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Burrito Mama

12 Nov

Hot off the press is the new offshoot from the Wahaca team and it’s called Burrito Mama. Co-founder and previous Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers has created this as it appeals to the people who want a quick meal and who don’t necessarily want to take a seat. With the influx of chains like Chipotle and Benito’s Hat, to name a couple, there’s definitely been a stronger demand for the Americanised version of this Mexican favourite in recent years. That isn’t to say that Mama’s is rehashing something we’ve seen before. On the contrary. It’s opened in One New Change and so will definitely be one that the city workers frequent.

front mamaI love burritos. They’re an indulgence, a comfort and will fill you with sleepy hollow before you know it. I’ve limited myself to half of one at lunchtime, otherwise it’s as though someone has slipped a tranquiliser into my guacamole and no one wants to see that!

Burrito Mama is wonderful. There’s something quite wholesome about the experience. It’s fully decked out with  a corrugated walled, 1950s style shack and a sleek twist of self-service computers in the foreground. It’s colourful, upbeat, bright and fresh.

mama signBehind the counters I saw the open plan kitchen, where the all female preparers were making up the burritos. They were adorned in deep, red bandanas tied like a 1950s pin-up. They looked fabulous.

bandanaI chose a baby burrito (nothing small about it) with grilled chicken. Their chicken is chargrilled and described as ‘higher welfare’. A plus point for me. I ventured to ask for guacamole and was told that it comes as standard. Refreshing. There’s a choice of mild, medium or hot when it comes to picking your salsa too. Along with that I decided to try their Mexican beer – Pacifico.

downloadIt was explained to me that the difference with their burritos is they toast the tortilla first and then sprinkle the cheese in, a nice alternate as it means the cheese is melted and more of a base to the burrito, locking in the other ingredients. One thing that is definitely note worthy is everything is evenly distributed. So often you wind up with rice, rice, rice and then a big dollop of sour cream. This was well made and thoughtfully constructed. The chicken was soft and smokey; a nice, gentle taste to it. The rice was good, but the black beans were a touch undercooked. The blend of the sauces was fantastic, enough of the creamy avocado and tang of the salsa to suffice, but the real twist and the best element of all is the slaw. An unorthodox twist, but right there, in my burrito was a lightly dressed, crunchy, fresh, spicy slaw. It was the essence of this whole experience and what sets it apart. This gives it a wholesome feeling, one that doesn’t make you feel so dirty afterwards.

burrito biteThe beer was good, not as light as a Corona, but certainly not as pungent as a Peroni, it was refreshing and something different, but feel as though I’ve tried better.

beerOnto the very cheap, sweet, Mama’s Treats. I tried the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake – ‘a little pot of dense chocolate cake soaked in a mixture of three milks and topped with crunchy peanut candy’. I couldn’t have described it better myself! For only £1 this is a bite size chaser, all you should be able to handle after a burrito, and it’s the perfect amount. It’s exactly what is needed, not too rich and the milks blend with the sponge of the cake so well, with the peanut adding a little je ne sais quoi.

dessertdessert labelI also sampled the Chilli Chocolate Crunchy Cake. The base is a cross between a crunchy digestive and an oaty flapjack. The thick, hard layer of chocolate on top is fragrant and decadent. The chilli only hits you when you’ve swallowed. It’s actually not as spicy as you would think, it’s a welcome difference that’s for sure.

download-2So, all in all, a welcome treat filled with spice, warmth and good, hearty ingredients. I think it’s definitely one to keep an eye on and I bet there will be more of them opening soon and my hope…that they will branch into the street food scene next summer. Fingers crossed. Mama definitely knows best.

download-1Rate: 4.3

Burrito Mama

http://www.burritomama.co.uk/

One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF

020 3375 2374

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Fonda Manhattan

13 Jan

A friend suggested we go to Fonda for brunch. I knew nothing about this place, so with no expectations, I entered!

A Mexican eatery serving a really refreshing menu. The brunch entrees had the typical ‘breakfast burrito’ and the like but everything seemed to be with a little extra je ne sais quoi and a few new surprises.

