The wave of Mexican restaurants continuing to open all around London shows no sign of slowing down. This time around it's one of the originals again, as Wahaca brings Mexican street food to Islington, serving fresh, quality dishes at high speed and affordable prices.
Vibrant and eclectic, no two corners of Wahaca look the same. The unique space includes a blue-walled area covered in street art and leafy baskets hanging from the ceiling, contrasted with the more muted earthy tones of a simple, natural seating area with reclaimed wood chairs and drop lights designed by ceramics artist Anna Usborne.
Unsurprisingly, the restaurant is buzzing, such is the draw of both the cuisine and the success of Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers’ brainchild (she opened the first Wahaca in 2007). Service is friendly and personable, though it does lack the sort of authenticity with which the likes of Cantina Laredo excels, due, presumably, to Mexican staff being few and far between. This Wahaca remains a great place to meet up with a group of friends for Mexican market food and tequila based cocktails, though it’s probably one to avoid if you're looking to impress a date - it's a bit too manic for that.
The menu has the tendency to be a bit overwhelming to look at, which makes it hard to choose options. Waiters are on hand to help, though, and are happy to recommend dishes suited to your spice tolerance and hunger levels.
Options are divided into drinks and nibbles, street food, sides and bigger plates (platos fuertes). However, it's the street food options that are best if you want to steer clear of the predictable burritos. Pork, chicken and even cactus tacos are pretty fail-safe dishes, and the succulent beef and salsa option is certainly good. Popular quesadillas are filled with chipotle chicken, black bean and cheese or chorizo and potato, and tostadas are available, topped with the likes of shrimp and scallops tossed in chilli. With all street food around the £3-£4 mark, there’s plenty from which to choose without breaking the bank. A decent selection of sides accompany the dishes, with the sweet potato fries proving incredibly popular.
Whilst much of the main menu is perfectly decent but unremarkable, Wahaca excels itself when it comes to desserts. The mouthwateringly rich churros y chocolate (Mexican doughnuts in a rich chocolate sauce) are as delicious and sinful as they sound, and the dulce de leche features heavily in choices such as caramel blondie tart and chocolate tres leches cake. All are horrendously calorific and delectable.
As expected, cocktails tend to focus on tequila. Great, if you like it; not so great if you don’t. For those who do, it’s an opportunity to actually enjoy the spirit that spends most of its life being downed with lime and salt. For those who don’t fancy it, you’ll have to choose from a limited list of mocktails or a couple of Mexican beers (including Corona).
The Last Word
Wahaca Islington doesn’t let the chain down. Good value and predictable quality means this branch is sure to be as successful as its sister restaurants.