Wahaca, Edinburgh



16 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AU

0131 564 3850 www.wahacaco.uk

Wahaca Exterior 2

The Bill

A la carte

Nibbles £5.75 - £7.95 | Street Food £6.95 - £7.50

Bigger Plates £10.75 - £13.50 | Sides £1.95 - £5.75

Desserts £6.50 - £6.75


The Score

Cooking  5/10 | Service (Visit 1 - 5/5: Visit 2 - 2/5)  3.5/5

Flavour  3.5/5 | Value 5/5

TOTAL 17/25 

I'm bewildered. I'm looking back on a lunch with the Former Brewing Giant in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town. At Wahaca which, to quote the website, has been serving MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers’ award winning Mexican street food, since the first restaurant opened in Covent Garden in 2007.

Why the puzzlement? Read on. When I arrive, the FBG is getting himself on the outside of a Wahaca Colada. He's now based down south, so he was getting into holiday mode. A grey Edinburgh day in March - just what you need to entice you into a pina colada. I'm generally conservative about cocktails, but followed suit with a very drinkable Piccante Margarita, a nice little burst of heat and an alarming swizzle stick of a vertically sliced red chilli. That sets the tone so nicely that the lovely Veronica - from Rome - has to come back to the table at least twice before we've even glanced at the menu.

So what would you like? she enquires  patiently. Do you have any easier questions? we reply, knowing only that the website has told us to go street food. With patience and charm, recognising that neither of us is in the first flush, she selects five plates, to which we add the ancho chicken wings from the (small) list of daily specials. It's a reasonably extensive menu, but you know that precisely the same fare is being offered in all 13 of their outlets (down from 25 in 2017).

That was in March. Settling in the garret, reviewing what we ate, I felt I hadn't got to grips with the essence of the country's cuisine. That's what happens when you let a Roman choose your Mexican food. Too confused to write a review? Never happened before, though memories of some meals are clearer than others.

A revisit was called for, and eventually scheduled for July. Who better to join the fray than  The Californian, a man guaranteed to understand his southern neighbour's cuisine? To complete the party our other house guest, the suave, cosmopolitan lady that is FD, L's globe trotting niece.

By coincidence we are ensconced at exactly the same table as before. These developments on the north side of St Andrew Square start with the same shell, a fairly massive two storey space. We like what they've done with it, the sparse concrete adorned with Mexican wall hangings. The menu is the same as last time.

Wahaca. I've been there, announces The Californian. Eh? He's only just arrived in the country after a 13 year absence. No, in Oaxaca, he explains, regaling us with tales of a gringo being disgorged from a dusty bus south of the border around midnight. And he scans the menu critically, looking for chile relleno and refried beans and many of the fill you up fast staples that are the heart of Mexican cuisine. But remind yourself what the website says. This is street food.

I get it now. My writer's block has gone. Time to get the taste buds tingling with memories.

Pink Pickled Onions with Tacos

There were tacos with pork, and buttermilk chicken, and beef. With the pork there were pink pickled onions. These feature on eight separate dishes. I have visions of a central Wahaca Pink Onion Pickling plant, tankers despatched daily to all branches. Thumbs up for the tacos as for the beef gringas; however, the buttermilk chicken bore a remarkable resemblance to a cauliflower dish, a heavy breadcrumb coating providing an effective disguise for both. A quesadilla with cheese and chorizo with the unlikely addition of potato turned out to be an excellent toasted sandwich.

From the Bigger Plates section a rainbow bowl was ordered. No idea why it was so called but along with chicken (or pork, or sweet potato and broccoli), you get rice and beans and slaw and guacamole and, of course, pink pickled onions. I could tell that the rice and beans were transporting TC back to old Oaxaca. They had an authentic taste. Good, but I preferred the frijoles, creamy black beans with chorizo. Less authentic, but probably winner of the dish of the day award.

Proving the ubiquity of food, I had earlier shown TC how to make guacamole, using a recipe I was taught in California 40 years earlier. He ordered some midway through the proceedings, obviously wanting to see if Thomasina's was as good as mine. As if. We never did learn the answer, since our stressed and anxious July waiter failed to deliver. He did, however, bring the wahacamole which we had asked for.  Wahacamole, an invention of Thomasina's, is a dip very similar to guacamole with fava (broad) beans as the base instead of avocado.

Visit 2 over: more questions. How authentic is this? We neither know nor care. How good is it? Hmm. It won't have the restaurant critics rushing back, but it will provide food and fun in equal measure. I thoroughly enjoyed both visits. I just hope the poor laddie who served us second time round has a better day today. Go, taste for yourselves - and be kind to him.

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