Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wahaca, Soho

Tommi Miers is beautiful, successful and an immense proponent of a cause that’s Wahaca. With the latest opening in Soho we can now anticipate Wahaca to standardise the running and practices of all their restaurants. The long and the short of it- Tommi’s baby has evolved into a monster restaurant chain. Expect the worst.

Since there’s going to be an onslaught of reviews cascading from elsewhere I might as well do away with mine and bore you at will.

Three things stood out during the evening I was there.-

Men’s loo- where art thou? This is where modern interior design takes the piss proverbial, blissful ignorance resulting in undeserving annoyance to the public. Every bloke should be rewarded with a bottle of tasteless Sol beer if they manage to navigate their way to the little boy's room.
(Chaps, the above might resemble a sight for sore eyes but it’s actually the communal wash basin shared with the girls. You’ve been warned!)

The air conditioning. Sit under one of them and your bottles of beer will thank you for it but any food sitting on the table will begin to freeze into some congealed gloop in no time.

Dehydrated rice- nothing infuriates me more than rice that has been cooked hours (or perhaps days) before and, left drying and subsequently roasting under a heat lamp. The grains were inedible and hard enough to take out your fillings. Poor.

Less memorable was the food we had.

Black Bean Tostadas-

The only palatable dish but drowned by the excessive watery content from the tomato salsa.

Autumn Burrito-

A vegetarian option that promised feta and avocado. Unfortunately the two featured components were lacking, it was just a wrap full of rice and black beans- soulless and bland beyond belief. To be honest the much lambasted Chipotle serves up a much better one here.

Chicken Enchilada-

Mole poblano (a sauce from Oaxaca) was ordered but the salsa verde version appeared instead. Seeing that I was about to throw another wobbly I somewhat restrained and tolerated what was placed in front of me. This was the dish that came with the aggrieved rice. Having taken the woes of the cold air blasting from the air conditioner into consideration, the not so piping hot chicken filling was plainly pedestrian and the roasted onions were basically raw. Disappointing, so much so it reminisces a ready meal so beloved by the microwave oven devotees. I wouldn’t be surprised to see such Wahaca products appearing in the supermarket chillers soon.

Chorizo and Potato Quesadillas-

OMG, this was the kind of last resort thing you had to eat that has been dispensed from a vending machine. It was impervious to deliciousness, period.

Two things worth noting. The service is charming and efficient. Secondly Wahaca takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the speed of which food is served, like my enchilada turning up before I could verbalize Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo. Honestly a Big Mac meal takes longer at McDonald’s!

I’m perturbed, as I’m also worried about my more favourable experiences at the Covent Garden and Westfield branches. What I had here in Soho was pure and simple chainslop. Is Wahaca becoming a victim of its own expanding success? I rest my case.

Wardour Street

London W1F 0TF


London Chow said...

My colleagues and I are frequent customers of the Wahaca over at Canary Wharf (One Canada Square). I normally go straight for the steak burrito after experimenting with a couple of others. I'm not sure about the one at Soho but I quite like the overall feel of the one at Canary Wharf. Then again, the Soho setup seems somewhat lacking, doesn't it? Will check out Chipotle's burrito. Thanks for the heads up!

Mr Noodles said...

I take your point on homogenous chains but there's no reason why they shouldturn out chainslop (love that description); it's just that in the UK, they do. Out in East Asia, there are plenty of behemoth chains that are of a very high standard.

Why? I’ve come to the conclusion that the Asian diners are more demanding and won’t tolerate the crap that British punters might put up with. The fact is that many Londoners aren’t half as sophisticated as they like to think they are. They sometimes can’t see that the Emperor is stark-bollock naked.

Good to see you posting more regularly. Whether we agree with you or not, the blogosphere is a richer place with your stick and big pot of poo.

Krista said...

Ouch. Interesting though to compare your experience and Cheese & Biscuits.

bellaphon said...

Hey LC thanks for stopping. I'm a stubborn old toad, the beef burrito at Daddy Donkey's sets the standard so nowt else will do.

Noods- LOL and thank you. You're such a zhong guo ren!

Krista- As expected I hereby confirm my status as C&B's contrarian rebel!

I heart cupcakes said...

