REVIEW: Lunching at Wahaca

Who doesn’t love Mexican food? I think it’s fair to say it’s my favourite cuisine (closely followed by Italian) – the flavours, spices, key ingredients, ways of serving – plus of course, the culture and aesthetics surrounding it. It wasn’t until I met James 7 years ago that I got into it (he’s a Mexican food KING) and fell in love there and then.

Wahaca has been a staple spot in Manchester’s revived Corn Exchange for a number of years now, the first restaurant in the north of England serving award winning street food. From delicious tacos to burritos, salads to nachos plus many more Mexican market treats along with a cocktail bar shaking up fresh blends with a modern twist, it really does bring “a taste of Mexico in the heart of Manchester.”

I was invited down recently to try out the restaurant’s offerings from a gluten-free and veggie perspective (sounds limited doesn’t it) BUT I’m pleased to say there as plenty of choice; a separate dedicated gluten-free menu with clear notes as to what was ok to eat with just an intolerance and information on suitability for more serious allergies. This helped to avoid that awkward process of explaining that I was ok with cross contamination and it’s just I’m intolerant to wheat (although I respect any restaurant that takes this seriously; this just felt easier and more comfortable).

My friend Vicki and I ordered a selection of dishes from the Nibbles & Sides and Street Food sections of the menu, although we could have easily just ordered Bigger Food; it all sounded amazing. Veggie nachos arrived fresh and crisp with generous toppings, simple but really well done – a great sharing option. Chargrilled tenderstem broccoli with lime juice, ajillo dressing and marinated red cabbage was an interesting and tasty way of jazzing up veggies for a light side to partner with heavier dishes.

Crispy fried chunks of sweet potato tossed in smoky caramelised garlic mojo de ajo is a must for any sweet potato lover; cooked to perfection being soft on the inside and crispy on the outside with just enough sweetness for the caramelising to not overpower. What might sound like a not very exciting side, the Green salad was delicious and a quietly unsung delight, a mixture of crisp leaves, soft avocado, crunchy corn and beans with pumpkin seeds and a dressing packed full of flavour.

Although we both weren’t the biggest fan of the Cactus & courgette tacos (a little mushy for our liking), the Plantain tacos with hibiscus and feta were an absolute winner: subtly sweet and smoky plantain with salty, creamy feta was just the divine. I’d love to know where Wahaca get their gluten-free corn tacos from because they are super soft, don’t fall about or clog your mouth up and hold the filling perfectly; if I find out I think I’d be eating them every day, all day long.

Full up from our feast, that didn’t mean we said no to dessert (although we shared one – neither of us could manage much more!). Perhaps if we had more room, Salted caramel & vanilla or Black coconut ice cream with hot chocolate sauce would have totally floated our boat but in this instance, the Raspberry sorbet & vanilla with hibiscus syrup hit the spot. Sweet and light enough to satisfy a sweet craving, it wasn’t too heavy or filling – even served with a gluten-free cinnamon-coated corn crisp. A nice touch.

I must say, Vicki and I were impressed with the quality and choice of food, friendly and swift service and just an overall lovely lunchtime visit. We’ve both been before many times and we’ll both definitely be back again soon! Thanks for having us [all food and drinks gifted, views are my own].