Wahaca Brighton Review by Elle Bolland.
Us Brightonians (or Hovians for that matter) can over-indulge in a bit of snobbery when it comes to restaurants. We can be quite dismissive of chains moving in and funking up the scene of independents we are oh so proud of – particularly if these newcomers are from London. Nonetheless, when I researched the reviews of Mexican street-food chain Wahaca, it seems that some amongst the London folk are equally as discerning!
Contrary to my slightly cynical introduction, Wahaca does, in fact, have a very popular following even amongst some of London and Brighton’s harshest critics. It was time I let down my guard and gave it a try.
Like the outdoor market style of eating you’d find in Mexico, we were dining on the streets of Brighton’s not so Aztec – but still very vibrant – New Road, with Wahaca standing out with its colourful storefront that boasts the words ‘SUNSHINE AND TACOS’. Now while we didn’t have sunshine, we did have plenty of cover to protect us from the unpredictable British weather!
Following a brief introduction with our lovely waitress, Astrid, we dived into the drinks menu and started our lunch with classic Margaritas. These were served on the rocks in crystal tumblers and tasted very fresh – unlike some places where they simply pour from a pre-made, sugary mixture. I’d probably have gone for one of the ‘Agua Frescas’ (Mexican juicy waters with flavours such as pink grapefruit, lemon & lime) had we been visiting in the week, but given it was a Sunday we had an excuse to make up for all the lost time in lockdown, right? Our meal was off to a good, albeit slightly tipsy start.
Astrid explained the format of the menu and that our food would come out as and when it was ready, much like tapas. The menu is split into Nibbles; with a variety of moreish nachos and salsas, Street Food; including the usual suspects of tacos, quesadillas and small plates inspired by the market named ‘Platitos’ (something I hadn’t heard of until now). Salads & Bowls, Bigger Plates; heartier dishes for those who don’t want to share, and Sides. The great news is that if you’re vegan or vegetarian, around 50% of the menu is actually vegetarian.
All of our food arrived around the same time, meaning our table was brimming with delicious looking plates. We ordered the following between two of us:
X2 Tacos (soft, corn tortillas, grilled and filled)
Buttermilk Chicken; It needs little introduction. If you like crispy fried chicken, chances are you’ll enjoy this. Served with pickled onions and spicy mayo
Grilled Halloumi ‘Al Pastor’; New to the menu and well-worth a try even for the most carnivorous of diners! The refreshing flavours of the tomatillo & pineapple salsa along with the crunch of dressed slaw really sold this to me
X2 Quesadillas (a flour tortilla, filled, folded and toasted with melted cheese)
Pork Pilbil; Similar to that of pulled pork, this was slow-cooked in a rich gravy which gave the meat a melt-in-the-mouth, tender texture, complete with the tang of those pink pickled onions
Black Bean and Three Cheeses; we both agreed this was more plain with only a very mild, smoky flavour. Perhaps better suited to the less adventurous of palates.
X 2 Platitos (small plates inspired by the market)
Sweet Potato & Feta Taquito; Another vegetarian plate that shone for us. There was a real combination of flavours here with the sweetness of the caramelised onion and heat of the chipotle mayo. This crunchy blue-corn tortilla packed a punch!
Cheese & Chilli Croquetas; crispy cheese and jalapeno chilli balls with a zingy tomatillo apple salsa
X 1 Side
Mixed Leaf & Avocado Salad; this did a lot more than it said on the tin with the addition of corn and pumpkin seeds to give it some texture. While we probably didn’t need a seventh plate of food, this was an unsung delight and I’d definitely order again as a lighter option.
As you can probably guess we really didn’t need desserts on this occasion, but next time I’m sure I could be tempted by a portion of those naughty little churros. What did we have instead you may ask? A complimentary shot of Calle 23 of course! An unaged 100% agave tequila with hints of citrus and apples (so I’m told). Jokes aside – I’m definitely no tequila connoisseur but this was really quite palatable and cleansing.
So how would I summarise our experience?
I loved the dining format. Wahaca’s small plates are just perfect for any occasion, from light lunches to boozy banquets
The assortment of dishes caters for all needs, making it easy to bring even the fussiest of friends, your health-conscious friend, or your always here for a good time friend
Along with the menu, its fun, laid-back ambience make it an equally accessible place to dine with kids
The service is friendly yet un-smothering; because no-one likes to be badgered while their mouth is wrapped around a messy taco
Portions are excellent and very fair in price.