South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh
We’re slowly getting used to the loosening of Covid restrictions, but it’s tricky, navigating our way through a world that is, still, much riskier than ‘normal.’ We’re desperate to enjoy ourselves, but a little nervous too. We’re deliberately choosing quiet times when we venture out (Wednesday is the new Saturday, right?), and at least Scotland’s approach is more measured than England’s “let’s pretend it’s all over” free-for-all. Thankfully, Wahaca is the perfect place for the Covid-cautious: it’s big, airy and spotlessly clean, with lots of space between groups and perspex screens separating the tables. Phew!
We start with a freebie from the ‘summer specials’ – a cricket salsa served with tortilla chips. It sets the tone: this is going to be fun. The chips are fresh and well-seasoned, and the salsa tastes great, although I’ve no idea what part of the flavour combo is the insect’s doing. Philip orders a bottle of Corona, and I opt for a glass of a Picpoul de Pinet. Both arrive quickly, and we’re soon sipping contentedly.
We’ve decided in advance to try the ‘favourites’ set menu, because we’ve never been here before and want to sample a range of what’s on offer. It’s £42 for the two of us, which is, let’s be honest, great value. It consists of seven small dishes, and each one is, I’m pleased to say, delicious.
The Trealy Farm chorizo quesadillas arrive first, and they’re sumptuous, filled with crushed potatoes and a generous portion of cheese as well as the titular chorizo, the crisply baked tortilla providing a welcome crunch.
The next three dishes arrive at once: crispy cauliflower bites with lime and a roast jalapeno allioli, Devon crab tostadas and buttermilk chicken tacos. I’m quite fussy about deep-fried food; I tend to avoid it usually, because I don’t like it at all if it’s greasy, and can tell immediately if the oil’s not been hot enough. But the cauliflower bites are done just right, and so’s the chicken, so it’s a pleasure to eat them both. The cauliflower in particular is very more-ish. My favourite, though, is the crab; it’s so fresh and absolutely bursting with flavour. It zings. I love it.
The final three dishes arrive, along with a second round of drinks. There are pork pibil tacos, which Philip loves, but which are a bit too rich for me, although I like the intensity of the flavour. I prefer the grilled halloumi ‘Al Pastor’ tacos, which are vibrant and a little lighter on the palate. The chipotle lime slaw is crunchy and ‘clean’ and flavoursome; it’s good.
It’s all good. And, of course, we were never going to leave without sharing a portion of churros with a dulche de leche caramel sauce. It’s sheer indulgence. Oh my.
So, all in all, we’re delighted with the way our Wednesday’s turned out. We’ve put off visiting Wahaca because, you know, it’s a chain, and chains offer bland, uninteresting food, don’t they? But tonight’s dinner proves that Wagamama isn’t the only exception to that rule.