Riding on the popularity and success of his other branches, Benito has added another feather to his hat with the opening of his fifth Burrito bar in Farringdon. Can this newest addition retain the standard and popularity of the other locations?
The new Benito's Hat has ticked all the up-cycled, shabby chic, distressed decor boxes that Mexican or Latin American restaurants seem to adhere to across the capital. The vibrant yellow walls, ramshackle wooden seating, rusty can lights and neon lighting, all create a room more welcoming and interesting than you may expect for a cheap (and very cheerful) chain. Benito's Hat is a tale of two halves; by day it serves hungry and time-poor office workers parcel after parcel of heavy burrito goodness, quickly assembled on an efficient production line. In the evening there is a quieter, more chilled vibe, with happy hour cocktails and sharing platters to tempt punters to take a seat and stay a while longer.
Whilst this is a growing chain, Benito's retains a cheerful and independent feel, which is down to the genuine staff who do all they can to keep customers happy. Most of the clientele seem to be taking advantage of the cheap food and drinks before heading off to continue their night elsewhere, and Benito works perfectly for this, getting the balance between efficiency and friendliness spot on. There are also nice touches that you wouldn't expect in a chain with a 'Felipe's Salsa Bar', where the head chef has concocted a range of fresh, interesting salsas and dips to accompany the food; with the delicious chill and pomegranate salsa, and chipotle mayonnaise both deserving a special mention.
As the emphasis is on fast (good) food, the menu is small but perfectly formed with a choice of Tex-Mex classic burritos or tacos during the day, and in the evening just one starter and two options for mains (if you are a vegetarian, be ready to get drunk on cocktails and eat tortilla chips for your dinner as the evening menu offers you little else).
To start, from the evening menu; the Antojitos (Mexican tapas to you and I) sharing platter at £6.70 is almost obscene value for money, an absolute mound of food which will easily satisfy two greedy eaters, or three more sharing souls. Served on a (suitably distressed) wooden board, you get a mound of crisp, fresh tortillas with a generous splodge of fresh guacamole, surrounded by potato and oregano taquitos, spinach and Monterey Jack quesadillas, and the two stars of the show; chicken tinga tostadas, and black bean and feta tostadas. The chicken tinga is spicy yet sweet, succulent and full of flavour, whilst the contrast between the deep black bean stew and the tangy goat cheese is so addictive you'll be left wanting even more.
The mains are also for sharing, pollo sinaloa which is marinated with citrus and spice then served with rice at £12.95 for half, or £19.95 for a whole chicken. The taco street selection at £14 is made up of two chicken, two pork and two mushroom tacos and is good but not as impressive as the pretty epic starter, but the tacos are generously filled and freshly made, and the guacamole and salsa fresh, tangy and refreshing.
There is only one word you need to know at Benito's when it comes to drinks: Margarita (oh, and 2 for 1, every day 5 – 7pm). The margaritas come served in chunky tumblers, and are executed flawlessly; perfectly pitched between sweet and sour, with a good hearty punch of tequila. Priced at £5.50, they must be some of the cheapest yet tastiest cocktails in central London. But if tequila doesn't make you happy, there is also a selection of wine, beers, other cocktails and non alcoholic drinks. Like the food these are all priced cheaply but maintain good quality.
The Last word
Benito's Hat executes its small menu with flair, the food is simple yet fresh and tasty, the staff a charm and the cocktails cheap and delicious – making Benito's the perfect spot for a cheap but extremely cheerful pit stop at any time of day.