I chose the Huevos Divorciados, which quite literally means divorced eggs. The description was breathtaking. Two sunny side up eggs separated by two sauces, salsa verde and ranchera sauce, served with black beans, crispy bacon, queso fresco and crema. The taste, even better. The eggs and all the accoutrements are inside a crispy pocket of tortilla, how they manage to not break the yolk, I have no idea. Cutting open this culinary feast to see the yolk ooze out into the salsa looked so beautiful. The oranges, reds and green were good enough to eat, it was quite unbelievable! Perfectly cooked and light enough to not feel bloated and overstuffed, this place really gets it right.

Huevos Divorciados

There was a really nice atmosphere and the service was good…minor pet hate was that they cleared some dishes before others had finished. Also, eyeing up what others had…next time I am definitely ordering the guacamole!

Go and check out this East Side gem.

Rate: 4.7

Fonda Manhattan

40 Avenue B, Manhattan, NY 10009

212-677-4096

http://www.fondarestaurant.com/
Fonda on Urbanspoon

Wahaca – Stratford

15 Oct

Having been to Wahaca a handful of times and knowing I was never particularly impressed I then strangely had two encounters of it in the space of a few days. Perhaps I’d always ordered the wrong thing, but my opinion of the place has turned a complete 180.

I went to the pop up Wahaca on the South Bank last week, which was great, real hustle and bustle and a good atmosphere. Then yesterday due to a bit of a mishap with my mystery shop falling through, because the restaurant had had a power cut…we stumbled upon Wahaca at Stratford.
The layout of the restaurant is great, really clever, there’s a bay in the middle and on the far side there are some booths under a makeshift ‘shelter’ of plastic bottles. The effect is cool and it gives the place an eclectic ‘street’ style.
I thought we would order a few things to get a good mix and we shared it all so we could have a taste of everything!

First off some tortilla chips and fresh guacamole. This was great and not too much either, it’s annoying when you get so full at the beginning there’s no room for the main and hats off to anyone who can stop before the chip bowl is empty! The guac was authentic and the hints of lime throughout really made it quite special. Good fresh tortillas too.

The chicken quesadilla was delicious, fresh chipotle chicken mixed with a good amount of cheese on a fresh tortilla that was slightly crispy. We actually had to send the first batch back because it seems they had forgotten to put any chicken in half the quesadilla, or about half a teaspoon’s worth…they were very apologetic and even brought us an extra one on the house.

Next up we ordered a chicken burrito, this was far better than I expected. It seemed the more you ate the spicier it got, however it was a good kind of spicy. There was quite a lot of rice in there, I think it could have done with a little more chicken or black bean, but the rice was fresh, long grain and really made for a good change from the boring rice you get at Chipotle, this was definitely a little more thoughtful and fresher.

For the sides we chose the sweet potato and the corn. The sweet potato had been rubbed with spices and it made for a really great smoky taste. The sweet potato was crunchy on the outside and as smooth as silk on the inside. An innovative side and most definitely slicker than the average. The corn was ok, a little overly watery for some reason, I think diners to the right might have got a little spurted on them…and I wasn’t a fan of the cream/cheese on the corn, it was quite sweet and it didn’t complement it that well.

A good experience overall for sure. Worth a visit and thankfully it doesn’t have the feel of the gargantuan that is Westfield.

Rate: 3.8

Wahaca – Stratford

6 Chestnut Plaza  London E20 1GL

020 3288 1025

http://www.wahaca.co.uk/flash/main.html
Wahaca on Urbanspoon

La Bodega Negra

13 Jun

Let me just get this out quickly. OVERATED. There, I said it.

Before proceeding onto the real problems, I’ll focus on the positives.

I chose the café/diner part of this Mexican ‘hot spot’ instead of the restaurant. I thought the menu looked a little friendlier and when I saw the restaurant had Veal Tongue on their menu, the pretence of this unappetising ‘food’ told me I’d be better off in the less poncy, more casual, above ground part of this joint.

