As our new menu flies out of Wahaca kitchens across the country, sparking a summer of Maximum Mexican flavour, we caught up with its creator (and the superwoman you have to thank for all of our dishes) Thomasina Miers, to see which of all of the platefuls are really rocking her boat this summer.
Here’s Tommi’s top 5:
Devon crab and shrimp taquitos. Summery, crisp and bursting with flavours from the sea this classic tomato-based seafood taquito is a delight.
Grilled chicken tacos. The Baja-Californian taco with ancho-marinated grilled chicken, habanero mayo and a crisp, fresh slaw. I love mine with a side of guac.
Cornbread. This is so good that it should come with a public health warning. Sweet, toasted cornbread with a smoky-sweet butter and the tangy whipped goat’s cheese. Keep to yourself or share if you dare…
Fideus. Angel-hair noodles cooked in a smoky-sweet tomato broth served with capers and chipotle adobo and either sliced avocado or a touch of Devon crab. This is a classic from the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Grilled corn. We serve it Oaxacan style with crema, fresh lime and a sprinkle of that famous chilli-sugar-salt.
If that’s got your taste buds tingling, take a look at our full menu here. AND! grab a street dish on us for a limited time only right here!
Just when you were starting to think that the end of the summer meant an inevitable slow and depressing decline into wintery doom, along comes Mexican Independence Day to cheer us all up. To celebrate, this Friday 16th September, we’re doing what we do best, street food for free! But hold on a split second, surely we can’t give free food to everyone. You’re right. We can’t. That would be madness. It’s only for people in the know. People like you.
This year we’re keeping it nice and simple. All you have to do is bring a picture of a Mexican flag with you to any of our restaurants on Friday 16th and we’ll give any dish from our street food menu for free. It can be a picture that you’ve found on the t’internet and printed out (here’s a couple to get you going), one that you’ve had hand-stitched for you, or one that you’ve drawn with colouring pencils. Anything that vaguely resembles a Mexican flag and you’re in. But, we’re nice people, so please don’t abuse us, it’s one street food dish per person who brings a flag with them. Sorry, you can’t bring 2 flags and get 2 free dishes. That would just be greedy. If you do fancy more than one street food dish (and to be honest, who would blame you), we’ll buy the least expensive one. It’s only fair.
So what are you waiting for, round up your friends and your flags and get yourselves down to Wahaca on Friday.
For years now people have been begging us to offer more takeaway (presumably to increase the risk of spilling salsa over their keyboard), but it’s always proved tricky without disrupting the restaurants main service. Now, we’re the first people to realise that this isn’t a great answer. If the people want it, surely there’s a way to give it to them. And if you’re going to give it to them, you might as well have a laugh doing it. So the idea struck us – rather than opening up a dedicated takeaway, with traditional things like walls and a roof, wouldn’t it be nicer to be able to take the tacos to the people – We needed wheels. The taco van dream was born and the search for our truck began.
It was after a chance encounter with Simon Swift, from the totally brilliant Wondering Wine company, that we first laid eyes on what would become the newest member of the Wahaca family. Looking past the rust, gathering moss and dodgy engine, we immediately fell in love with the characterful shape of this classic Citroen HY van – Born in 1958 and later re-bodied to transform it into, amongst other things, a shop selling leather and Citroen memorabilia (not at the same time). She was perfect for our needs.
It turns out converting an old van into a fully working kitchen fit to serve the finest tacos and burritos in all the land isn’t that straightforward.
You start with a specialist mechanic. This one’s called Alex.
Then you breakdown on the M25, a mere 40 minutes out of the workshop – Bad times. But it was here that we learnt how useful the words “low-loader” really are.
From a side junction of the motorway, it’s into the workshop of AJC trailers, a very impressive set up, where old vans go to get their va-va-voom slapped back into them. These were the guys who fitted our Robata charcoal grill – This behemoth of the meat cooking world is like a barbeque on crack – tiny jets pump air directly into the coals to superheat them, meaning that you have much higher temperatures and a smoky flavour that is worth travelling across town for. Having done some searching around, we think we’re the only van in the country equipped with such a thing, and the flavour is phenomenal.
But this wouldn’t be a true Wahaca if it didn’t have “the looks”, so next it was off to the spay shop. Spray shops are fun. They involve putting your vehicle into a big oven (honestly) and heating it up so you get an even covering of specially developed paint. The results are a van that looks as good as new – Not a French leather salesman in sight.
Once you’ve got a van that looks this good, you have to find a good home for it. We had thousands of requests for various parking spots around the country (which we still have in mind, don’t worry), but we felt it was best to start off in a site that we know, where our nearby restaurant can be on hand to cope with any teething problems and somewhere that housed a lot of burrito-hungry souls. So we headed to Canary Wharf’s Canada Square Park. Ideal you might think, until you find out that the only way into the park is through the lobby of One Canada Square, the tallest building in the country and one which comes with a selection of health and safety paperwork almost as tall. It made for a fun Saturday morning.
