Going experimental down on The Southbank

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Going experimental down on The Southbank

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment is our new temporary restaurant, opening at Southbank Centre alongside Waterloo Bridge today. It’s not like a Wahaca restaurant that you may have seen before, we’ve challenged ourselves to be more innovative. It’s built from 8 recycled shipping containers and we’ve introduced a new menu with monthly changing specials, the most popular of which will take up residency in all of our restaurants. We like to think it’ll help to keep us on our toes.

Our 8 shipping containers have been modified to create an interlinked open space on 2 levels to include panoramic windows offering some pretty stunning views of the river and the passing parade of people floating by. If you’re after a cocktail, it also has a dedicated tequila bar serving award winning tequilas and single village mezcals.

We’ve enlisted the help of street art curator Tristan Manco who has invited 2 graffiti artists, Saner and Remed, to decorate the space for our opening, bringing some extra colour to the riverside.

Remed and Saner at work

Tommi has been up to her elbows in new recipes specifically for this site following our recent trip to Mexico and LA. We’re starting off with some punchy chilli tacos, salmon ceviche (a Mexico City fusion favourite) and a couple of different ways of eating beautifully slow cooked carnitas.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment will be our new development kitchen and because the most popular dishes will be added to our regular menu, you are all our new recipe testers. Welcome to the team. We can’t wait to get the experiment started.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment is located on the terrace under Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. It will be open daily for the next 18 months from midday – 11pm (10.30pm on Sundays).

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Tequila tasting at Wahaca Soho

On Wednesday night we hosted the second of our tequila tastings in Soho, with the aim of selecting a new range of special guest tequilas to put on our bar list over the next year.

Since opening Wahaca, we knew we had a job to do when it came to tequila in the UK. It is such a misunderstood drink here, and there’s good reason for that – The prominence of low quality tequilas that leave you with a burning throat and a lingering feeling of regret has done huge damage to its reputation as a quality spirit. So we pledged to only stock tequilas that were of superior quality, 100% agave, and that had passed our own taste test. Move forward 4 years and we’ve got a list of tequilas that we’re really happy with, and we are developing this pledge further. We have been working with the Mexican Tequila Board to search out tequilas that are not available outside of North America. Tequilas that have been made with quality in mind, rather than mass production. The kind of tequilas that are sipped by those that really know what they are talking about. Our aim is to not only be able to offer these tequilas to you, but also to give these smaller suppliers the opportunity to give their products international recognition for the first time.

The Mexican Tequila Board very kindly sent us an early Christmas present of around 35 bottles of just such tequilas. None of which are available outside Mexico, none of which we had tasted before, and all of which sounded like they would be welcome additions to our bar list. But we don’t want to just add any product to our list, so they needed tasting. You don’t get this opportunity every day, so we thought that we’d share them around with our most deserving friends. 

We invited our facebook fans to write in and tell us why they should be chosen to join us and we had a great response. We narrowed the field down and selected our panel of experts, who would be lending us their taste buds for the evening.

The evening was masterfully compered by Henry Besant, of the World Wide Cocktail Club, and who is about the most knowledgeable tequila aficionado in the country. He introduced us to a mixed selection of 9 tequilas that he had picked from our consignment and we diligently set to work tasting.

We ended the night having sniffed, slurped and swilled our way through 3 blancos, 3 reposados, 2 añejos and 1 extra añejo. There was debate, an exchange of words such as vegetal, herbal, woody and even bacon, and a pleasant feeling of having been involved in something that signified another small step in the right direction for tequila in the UK. Our voting system led to 4 winners, but there was a general consensus that in fact 3 of these had something extra special which made them stand out: A blanco named Tequila Gran Orendain, an Añejo named La Fortaleza (or Los Abuelos) and an Extra Añejo named Tequila Campo Azul.

Now, we should say here that the funny thing about tasting tequilas that you’ve never heard of before and which aren’t available outside of Mexico, is that occasionally you realise why that’s the case!  We did taste some slight duds on the night, especially in the Reposado category. We happily supplemented them with a comparative tasting of our current house pour, El Tesoro Reposado, and were all agreed that there wasn’t any need to force the issue, none of the Reposados could measure up on the night, so they’d stay in Mexico for the time being.

Thank you so much to Kate, Ed, James, Yashoda, Jesús and Paul for responding to our request and coming along and lending us their taste buds and opinions. Thanks also to the Mexican Tequila Board for supplying us with tequilas that wowed, challenged, delighted and surprised us in near equal measure. And finally thank you to Henry for leading the way once more.

You will be able to see the final results from all of our tastings up on our blog soon, and most importantly taste them for yourself as they each take up their monthly guest spots over the coming year. We really hope you’ll enjoy our choices.  If you have any thoughts on our tequila list, or general musing about this magical drink, please feel free to let us know in a comment below.

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Do you want to be on our tequila tasting panel?

ALL SPACES ON OUR TEQUILA TASTING PANEL ARE NOW TAKEN

Following a flurry of excitement amongst our facebook fans, we are now looking for an exclusive panel of 5 tequila experts from amongst you lot, the followers of our facebook, blog and twitter pages, to join us for a tequila tasting with a difference, to be held at Wahaca Soho on Wednesday 23rd February 2011 at 6.30pm.

Do you know your agave from your auto-clave, your piña from your pot still? What on earth would you do with a Tahona Stone?

If you would like to join this tasting, send an email to ola@wahaca.co.uk explaining in no more than 100 words why you are qualified to help us select the next top tequilas that will be featured on our bar list. The deadline for entries is the end of Monday 20th February, so get cracking.

On the night, we’ll taste a range of tequilas which have been sent to us by the Mexican Tequila Board that aren’t available outside of North America. They’ve kindly searched out 30 top quality tequilas from Mexico’s smaller distilleries just for us. It’s not just for fun though, at the end of the tasting, we’ll pick out 4 favourites, which will be appearing as guest tequilas in our bar over the next year. We’re hoping that by putting them on our list, we’ll help to introduce these brands to the international market, and their amazing products can start to be shared with the world.

The tasting will start at 6.30 with a cocktail to get us in the mood, then it’s down to the serious business of choosing our top tequilas. The tasting will be led by the all-knowing tequila aficionado Henry Besant, who will help guide us through a range of platas, reposados and añejos and will finish at about 8pm.

Don’t get confused, this is not the same event that is being organised by QYPE (That’s one’s going to be just as good though!) This one is just for all you Wahaca fans out there in the world-wide-webernet. (If you’re looking for the Qype event, head over to their page for details).

We’ll look forward to hearing why you think you’ve got what it takes to help choose our next favourite tequilas. Those still looking for a worm in the bottom of their bottle need not apply.

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Margaritas get Mims to Mexico

Those of you who have read my first post know that come March next year, I’ll be cycling 680km across Mexico in 8 days, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. It’s my first biking event and the most physical challenge I have ever set my mind to.

On the 19th December, Wahaca is helping me host ‘Margaritas will get Mims to Mexico’ – half price cocktails, good chat, the chance to win some great prizes in a raffle or two and a good old foosball tournament.

The most important thing to point out is that ALL PROFITS from this fiesta will be donated straight to Macmillan Cancer Support through my justgiving page (www.justgiving.com/miriam-smith) – meaning a margarita really could be the difference between life and death for a cancer patient.

I would love you to join me – I’ll be shaking the margaritas – so if you’re free on the 19th December and fancy a half price margarita and a game of foosball, pop into Wahaca Soho, 80 Wardour St, from about 5.30pm onwards.

And please feel free to invite your wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, girlfriends and boyfriends, your best friend or any random people you meet in the street or on the tube!

Hoping to see you there!