First impressions, it was light and airy, really well spaced out, nice décor – the bar being the focal point and the variety of tables and booths gave off a really friendly vibe. The ceviche bar when you walk in gives a take away essence to the place and almost puts you a little at ease as it all seems so very casual. I was approached straight away and our waitress throughout the night was so sweet, really friendly and did her job really, really well. This was quite refreshing actually as I find service lacks considerably in London restaurants on the whole. The buzzy atmosphere is lovely, it’s busy, but not too bustly and the music level is perfect, you can hear it and gives an authentic ambience to the place, but it doesn’t overpower the meal by being too loud.

The waitress recommended the Pineapple Spiced Daiquiri which was really good. It was mixed well and the flavours complemented each other. It wasn’t amazing, by any means, but it was a good cocktail. Aky had the non-alcoholic Passion Fruit Mojito, it was fresh and looked great, however too much lime that was too bitter, either they needed sweeter limes or more sugar. On the whole, pretty ok though.

Now, here’s the problem. Mexican food is relatively simple, you have a mix of ingredients that apply to quite a lot of their dishes. It’s usually the same mix in a different order and magically at somewhere great, each dish has it’s own, very special highlights.

I have been to some corkers of Mexican places in my time, places that serve guacamole that is made right in front of you, so it can’t get any fresher. Guacamole that is not bright, almost fluorescent green, but that dull, nutty green complemented by red onion and finely chopped tomato with a hint of lime, salt and coriander. Being the dish/dip that Mexico is famous for, along with salsa, this is something that is going to be the first impression and if you can’t get this right then you should stop, go back and try again. The guacamole came with chips and pico de gallo. Not salsa. Why no salsa? I don’t know. There was no salsa in sight, anwhere. Corn chips made fresh (I’m thinking Dos Caminos here) should have that (I hate the next word) ‘moreish’ affect on you, the one that means no matter how hard you try, you just can’t stop picking, dipping and basking in the salty, fresh goodness. These corn chips were cardboardy, flavourless and I stopped after only a few…and I was starving hungry! So far, not impressed. It wasn’t fresh and didn’t taste good. I could pop down to Sainsbury’s and by some Dorito Dippas and some guacamole and that would have been a lot better and wouldn’t cost a fiver for the experience.

Next…a Chicken Tostada. There didn’t seem to be so much chicken on the menu, so thought this would be a good taster. It was ok, a little bland, nice, but nothing special.

Steak Tacos with Green Rice and Cowboy Beans. The tacos were too hot, with chunks of pretty much plain, raw, chewy steak on a processed mini tortilla that broke because it was so soggy when you lifted it up. Not good. Tortillas are made of pretty much flour and water…and these are so small, why not make them fresh? The meat should be a little smoky, marinated really well in Mexican spices, none of this applied to this meal. The best part was the rice and beans. These were delicious. Best part of the whole meal. Fantastic, well mixed, original, really fresh tasting and a great accompaniment. If only the thing it accompanied was any good…you wouldn’t have to eat mouthfuls of beans and rice on their own.

Chorizo Quesadillas were up next. These were ok. That’s kind of all I can say. The chorizo didn’t taste of anything really. I can think of hundreds of fabulous market stalls and vendors of great chorizo with all different kinds of flavouring and none of them got a look in as Bodega Negra has chosen a run of the mill, bland, nothingness as their main ingredient. The cheese was good, but they only way I managed to jazz them up was by dipping them in the beans that came with the tacos.

For dessert we went for the chocolate mousse served with berry compote. It didn’t look particularly appetising when it arrived…you’ll see by the photo. The mousse was too thick, almost as if they had a great consistency and then decided to add gelatine and cornflour to it. It was stodgy and the berry compote was embedded within it, this was very bitter and would only have complemented the mousse if it had been light and smooth tasting.

The rating for this one will be a little different as the service, ambience and decoration was good, but the food was so distinctly average. Also, if I took a New Yorker here and told them this place had been written about as THE place to go, they would laugh in my face.

New York Rate: 1.5

London Rate: 3.5

See what I’m getting at?

Worth a visit if you want a drink maybe…not worth it if you want some really nice food.

Overrated and disappointing. Oh and Time Out refer to this place as a speakeasy. Wha????? Oh please.

Bodega Negra

16 Moor Street  London, Greater London W1D 5NH

020 7758 4100

http://labodeganegra.com/

La Bodega Negra on Urbanspoon
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