After all that effort, you don’t want to open without a bang: Cue 2 days of free burritos, a mariachi band, a donkey called Larry and a queue that threated to take over the whole of Canada Square Park. Canary Wharf had never had it so good.
And now comes the reality of running a new business – One that’s a little bit different to our other restaurants, one that we want to have as much fun as possible with, and one that we want your help in shaping the future of.
We have a new menu. It’s just a starting point (albeit a very delicious one) and something that we want to work with our customers to develop as we move on. If there’s something that you’d like to see on there, please leave a comment below let us know on facebook or twitter or go along and chat to guys. We want to make the most of our new found flexibility.
You can find us in Canary Wharf until the end of the summer when we are off to Gloucestershire for the van’s first festival – Harvest at Alex James’ farm. And then we’d like you to help us decide where we should move on to – The louder you shout, the harder we’ll search for a parking space that we’re allowed to use.
The Mexican Street Kitchen is something we’re so excited about. We owe so much to everyone who has contributed so much to it, none less so than Charlie Carroll – The man with the van plan. If you’re in the area, go down and pat him on the back and chat to him about burritos. He’ll tell you a thing or two about tortillas, the perfect searing temperature of steak and how difficult it is to find a mechanic in Luton who knows how to fix a 53 year old clutch.
There’s huge news at Wahaca HQ and we can’t keep it from you any longer. We’ve just secured the next Wahaca opening and this time it’s on wheels. Please say hello to the (soon-to-be) Mexican Street Kitchen.
This little beauty is a long wheel base 1958 Citroen HY Van, which we’ve procured and are currently hurtling towards converting it into a fully functioning takeaway truck. (Oh yes, and your eyes are not deceiving you, it does have a sweet pair of megaphones on the roof!)
The idea of the Mexican Street Kitchen is not only to serve the best Mexican street food in London, but to take it back to the streets from where we began. We’re installing a state of the art Robata charcoal grill, which will give all of our freshly grilled meat that extra tasty flavour you can only get when you cook over flames – we’re pretty sure that’s the first of its kind in a van in London.
We’re going to be using the Mexican Street Kitchen to test out new recipes that you can’t find in our restaurants, and we’d like you to be a part of it. We’ll be holding events asking you to come and help us test out new recipes, new cuts of meat, new seasonal vegetables and new ways of serving them. We want you to help us as we develop exciting new street food recipes that (if they pass the “Tommi Test”) could be added to our restaurant menu.
Keep your eyes on our blog and facebook page to find out how we get on with the transformation. But before we get onto all of this, the first question has got to be, where do you want us to park it?
Earlier this year, our co-founder and executive chef, Tommi went along to see the great work that gets done by Ednica, the Unesco backed charity that we have chosen to support.
Check out this interview that Tommi filmed with Violaine Dulin who has helped us set up the fundraising partnership we have going on. We think it gives a nice feel for the amazing work they are doing.
Next time you’re in the restaurant spend some time perusing the “Street food special” section of the menu and you’ll see that every time you order one of these dishes 20p is given to Ednica to help educate and feed kids who work on the streets of Mexico City. At the momement we have the huarrache and a cactus queso fundido on offer, which are totally-knock-your-socks-off-delicious so you can have a extra big smile on your face when it comes to ordering.
We’ve been loving the London Restaurant Festival this week. It’s such a great celebration of the amazing restaurants we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep in this fair city. Today we sent some of the team out to sample one of the highlights of the festival – The Street Kitchen caravan in Covent Garden.
They returned with glowing reports of the braised beef with carrot and celeriac, and the hot smoked salmon salmon with beetroot and horseradish, which looks amazing from the photos. It’s so exciting to see such brilliantly turned out food, coming from an airstream caravan in the middle of Covent Garden. Our hats are well and truly doffed.
Last year we won the Discovery Award for the food we served at the festival and you might remember we were delighted to be presented our award by Giles Coren. This year we are back with a menu offering a selection of our favourite street food for 2 people to share – That’s pork pibil and chicken mole tacos, broad bean quesadillas, black bean tostadas, and new potato taquitos all served with green rice and black beans. And if all that’s making you thirsty, then at lunch there’s a Hibiscus agua fresca to go with it, and at dinner a choice of Hibiscus or Tamarind Margaritas. The special London Restaurant Festival price is £20 for 2 people for lunch, and £30 for 2 people at dinner. A total steal.
So if you fancy getting into the festival spirit, come along and discover our award winning selection for yourself. The London Restaurant Festival is running from Monday 4th October to Monday 18th October, please ask our staff for more details about our special menu.