66 Chandos Place Covent Garden London WC2N 4HG
While it’s grown to become a chain, Wahaca is a cool one – bright, brash, colourful and fun, serving inexpensive, tasty Mexican “market” food in convivial surroundings. There are now six branches throughout the capital, but this, the original, still feels like the best. It gets busy every night, and they don’t accept reservations, so get there as early as you can, take your place on the list and join the crowds in the bar area, enjoying a killer Margarita or a Corona while you wait.
This is not gourmet food, but it’s robust, tasty and pretty authentic, and (a big draw, this, in the West End) you can eat well here for not much money – if you choose wisely. Though a few sweet potato chips (albeit very delicious) at £2.95 feels a bit steep for what you get, composing a meal from a selection of small plates (the “street food”) will prove very good value. Ordering a tosta, a quesadilla and a taquito dish, along with a couple of sides (the queso fundido is pretty hard to resist), will satisfy two people. Of the bigger dishes, the fish a la pimiento, a grilled mullet with a sauce of lime and pumpkin seeds, is very tasty, and the burritos wonderfully filling.
You’ll need to feel sociable, as tables are so close together, and you may well end up chatting to the people next to you – it’s that kind of place. Meanwhile, dishes are brought as and when they are ready – the “market eating” vibe – so be prepared to roll with it. Staff are charming and cheerful, which they need to be, herding such large numbers through and ensuring they have a good time; they may seem to be rushing you, but are generally happy for you to linger over your drink or dessert once you have finished with your mains.