Fresh from its success in Islington, Tortilla brings the mighty burrito to London Bridge.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Mexican food – or if you think refried beans and greasy fajitas are the height of the country’s culinary prowess – Tortilla is here to help. Their version of the cuisine, however, is actually a bit different – not just Mexican, American, or Mexican-American, they’ve narrowed the category down to Californian-Mexican – San Francisco, to be precise. The northern California city is full of taquerias and Mexican food is more of a way of life than a post-bar guilt trip, and as the ingredients are fresh and healthy you feel satisfied, not slightly sick, when you’re finished.
After a short while on Islington High Street, Tortilla has added a sister venue near London Bridge. Right by the Tate Modern, the restaurant’s decor is colourful but understated, with the main colour a deep maroon. Order on the ground floor and take a seat, but if it’s too crowded the first floor has a few communal style benches and tables for small groups, all which soak up the light from the huge windows. Tasteful, simple pictures adorn the walls – there’s nary a silly hat or inflatable bottle of Corona to be found.
That said, Tortilla still doesn’t take itself too seriously – it’s hard to put on airs when you’re trying to eat a burrito the size of your face. The queue to take your order moves quickly and efficiently, and once you have your food, there’s a lot of seating so you don’t feel rushed. Clientele seem to be mainly made up of local office workers, plus an occasional tourist or two.
A burrito is essentially a variety of ingredients (rice, beans, meat, cheese) wrapped up in a tortilla. Much more portable (and more satisfying) than a sandwich or salad, California-style burritos come wrapped in foil to keep them warm and contained. At Tortilla, you can order a medium (£4.50) or a large for only £1 more, although the medium should be more than enough. Fillings include chicken, steak and pork, as well as a vegetarian option, plus rice (lime and cilantro or Spanish), beans (black or pinto), a dairy option (Monterey Jack cheese or sour cream) and salsa (hot, medium or a mild pico de gallo). Guacamole costs 50p extra (avocados are pricey!) but it’s freshly made in their kitchen several times a day, along with most of their other ingredients.
Theoretically, you could order burrito upon burrito and still end up with a different meal each time. Grilled chicken, diced into cubes, is well flavoured, with a good, slightly rough consistency. The pulled pork, on the other hand, is much softer but still incredibly flavourful. Pinto beans are pale brown and extremely creamy, so health nuts should opt for the healthier-seeming black bean option. The lime and cilantro rice soaks up all the ingredients and gives everything a hint of sharpness. Guacamole is great, creamy but not too smooth, and incredibly fresh. The vibrant green medium salsa is well spiced, but the hot and mild should each be tried as well, as it really changes the outcome of the burrito’s flavours.
The burritos are big and fat, filling but not overwhelming, although it might be best so save the large until you’re really starving. The ingredients taste fresh so you won’t feel guilty afterwards, unless you’re on a low carb diet – but they’ve found a solution for that, too, with salads for £4.50 along with a naked burrito (all the fillings, sans tortilla) for £4.50 as well. Other options include a fajita wrap (like a burrito, but with sauteed onions and peppers instead of beans) and a pair of soft tacos for £4. Extra guacamole, salsa and sour cream are also available, along with tortilla chips.
A whirring, rotating machine dishes out pre-mixed margaritas for about £4, whereas other alcoholic options include bottled Mexican and international beer for about £3. Bottles of Snapple teas and juices are a sight for sore ex-pat eyes, and bottomless soft drinks are £1.40, with a 50p special that runs on lunches from Monday to Friday.
The Last Word
London is currently in the midst of a Mexican revolution and Tortilla’s Southwark Street location is a welcome alternative to bland and boring lunch options. Fast, fresh and friendly food for under a fiver.