they have foolishly failed to bring this Mexican eatery to the North, tsk, I had to grace them with my presence and fill myself with their nosh. Plus we’re featuring Thomasina’s Mexican Food Made Simple at our January supperclub so I thought I’d go and get some presentation tips.Our dining party opted for the street food section on the menu, which works a bit like tapas where each person chooses about three items and then we all share. Usually I’m a bit of a control freak for this but I had my chilled out hat on for the evening! In the end we probably ordered about one of everything on the menu of the 15+ items in this section. It made ordering very easy. I’ve taken pictures of some of the food. But as is typical we were halfway through scoffing if when I actually remembered I had my camera. I’ll talk you through some of the highlights though.

We started with little metal buckets of pork scratchings and tortilla chips served with classic guacomole and salsa. The scratchings were light and crispy. How on earth they get them to be that consistency is a mystery to me, they’re almost like piggy quavers! The tortilla chips were a bit bland but had a satisfying crunch. The guacomole was nice and chunky with flecks of colour running through. I treated myself to a Pure Classic Margarita which was made with Don Alvaro blanco, which I guess is a special tequila?! It certainly hit the spot – limey, chilled to perfection and worryingly easy to drink. They come served in beautiful recycled hand blown glass. I later followed this with a tamarind version. This had a similar sourness to the lime version but came with a chilli salt rim that delivered a bizarre but enjoyable taste sensation. The only downside is that I’d have wanted them to be longer drinks!

And so to the food. We started with the various tacos, which come served soft and topped with a range of delicious toppings. We enjoyed the pork pibil, which was slow cooked pork in a smokey marinade and topped with pink pickled onions. The next was chicken mole – we all loved this one the best as the mole had a satisfying sweetness and dripped all down your arm when you picked it up to eat it. The final was winter vegetable and included mushrooms, cabbage, borlotti beans and chilli salsa – surprisingly good when pitched against all the meats. We all loved the tacos the most as there is something very enjoyable about a soft taco with a naughty filling ranging from sweet, spicy to smokey flavours.

Quesadillas with Mexican beer and salsas in background

Next up were the lovely quesadillas, which are large toasted tortillas that ooze with brilliant fillings and lots of melted cheese. For these we had black bean and cheese, chorizo and potato and chipotle chicken. I think the bean or the chorizo ones were our favourite. These were great sharing foods. They were presented very simply with a little Wahaca flag pushed into the top and balanced on one another.

Black bean tostadas with classic margarita

Our other treats were tostadas, which are crisp tortillas piled high with cold, light salads. We had chicken and black bean versions. I have to say, as pretty as they were, these were less satisfying on a cold winter’s evening. Similarly the taquitos were bizarre little cigars of crisp tortilla stuffed with tender chicken. After the delicous, soft and oozy tacos and quesadillas these did not compete as much! To complement our dishes we had some sides of chicken wings (beautifully spiced and crispy), frijoles (luscious refried beans with cheese and sour cream, yum yum yum!) green rice and sweet potato wedges (delisciously roasted and wonderfully caramelised and chewy). We ended with some stunning churros – little crispy doughnut rings with a soft middle and rich chocolate sauce to dip them in.

Chicken guajillo tostados from above!

Wahaca is a real fun place to go and eat. As soon as you descend the stairs into the canteen you are hit with lovely smells and lots of colour everywhere. It is busy beyond belief. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table on a Saturday afternoon and by the time we were leaving the queue was out of the door! Its success probably lies in its laid back attitude, reasonable prices, sustainable food sourcing and quirky menu. We certainly enjoyed sahring a feast with friends and comparing notes on what we had chosen to eat. Next time I would like to try the bigger plates and have a proper main course. One thing I did notice is that the menu is all seasonal, so it is always changing depending on what is available. We were sat next to the kitchen so could watch the hustle and bustle all night long! In the end we paid £30 a head, which provided us with a filling meal incuding dessert, drinks and service. I think that’s pretty good for central London. If I had one criticism it is that due to the busy nature of the place the service was not as attentive as it could have been, but I am probably nit picking as it was not bad service at all – a few drinks orders went missing but were soon remedied.

I do hope that Ms Miers considers moving her chain up to us foodies in Leeds, after all Jamie did it with his Italian chain and Leeds was the first Northern city to benefit! I noted anyway that she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking for us as she was busy tweeting from New York!

Anyway if you can’t wait to get to London to try out Wahaca then why not check out our January supperclub?! Unfortunately we are fully booked but we do take requests to go on the reserve list in case of any cancellations – just email dinneratthemanor@gmail.com. See you soon!

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