- June 23, 2021
Bugs! Or should I be more specific and say crickets? Well you can’t phase me with the offer of a cricket, you don’t spend 30 years looking at food and drink and the hospitality industry without someone jabbing a bowl of insects in your face and telling you that they are the future of food.
Of course I tried them and admit that many of them have been rather tasty and some less so. One day a very keen young lady shoved a bowl of chocolate coated ants in my face in the food hall of Selfridges. I took some and spent the next few hours coughing and spitting out tiny fragments of insect carapace, not a fun experience.
But why is that we baulk at the idea of insects when we greedily will devour shrimps and prawns, their aquatic cousins?
I mention this because on a recent visit to Wahaca we were offered a sample of a cricket salsa, that’s not some dance used to celebrate a successful innings of the popular bat and ball game. Ms McD and I leapt at the offer and have to say that it was rather good, nutty, musky and creamy with not a shard of carapace in sight. It was a fascinating start to what I hope is my return to regular dining out.
And on that note let me take a look at how Wahaca are dealing with dining in these strange times. The answer is rather well. Unlike many places where rather flimsy attempts at screening tables have been put in place, here there are substantial glass screens that have been manufactured to fit well with the existing interior, so much so that they look like they were always meant to be there. Not only do they afford protection from germs, they also mask the intrusive chatter of more voluble diners, a double whammy.
Anyway enough of the dull COVID stuff and on to the food.
We started with a couple of beers, a fancy canned IPA for Ms McD and a bottle of Toast for me which is made from unsold bread so an ecological plus right there. One tiny quibble would be that the menu does not state the size of each beer, a question appropriate if you are being careful.
But they were both good and went down rather well.
First out some Mexican nachos to nibble on while we selected our main events. Good nachos, not a messy heap of crispy chips covered in slop and not too large either, just right.
We followed this with a selection of dishes form the street food section of the menu. Rather a lot to be honest, but not that we were going to be defeated.
Tacos filled with slow cooked beef brisket were deliciously tender and slightly smokey and the sustainable battered fish came with a zingy chipotle mayo dressing that lifted the dish without dominating the tasty white fish.
But from this section my favourite had to be the hibiscus glazed aubergine with pine nuts and almonds, a very special mix of floral, creamy textured and savoury sensations with the crunch of almonds and the waxy bite of pine nuts.
A pork pibil quesadilla was a substantial parcel of succulent pulled pork, vibrantly spiky and sharp and very generous indeed although tricky to eat without spilling the contents down your chin and thence onto you clothing – that said the messiness is very worthwhile.
Chilli cheese croquettas delivered what one might hope from a croquetta, soothing creamy inside crisp crumbs and the chilli content not drowning the cheese.
I was very happy to see that the Devon crab and avocado tostados are still on the menu, a dish that would not be out of place on any fine dining menu, clean and refreshing too.
So after all that we both felt rather full, in fact over full to be honest, too full for dessert… well of course not, I would hate to disappoint readers with less than a full report. So for me it was an indulgent portion of churros with dulce de leche, naughty yes but irresistible, and for Ms McD a chocolate, chilli and tequila toddy, yes a very indulgent hit of Latino loveliness.
There are many things to love about Wahaca and one that we found tucked away in a corner of the menu. There is a commitment to quality ingredients, sustainability and being carbon neutral that has to be admired as we all become more conscious of how our food is reared and sourced. We both liked that. We also both loved the quality of the service, it was positively charming and attentive without being intrusive. The staff know the menu and are happy to advise but beyond all that they are fun and seem to be very happy in their work, unlike so many places where the staff would quite clearly rather be somewhere else. It led to a great atmosphere in the place in which we felt so comfortable that we were almost the last to leave. Price wise Wahaca is versatile, most street food dishes are around the same price point but there are other larger dishes too so there is real flexibility and I am sure the staff would be happy to guide you towards the larger and more filling dishes on offer like that porky treat that we indulged in rather than the more dainty crab treat.
We both would highly recommend and both would willingly return – and very soon.
160-161 North Street