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If you’ve ever eaten authentic Tex-Mex food in Texas then you’ll know that it is surprisingly bland for the UK palate: mountains of cheese, meat and carbs with only the slightest hint of chilli; washed down with frozen margaritas. So it’s a welcome change to see that Chiquito have leant more heavily on the ‘Mex’ than the ‘Tex’ for their new menu.
The team went on a ‘fact finding trip’ to Mexico (it’s a hard life) and have taken inspiration from the local street food and found the best tequilas. A little more chilli and a little less cheese goes a long way!
Food and drink
The menu is focussed around – you guessed it – small plates. The food is actually fairly well-suited to the treatment, and there are plenty of other places to pick up a substantial burrito on the high street these days.
The highlight is a roasted cod loin taco: soft, moist and deliciously fresh. They’re decidedly moreish and surprisingly authentic. The flavour took me back to San Antonio’s famous ‘taco trucks’.
There’s also the heavier but equally delicious sweet potato and chorizo croquettes. The burrito is a mini take on the classic complete with homemade guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream.
The only disappointments were the roasted vegetable and feta empanadas – tasty enough but the promised ‘crispy’ tortilla parcel had the consistency of a pasty.
The drinks are all about tequila. There’s beers-a-plenty for the less adventurous but the tequila menu from Jose Cuervo and others is a revelation for those who think this agave spirit is all about salt licked from the back of the hand and lime wedges.
Forget the ‘slammers’ and try it with St Germaine and tonic as a refreshing aperitif, or even long with Pepsi Max. The treat of the evening was the Patron chilli-chocolate tequila – a perfect end to the evening and a great match for chocolate churros!
Look and vibe
The cantina-inspired interior teeters on the edge of theme bar. Somewhat over-the-top wooden chandeliers might look more at home on the set of a spaghetti Western. But the low light levels, warm colours, dark wood and mosaic-topped tables make for a comfortable vibe.
Grab a booth or one of the large circular tables if you’re in a group; or find an intimate corner if it’s date night. A soundtrack of Latin-American tunes completes the lively yet laid back vibe.
The location of the central London restaurant – next door to the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square – is always going to attract a mixed, tourist-heavy clientele. But if you’re suspicious, bear in mind that you can’t afford what must be astronomical rent and rates in this location unless you’re doing something very right indeed.
There are 88 branches to choose from in total, in locations including Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester.
The Chiquila Street Food menu launches nationwide on Tuesday 9 February 2016. Designed for sharing, dishes are priced at 3 for £12.95 or 6 for £23.95.
You could add a starter, side or dessert from the extensive full menu. Allow around £25 to £30 per person, plus drinks.
The bottom line
Fresh, affordable Tex-Mex that’s a cut above the rest in the centre of the West End.
Visit chiquito.co.uk for more information.