First opened by the 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, Wahaca takes inspiration from markets in Mexico and serves fresh Mexican market food. After the success of its first restaurant in Covent Garden, a second venue arrived with the opening of the new Westfield shopping centre. If you’re exploring the new shopping centre and fancy a bite to eat that doesn’t leave a big dent in your bank account, then Wahaca might be the place for you.
The name Wahaca is the phonetic English spelling for Oaxaca, a southern Mexican state known for its diverse cuisine. The interior shows a good attempt to capture a modern version of the colourful and eventful Oaxaca markets. The space is well lit with ceiling lights diffused through suspended bright blue and apple green ceiling panels. The walls are clad in light timber and the columns are left in bare polished concrete. The busy kitchen is visible from the dining area, which adds a layer of clattering noise to this crowded space. Adapting to the informality of eating styles in Mexican markets, Wahaca doesn’t take bookings, so be prepared to queue for at least 10 to 15 minutes during busy times.
The atmosphere here is easygoing and relaxed. The space offers different types of seating arrangements from high square tables with bar stools to a big island banquette running across the middle of the dining space. The fun vibe in the air hosts a young crowd that is ready to start the Mexican experience with a round of refreshing tequila cocktails. The service is friendly and prompt, and with the authenticity of the food you might just forget that you’re in London.
Fresh tomato salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips are usually advised by the staff when you first sit down. It’s a good way to start whilst studying the menu. Be ready to get your hands dirty as the restaurant offers lots of small street food dishes such as tacos and tostadas, priced from about £3 to £4, to be shared with a group of friends.
The mains are hearty and less complicated. The char-grilled steak burrito (£6.25) is a big saucy parcel of beef strips with black beans and rice. The beef is tender and the flavour is fragrant. The butternut squash pipian (£7) is delight with an interesting mixture of different ingredients. The pumpkin seeds add crunch to the texture while the sweetness of the squash balances the spicy salsa. The shrimp salad (£7.50) looks appetising, served in a golden crispy tortilla bowl, but disappointedly the bowl is hard and tasteless. The shrimp are small and overly marinated.
Churros with chocolate sauce (£3.40) is the favourite to finish off the meal. These Mexican doughnuts are cut to 5cm long and served with a rich, dark, slightly bitter chocolate sauce. The vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and pumpkin seeds(£3.40) is a good choice if you prefer a smaller treat. The use of toasted pumpkin seeds sounds interesting, however the texture and flavour fail to complement each other.
The separate cocktail menu on the table deserves your first attention after the long wait in the queue. Fresh margaritas (£5.50) are served on the rocks in sturdy tumblers, all tequila based with refreshing mix of juices and flavours. The hibiscus margarita, a light cranberry pink colour, is a mouthwatering balance of sweet and sour. The Citrus Fizz (£1.45) from the soft drink menu is another popular thirst quencher with fresh crushed lime juice, torn mint and sparkling water.
The Last Word
In addition to the charm and fun of Mexican market food, it’s also good to know that Wahaca follows ethical business principles to source good quality ingredients from local suppliers and producers who respect the environment, assuring that the food is affordable, fresh and sustainable.