Wahaca, Westfield, London

Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 2/5; Vegan-options available: Yes; Value for money: 4/5, Quality of cooking : 3.5/5; Ambience : 4/5; Service: 4/5 ;Atmosphere: 5/5

Ph: 0208 749 4517

Wahaca is an atmospheric Mexican restaurant that sits nestled amongst a row of eateries outside the gigantic Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush. I've only ever eaten Tex-Mex food in this country, so I was keen to try Wahaca's take on authentic Mexican food. The restaurant's welcome board outside proudly proclaims that it's listed in the Observer's list of good cheap eats. So it certainly seemed worth a try, especially given the blustery weather that day.

The restaurant itself, sits on two levels, with a kitchen that's fairly open to view. Upstairs there are some cosy, couple-y-type seats along with what looked like a six-seater and downstairs there's an area that I suspect would seat about a hundred. It was a rainy evening and the restaurant was heaving. Yet, there was a fair queue outside still trying to get in. It didn't take us long though. We were soon seated and were even told the name of our waitress by the manager-types who showed us to our table (a very American-touch eh?). The restaurant was buzzing; it was a very jolly and happy crowd. At the table next to ours, the manager trotted along to announce a birthday and surprisingly, every stiff-upper lipped Brit in the restaurant joined in to sing "Happy Birthday". It was so relaxed and lovely, I was really taken aback.

Not long after, our super-efficient yet chattily pleasant waitress Victoria, showed up to take our order, which consisted of 2 smoked bean and cheese quesadillas, tortilla chips with fresh tomato salsa, guacamole, and sweetcorn with a "creama and lancashire cheese" topping.

The drinks (a fresh mint tea and some tap water) arrived remarkably promptly as did the tortilla chips and salsa. The salsa was unusual, fresh and delicious and the tortilla chips were fresh and not as brittle as store-bought ones. We were offered a complimentary plate of what they call market sauces which consisted of two bowls, one of a chipotle-type smoky tomato dip and the other a green tomatillo dip, both of which were ok-ish but nothing to write home about. Next up was the guacamole - yummy, fresh and I must say it again - it was oh-sooooo-yummy. The only gripe I had, was that the portion was a bit on the small side, but then so was the tiny price tag. The helpful waitress informed us that once you've ordered a portion of tortilla chips, subsequent refills are complimentary, which I thought was a generous and nice touch.

Our smoked bean and cheese quesadillas ( grilled tortilla wraps stuffed with beans and cheese), were small but well-formed; they were very filling and tasted even better with a tiny splash of the guacamole dip. The sweet corn dish consisted of two pieces of corn on the cob with a dab of cheese-y topping and my guest thought they were simple, healthy and delicious as a snack.

The fresh mint tea was lovely and refreshing . All in all, our bill added up to £16.50, which I thought was a real bargain, given the buzz of the place, the quality of the food and the service. Best of all, our waitress Victoria gave me a really clear and honest answer about cross-contamination; they take it very seriously and try to make sure there is none. Veggie food is apparently cooked separately and they make sure dishes are labelled with little flags when they are brought to the table, so waiters know which dishes are veggie / special meals and which ones aren't . So I thought - "Hurrah for an omnivore restaurant that takes veggies seriously".

As you might imagine, I was really pleased - delighted, in fact . Wahaca was cool , cheap and yummy - it was definitely a restaurant I thought I would visit again. That's not really the case anymore - the updates below explain why :

Update on 9th Sept Thanks to the efforts of another committed veggie, I am extremely disappointed to report that the team at Wahaca wrote to tell us that cheese-based products at Wahaca contain animal rennet and clearly the waiting staff and management aren't aware of this when they label dishes veggie which clearly aren't. I had labelled this restaurant as veggie-friendly and scored it a 5/5 for veggie-friendliness. Given their response I downgraded the score to 2/5, which I think is now a fair reflection of the current veggie-friendly status.

I then received another update from a different member of the WAHACA management team:

Thank you so much for writing in to ask about our vegetarian food. We do indeed use cheeses that are made from vegetable rennet so you are great on that score, and I can also assure you that we cook our vegetables on flat-top grills that are cleaned completely before and after use, and the same applies for our meat cooking (the meat and the vegetables are cooked at different times so whilst I cannot say that we use separate flat-tops for this cooking, I can assure you that no trace of meat will ever be found in our vegetables due to our very strict cleaning standards).

I am afraid with concern to the fryers if it is important to you to avoid any chance of cross-contamination, we cannot guarantee that some meat and fish dishes will not end up being cooked in the same oil that has seen vegetable dishes, although again, they will never be cooked side by side in the same fryer at the same time.

I do hope that answers your questions and that it doesn’t mean you won’t be visiting us soon.

Very best wishes,

Thomasina Miers

While FussyVeggie really appreciates the tone of the e-mail and the desire to get veggies like me to visit again, I'd quite like Wahaca to be more consistent and indeed more considerate about their veggie-friendliness (stop cross-contamination) if they want us to spend our veggie pounds in their restaurants.

1 comment:

  1. Appalling customer service, awful waiting staff, manager with an attitude, and a demand to pay a 12.5% service charge!! I will never go again!


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