My first trip to Wahaca was to the Canary Wharf branch. Husband had mole chicken, I had a buritto. Husband loved his, my buritto was ok, not the best I've had (chilango, tortilla or benitos hat for me - when I went to Chipotle it was mainly beans and the stupid amount extra for guacamole put me off forever!). Anyways we enjoyed Wahaca - which could perhaps have been because of the tequilla hot chocolate and churros for afters.
We then went to the Westfield branch after the cinema. Had to wait ages for a table, even though there were tonnes of empty tables. We decided to eat the sharing plates and pretty much all of them were tasteless and covered in really watery tasting tomatoes. The pork pibil which I'd really wanted to try was really bland. It seemed like there wasn't a hint of heat in any of the food, even though it was described as "fiery". We had a few and were still hungry. Pretty much everything we ate, apart from the churros, tasted the same - flavourless. And we left about £60 worse off and still a little hungry if I'm honest. I won't be bothering again - I love the idea of the place but the execution imo is not good.

Su-Lin said...

Love your coinage of a new word!

bellaphon said...

IHC- Thank you for confirming the worst. I did observe the couple at the table next to mine was concluding their meal with churros, the latter looked pallid and insufficient in amount. They resembled a pale version of what I had here at Westfield instead. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Byron doesn’t end up likewise but then again a burger is less rocket science than Mexican cuisine!

Su-Lin- Thank you, it was a homonym moment when I noticed a bicycle chained outside the restaurant.

Krista- Thank you for the de-listing from your blogroll, so goodbye 10K hits a month! A reciprocative ouch indeed!

Anonymous said...

I have to say I had a disappointing experience at Wahaca at Covent Garden months ago--the service, decor was great, great buzz but disappointing food. The worst of it though was they sat us right next to the dry storage unit, which is stylishly behind a chain link fence.

There you could read the tins:'Mole Sauce'. The buckets of salsa verde, salsa rojo, which apparently is all made by the factory of Casa Serrano, which provides shelf-stable salsas and sauces to mexican-style restaurants around the UK. Then we saw one of the chefs running around with a rectangular bucket of guacamole that also had a casa serrano label.

bellaphon said...

Ouch and ouch! How insightful, thank you Anon.

Tommi Miers said...

Dear Bellaphon,

Thank you for your posting, it is enormously helpful for us, especially when we are in the middle of new restaurant openings, to hear feedback like this. Despite having moved our best head and sous chefs over to Soho for the opening and being site throughout the opening, any new restaurant suffers from teething problems whether from awful air conditioning (we were complaining about it all last week and I think it is finally getting fixed on Wednesday), the bad heat lamps (we've had a few issues with cold food) which we are replacing this week as well, and just generally training new staff up to our standards.

We cannot get it right all the time, although the overwhelming feedback has seemed pretty positive so far. One thing I would like to state is that our rice is made fresh every day (as well as our guacamole - heaven forbid that we bought it in) and we are immensely proud of both products, so I am sorry if you got dry rice. Again, this may come down with getting used to a new kitchen which happens to be on two floors.

We are so committed to providing good food to our customers at the reasonable prices they expect. We do food tastings at all sites, all the time, do intense chef training and really care about what our customers think. I'd love to ask you back here sometime soon, to try us again. I could explain the provenance of the dishes, where the food comes from. I would hate you to think that we had suddenly abandoned all our efforts of the last four years to sell out to bland, commercial food. Please come back! You can contact me at - please do get in touch.


Tales from the Tiny Kitchen said...

Hi Bellaphon,

Ah what a shame you had a dud of a time there - I had a lovely time a couple of nights ago, with great food. Mind you, I had been in a steaming huff with the place for a couple of years, though...

bellaphon said...

Tommi- Sorry for the delay in replying but I'm both pleasured and surprised that you graced this titchy blog of mine. Thank you. My daughter and some of her mates have decided to celebrate their end of term excuse at SohoWacs...I'll be there as I'll be footing the bill and I daresay the hat I'll be wearing will be free from preconceived opinions. Feedback to come.

Tiny Kitch- Thank you for your comment. I respect that restaurants have their ups and downs and I do acknowledge it's early days yet at the Soho branch, but like a huge majority of my reviews I visit the establishments at least twice. The first as per this post, the second albeit better but still Taco Bellish! I should know about the latter because I worked at the Leicester Square branch in 1986! I'm that old peeps!

Kem said...

Never had a great meal at this place. Its always been very average and overpriced. Yes, great decor and a nice concept but it fundamentally floored with a poor menu. Just 'cos you won masterchef doesn't mean you;re that good unfortunately.