Restaurant review: Wahaca, Corn Exchange, Manchester

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

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It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, with the dregs of summer still hanging on in the sky. We’d been invited down to Wahaca in the Corn Exchange to explore the brand new menu. We enjoyed it so much last time, we couldn’t resist a return visit!

We arrived early, but that wasn’t a problem. We received a warm welcome from the staff, including our server Lenka, and were escorted to a nice seat overlooking the rotunda. The remnants of the sunshine poured through the skylight from above, giving us the best of both worlds – which, given the Mancunian weather, is always a sensible idea.

 

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We asked for recommendations on cocktails, and I was recommended the hibiscus margarita. This was floral and fruity, without being too sweet. My partner opted for the passion fruit margarita, which had a tropical tang that was very welcome indeed.

 

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At Lenka’s suggestion, we ordered some nibbles to paw over while looking through the menu. Nevertheless, we were surprised at just how quickly the nibbles flew out of the kitchen!

We ordered the Mexico City nachos with house salsa, cheese, tomatillo, Trealy Farm chorizo and avocado dressing. Smoky, spicy and tasty – and probably sizeable enough as a main for one or a decent starter for two or three.

 

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However, it’s not like the mains took much longer than the nibbles. We ordered a few small plates, tapas-style, and these came out of the kitchen just as promptly as the nachos.

First up, we had the cactus and courgette tacos with new potato and tarragon, topped with grilled cheese. A great combination of textures, this was very creamy and unusual.

 

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For a meat dish, we opted for the flash-grilled steak tacos with chipotle salsa and grilled cheese. The steak was tender, the chipotle nice and smoky, and the cheese luxurious. We could have left the cheese off this and the last dish (it’s an add-on), but we went all in anyway.

 

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Definitely one of our favourites, the sweet potato and feta taquito was a soft-centred delight with caramelised onion, salsa and chipotle mayo in a crisp blue tortilla.

 

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Pork pibil came out of the kitchen next, and by this point, we realised we’d probably over-ordered – but it was a cheat day, so we didn’t care. This was a fabulous handful, slow-cooked with citrus and spices and served with pink pickled onions. Salty, fragrant deliciousness.

 

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Thankfully my partner was famished, and we made decent headway into the food so we could keep some space for what came next – which was a good thing, given that the food kept winging its way from the kitchen in speedy time.

The empinadas came next. They were substantial, with new potato and tomatillo salsa offsetting the smoky chorizo well. But best of all was the epic crunch from the pastry – skip these and miss out!

 

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As a side, we opted for the grilled genderstem broccoli, tossed in lime juice and ajillo dressing, and served with marinated red cabbage. This was very tender indeed, but also surprisingly flavourful.

 

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Devon crab and avocado came out next, dressed with a lightly spicy habanero mayo and served with more of those sexy pink onions. It’s like they saw us coming. I love crab, and this knocked it out the park. If you’re not a meat lover, these will more than do!

 

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For dessert, we had the chocolate and pecan brownie with salted caramel ice cream and dulce de leche. The pecan encrusted top was firm and crunchy, but the inside was soft and fluffy. The ice cream, meanwhile, slowly melted. It was a drizzly, cooling counterpoint to the warm, rich cake. We’re so glad we chose this, even after that epic main event!

 

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We paired the dessert with some well chosen tequilas. I had the Don Julio Anejo (butterscotch, honey and grapefruit notes FTW), and Stefan had a Calle 23 Reposado (light and woody, this is a great alternative to whisky) with a side of sangrita (a sort of mildly spicy tomato juice).

Finally, we had a wee sniff of the Quiquiriqui Matatlan mezcal for completion’s sake – which, with its rich smokiness, reminds of the Smoky Old Fashion but with toffee apple notes and a peppery finish. Decadence in a shot glass!

Once again, Wahaca really impressed us with the speed of their service, the welcoming atmosphere and the top notch grub. If it’s possible, we enjoyed ourselves even more this second time, with some excellent changes to the menu. This will become a firm favourite of ours going forward, I’m pleased to say.

More information

The Corn Exchange, Exchange Square, Manchester M4 3TR / 0161 413 7493

Visit wahaca.co.uk for more information.

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