Mexican Street Market
Mexican markets are places to wander, gossiping with passers-by whilst waiting for tacos, tostadas and quesadillas to be cooked in front of you. Mouth-watering smells, vibrant colours and the hustle-bustle of the market feed the senses and lift the spirits, now new kids on the block Wahaca have brought their modern take of this to the charming colonnades of Brighton’s Cultural Quarter in New Road.
From the moment we arrived at Wahaca the staff were brilliant. A good restaurant experince is about two things- obviously the food and then the ‘relationship’ with your waiter or serving staff. The staff at Wahaca get this exactly right, they are friendly, informative and know the food, menu and ingredients well. We had some great suggestions from our waiter who asked us about our tastes before suggesting items off the menu. Manager Anna Kearney, dressed in a superb vintage Mexican Tel-Art shirt with a huge beaming cheeky smile explained that that was part of the Wahaca style, relaxed, informal but with quality at the forefront always. Shes assembled a good team, lots of the staff are Brighton veterans with an impressive back story of quality venues behind them. Thomasina Miers the co-founder of Wahaca (and Masterchef winner) was on hand to explain their strong commitment to sustainable & fair catering and explained that they buy from Mexico & source direct from cooperatives which support local farming communities & source tequilas and mescals from small family-run businesses that make the best product.
The menu is laid out in easy to follow segments on the large paper table covering. It’s easy to follow. There’s a superb range of traditional street food, with plenty of tapas style options so you can mix and match, nothing too expensive with a few seasonal taco specials. Kicking off with some light nibbles of a smooth, tangy guacamole with puffed Chicharrons style pork scratching this got us into the mood. We tried both specials; the lamb slow roasted marinated in orange was super and the prawns chopped into a paste with chilli and coriander, both worth a punt. The street food menu of Taco’s Taquitos, Tostadas or Quesadillias are all very tasty, you can grab three or four and share them. I went for one of each, a sweet potatoes and feta Taquitos, which was fresh, soft with a creamy finish of the roasted sweet potato, a simple chicken tinga Taco, with the chipotle balanced just right with the spice and a Smokey chipotle chicken Quesadilla was a cheesy, tasty and spiced. We took a side of Frijoles, the standard Mexican bean dish, it was perfect. Alongside the street food menu is more substantial menu of huge salads, burritos or grilled British meats with a Mexican twist.
See their full menu here
With a good range of beers, tequilas, and mescaline to run alongside the wine menu there is plenty of choice, the margaritas are authentic, with a tangy kick and the Chelada choices – beer with fresh lime, salt and spice- had a decent, refreshing kick. The Wahaca single source mescals are superb and we enjoyed them with some helpful advice from the staff on how to best enjoy this smokey smooth, complex but delicious Mexican drink.
The venue is clean, fresh and accessible, with some of the best people watching to be had in the city. You really can’t beat New Road on a good sunny afternoon to oggle the oddness that wanders by, or enjoy it on a rainy day from the huge windows that ring the restaurant. The music is funky, Mexicana retro and you can track down the songs on their website afterwards. There’s a large private dinging space, decked out with an urban retro vibe, murals and paintings by Mexican street artist/social campaigner Mazatl, email them for more details about hiring that space.
With some innovative menu items ( a full gluten free menu ) and seriously welcoming vibe and the ability to pay by app, if you’re in a hurry, this is a hip, modern and tasty choice for a quick afternoon bites or a more substantial evening out in town. Wahaca donates money from each street dish to their chosen charities and it’s good to see such sustainable commitment in a rapidly expanding restaurant chain. They have won awards for their commitments to sustainable and green food production. The menu caters for all tastes and pockets, and the all-important ambiance encourages you to relax and enjoy the food.
Wahaca is a very welcome addition to the growing city food scene from the Americans and their modern, original and well balanced take on Mexican cuisine, coupled with their superb location and serious commitment to charming, welcoming and knowledgeable staff mean this is a place to get familiar with.
For more info check out their website here. With a lot of tables kept for drop-in unreserved eating it’s easy to eat on impulse, but with the ability to book and reserve space at the bars for larger parties the folks at Wahaca have it covered and not a unibrow in sight, alas.