Wahaca opened its doors with a huge fanfare at the beginning of May, at the bottom of New Road, an area which I now affectionately think of as, Little London.
Every time I review a new Brighton opening, whose brand has originated from London, I talk about the fact that some people have a massive issue with it, and the fact that I don’t, and I’m running out of new and interesting ways to say it, so…. *insert generic opening sentence* and let’s crack on with the good stuff.
They’re not silly, the PR team at Wahaca, their social media teaser campaign started at the beginning of the year, eye-catching hoardings on the building whilst the renovation went on, regular emails hit my inbox updating me of its progress and the weekend before opening they had a food truck outside, with free tacos for all.
Their piece de resistance was a free* boozy dinner for all Brighton press/bloggers/writers/influencers, hosted by and with a meet and greet from the co-founder herself, Thomasina Miers.
The menu is a mix of all the usual Mexican food suspects, Burritos, Tostadas, Quesadillas, lots of guacamole and churros, as well as a frequently changing selection of specials.
Sidenote: Some of the dishes I’ve reviewed below don’t seem to appear on the menu (pictured above) I lifted from the website.
Guacomole with chiccaróns
Frijoles and tortilla chips
They got off to a flying start with the guac. Great texture, not fridge cold and a delicious kick of lime made this a winning combo. I liked the chicarrones, but I can imagine a few raised eyebrows at the portion size for the price point (£4.95). LOVED the frijole dip with tangy cheese crumbled on top, but could’ve done with double the amount of tortilla chips as there was loads of it.
Being street food this is casual dining with food coming out as and when it’s ready, tapas style. I’d heard on the grapevine rumours of slow service, with dishes turning up 20 minutes apart, not a bit of it on my visit, all of our food arrived at pretty much the same time, and quickly as well.
The service itself was actually one of the standout parts of the meal. Yes ok we were guests, and it was a press launch (of sorts), but our waitress was an absolute sweetheart, knowledgable about the menu, happily making recommendations re food and booze and managing her heaving section like a pro – we loved her, and left her a massive tip as a thank you for looking after us so well.
These were what I’d been looking forward to the most. The last fish tacos I had at Smokin’ Gringo had been totally lacking in texture, but the panko-coated cod at Wahaca was a whole different ball game. Stuffed into a soft taco topped with raw slaw, pickled cucumber and chipotle mayo, these met all of my taco-loving criteria, the standout dish of the entire meal, for me.
Chorizo and potato quesadilla
The mexican version of a toasted cheese sandwich. I dipped my half in the remaining frijoles dip and the selection of hot sauces brought to the table. Nothing out of the ordinary, but tasty and kids will love them.
I am not afraid of a bit of spice. My Bloody Mary’s are off the scale, my hot sauce collection extensive and I actively seek out a vindaloo curry from time to time as well. These wings, however, blew my mind with their heat. Maybe I was having a sensitive day, perhaps I got an enthusiastically spiced portion – but oh my lord, they were spi-cy, like, I got the hiccups halfway through spicy. Nice, but not for the fainthearted.
Charred cauliflower cheese
Cauliflower cheese is a staple part of any roast for me. Alongside Mexican food? never heard of it, but it was certainly welcome amongst the selection of other dishes we’d picked. A bit of digging around under the generous crust of cheese revealed that the cauliflower was indeed charred which added a lovely smokiness. It ticked the cheese element box for me, but I’d have loved to have seen queso dip on the menu – it’s my favourite.
Slaw with chipotle dressing
Churros y chocolate and salted caramel icecream
Unfortunately, and unusually for me, the churros were all but devoured before I even thought about taking a picture, but rest assured that what they lacked in portion size (3, so not ideal for sharing), they made up for in texture and flavour, with both warm caramel and chocolate sauces to dip. The salted caramel icecream with chocolate shavings is well worth ordering too.
The artwork and graphics splashed around the venue is by a local artist (as it is in all of their branches) which should keep the ‘coming down here, ruining our indy restaurant scene’ brigade happy and I think they’ve done a lovely job – the decor definitely helps to elevate the buzzing and market style hustle and bustle ambience. A big thumbs up for the loos as well.
I went to this venue in its previous incarnation, Strada, a few times (pre blog) but I don’t remember it being so vast inside, it really is massive, so the sheer volume of food that they’re pushing out of that kitchen, was never not going to feel just a little bit mass-produced.
The atmosphere was buzzing, the drinks were strong and our waitress was very lovely too – we had a great evening, and overall we were wowed – but being totally honest, as I always am, I have to say it was the experience as a whole that was the star of the show, not the food.
All in all I think they’re going to do really well, it’s been rammo every time I’ve been past and will almost definitely be causing sleepless nights for piss-poor El Mexicano, a few doors down. Is it the best Mexican food in Brighton? no, for me that’s very much still La Choza, but I’ll definitely be coming back to Wahaca at a later date to try more of the specials, honey-soaked cornbread and the cocktails, hic.
Have you been to Wahaca? Where’s your favourite place to eat Mexican food in Brighton? Hit me up in the comments section or on any of my social networks (links below).
*any meals which were free of charge are clearly stated or marked with an asterisk, you can read my full disclaimer here.