Nestled in the parade of shops along Wimbledon Broadway is Tortilla – the most recent addition to a chain of lively and friendly California-Mexican restaurants across the capital. Offering bargainous burritos, filling fajitas and tasty tacos, Tortilla delivers on its promise to provide fresh, light and inexpensive food that is nothing like the 'typical' Mexican fare generally found on the UK high street.
Situated on Wimbledon Broadway just two minutes from the station, Tortilla is a fast-food lover’s haven. Presenting a sophisticated spin on conventional South American décor, the restaurant appeals for its aesthetic every bit as much as its cuisine. Stylistically, Tortilla brings together many conventional ‘Mexicana’ elements (corrugated metal sheets, wooden topped tables and terracotta tiling) whilst simultaneously poking fun at itself using a selection of humorous pieces such as an objet d’art comprised entirely of suspended Corona bottles. Having cleverly located the gap in the market for affordable, authentic and delicious New World flavours, Tortilla works because it keeps things simple. By using only quality ingredients in its burritos, fajitas and tacos, Tortilla is able to put itself ahead of the competition.
Although the space is fairly small, the dark tones and rustic furnishings make the restaurant feel like a cosy little grotto. Populated largely by professionals and the post-work crowd, there is no doubting the restaurant’s appeal with an almost constant queue gathered around the counter. With seating limited to thirty, Tortilla maintains a quick turnover without making its customers feel rushed. This said there is a buzz of activity within Tortilla that those seeking a more relaxed dining experience might wish to avoid.
Using an ‘open kitchen’ ordering system, customers queue along the counter and pick each component of their meal as they move along the line, with food being available to eat in or take away. The nature of the arrangement means that the experience is wholly sensory, with the freshness of the food skilfully showcased to the customer as they wait.
The serving team are friendly and knowledgeable and as the cuisine is prepared directly in front of the customer their generous people skills are plain to see. Indeed, the ease and affability of the staff prevent the system from being as daunting as it can be in some other ‘conveyer belt’ eateries. Although the order is wrapped in foil and placed in a basket, there are long plates available at a serving station opposite the counter along with plastic cutlery, straws, napkins and a recycling point for glass bottles.
The food itself is a delight. The tortilla chips have real bite and a lovely authentic, salty taste. Presented with no less than five dips accompanying them (pico de gallo, salsa verde, salsa roja, sour cream and guacamole) it is the latter (perfectly married notes of coriander and lime) and the green salsa (a tangy combination of coriander and green tomatillos) that really stand out. The salsa roja is rather hot but would definitely be a favourite amongst any chilli lovers out there. Indeed it is worth mentioning that Tortilla take their Mexican reputation for spicy sauces very seriously and stock a huge range of imported chilli condiments for those who like their food packed with a bit of punch.
Tortilla offers chicken, steak, pork and vegetarian options, with toppings including lime-cilantro (lime-coriander to us Brits) or Mexican rice, black or pinto beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Whilst both the chicken and beef burritos are delicious, the house recommended steak burrito stands out as being superb - Tortilla really deserves to be lauded for the quality of its meat. The Mexican rice provides a pleasant tomato tang that undercuts the stronger but no less enjoyable favours of the Monterey Jack cheese and spicy salsa. The sweetness of the cheese is a perfect match for the zing of the salsa and the texture of the food is great, with the flour tortilla staying dry and the lettuce providing a lovely crunch.
Considering that Tortilla are competing with a lot of fast food establishments in the area, including both kebabs and burger bars, prices are very reasonable with all meals coming in at around the £6 mark, and slightly less for tacos and salads.
Tortilla provides soft drinks, beers and dangerously moreish Margaritas. The Cervesa Pacifico Clara (a popular Mexican beer) beats the Brooklyn Lager hands down, with its delicate light notes vastly preferable to the hop heavy flavours found in its American counterpart. Although the frenetic activity of the environment doesn’t make Tortilla a place to sit and nurse a drink, the alcoholic beverages on offer complement the food so brilliantly you’d be silly to deprive yourself. Whilst keen to shake off the reputation for cheap fare washed down with buckets of tequila, Tortilla does make one concession to tradition in the form of its silver tequila based Margaritas. Ice cold and deliciously refreshing, the essence of lime complements the food magnificently – although a second glass is essential to substantiate those initial impressions, of course.
The Last Word
Tortilla offers classic and quick Mexican dishes that are reliant on quality food rather than novelty gimmicks. The ideal fast food eatery for a quick bite on the way home from work or a light evening meal.