When a new place opens and is immediately subject to a norovirus scare, you have to feel a good bit of sympathy for them as there’s nothing like a spot of disease to derail brand momentum. When this happened across a number of their outlets last year, including the newly opened Edinburgh branch, the folks at Wahaca picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and got on with things with admirable spirit.
This was my first visit to their Edinburgh site on South St Andrew Street, although MJ and I had visited their branch on the south bank of the Thames with our friend Hannah a few years back. I don’t remember much about the food from that visit other than that we had some, so I was interested to see whether this branch left a more lasting impact.
The interior had an airport lounge feel to it. It is like everywhere and nowhere, similar to the “international waters” sense you get when dining at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Once I was in my seat I was warmly welcomed to my table by Helvetico, my waiter for the day. He wrote his name on the menu so I could be reminded of what it looked like upside down.
To give him his due, Helvetico couldn’t have been more accommodating and friendly. However, part of his service spiel was to point me in the direction of their quick pay app to ensure I didn’t have to engage in any more human interaction than was absolutely necessary. I paid with the technology before any of the dishes I’d settled upon arrived. I felt sorry for Helvetico that our exchanges were so compromised in this way.
Once my order was placed, I sleepwalked through a parade of dreary dishes. The guacamole was pedestrian and the accompanying pork crackling hard and flavour inert. The black bean soup was characterless blitzed mush where the dominant flavour was from the corn chips suspended in the emulsion.
The pork tacos were poor. The taco cases may as well have been made of cardboard. The fact that they were on a £1 special deal did little to soften the blow.
So overall, Wahaca felt like Mexican food by numbers. I enjoyed Helvetico’s sterling attempts at good service but everything else about the experience was very moderate. I don’t need to tell you where to get great Mexican food in this city because you all go to Bodega and El Cartel in your droves. It’s just such a shame that the folks at Wahaca didn’t bother doing their research before letting this dull and spiritless offering loose on an Edinburgh restaurant going public that knows and expects better – much, much better – than what I experienced on this visit.
I ate: guacamole with pork scratchings; black bean soup; pork pibil tacos
I drank: sparkly water
I wore: grey and blue
Total bill: £15.62
Address: 16 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AU