In 2005, Thomasina Miers won Masterchef. Since then she has been busy building her Mexican food empire through her restaurant chain Wahaca. Born out of Thomasina’s love of fresh, honest, Mexican food and with over 20 restaurants in England, Wahaca has now come to Edinburgh. Wahaca, Edinburgh is a busy, bustling restaurant with 166 covers over 2 floors.
On arrival we were shown to the bar with a buzzer, which would go off as soon as our table was ready. However, despite having made a reservation, the buzzer never did go off, and we ended up being shown to our table over 20 minutes later than planned (and only because we asked if the buzzer had broken). A slightly confusing start to the night which set the tone for what was to come.
Once we were seated there were problems immediately. It wasn’t just the fact that there was little elbow room between myself and the customer next to me, or that the light fittings are so low that it’s hard not to hit your head off them every time you stand up; the main issue was the table itself! As I placed my drink down, the table rocked ending up at such a slant that the glass slid straight off, smashing on the floor and soaking some of the other customers’ feet. The waitress was very apologetic and moved us to another part of the restaurant. Not a great start!
Once we were finally seated we had to speak to 3 different waiters and wait 15minutes for a replacement drink to arrive. It seemed clear that there is too much going on for the staff to cope with and so much confusion. We eventually managed to order our food.
The menu advises you to have 2/3 small sharing dishes each or choose from a selection of larger mains. The food arrives as it is cooked so may arrive all at once or could be staggered depending on when it is ready. To start with we shared Guacamole with Chicharron style Puffed Pork Scratchings. The guacamole is freshly made with Hass avocados which were creamy and smooth. The lime juice added sharpness and the Pork Scratchings were light and crispy.
The other starter of Chorizo-topped Frijoles was slightly disappointing. The slow cooked black beans were topped with Sobrassada and chorizo oil. The topping was tasty, however, without this the dish was very dull and earthy and required some sharpness or a good squeeze of lime juice to liven it up. The beans were served with tortilla chips.
We ordered 3 types of taco’s to share: Pork Pibil, Chicken Tinga and Grilled British Steak. The small corn tortillas were slightly dense.
The 5-hour braised shoulder of pork was cooked in a Yucatecan marinade with fiery pink pickled onions. The pork was very salty, which is unusual for me to say as I don’t often mind a bit of extra seasoning. The pickled onions were tasty however, and a really good addition.
The Chicken Tinga taco was chicken thigh in a sweet and smokey chipotle sauce, which sounded fantastic on paper but was disappointing in reality and left me wondering where these sweet and smoky flavours had gone. They were OK but I just expected so much more.
The steak taco was definitely the best of the three. Succulent Flash-grilled skirt steak with spicy chipotle and tomatillo salsa which added some freshness and bags of flavour.
Next up was our Baja Taco of Battered Cod. The cod was slightly underwhelming and required seasoning. The accompaniments of shredded slaw, chipotle mayo and pickled cucumber saved this dish from being a let-down.
From the market special section of the street food menu we chose Crispy Prawn taco’s. These were stuffed with chopped prawn, chillis, spring onion and coriander which were cooked until crispy and served with guacamole, tomato salsa and chipotle mayo. These taco’s were a big improvement on the cod.
The favourite dish of the night was the Huitlacoche Empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, corn and melted cheese. I could have eaten these all night and was surprised to find a vegetarian option as my top dish.
Wahaca offers the diner a different type of experience. It’s casual and has a Mexican fast food feel to it. For me I did not feel this was a relaxing way to enjoy the food, which I felt was average. The service appeared to be very disjointed and not personal at all. At one point I found myself having to lift empty plates off the table to help the waitress who had no room to put down the food she was bringing out. It all just seems a bit manic, and I left there feeling like it had been a bit too much like hard work rather than an enjoyable evening.
This may hit the mark for many diners in Edinburgh, and I have heard many glowing reviews about Wahaca so far. But personally, I feel a lot of it is hype, and if I had to recommend a Mexican restaurant in Edinburgh Wahaca would be quite far down the list. I do get that Wahaca is trying to be different and it is fast food, however It didn’t seem any faster than El Cartel, Bodega or Miros Cantina, all of which are superior in my opinion but do not have the weight of a well known name to boost their profile.
- Food - 6/106/10
- Atmosphere - 4/104/10
- Service - 4.5/104.5/10
- Value for Money - 6/106/10