I’ve found myself craving the street food at Wahaca recently so whenever I’m in Islington I head for the Upper Street branch. I’ve written about this Mexican Restaurant before when I reviewed their breakfast menu. With the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday on 1st and 2nd of November, I thought it was timely to tell you more about this eatery. It’s a great place to explore modern Mexican cuisine by trying their super tasty small plates. If you’re looking for Mexican food in London or a restaurant in Islington read on for a fiesta of fabulous food at Wahaca!
The Day of the Dead Mexican holiday is a time to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away and help support their spiritual journey. The restaurant is hosting a festival on 7 November at The Tobacco Docks in London. This event aims to bring modern Mexico to life through food, art, music and more entertainment with some of the proceeds going to a Mexican related charity. To find out more about the event, charity and to order tickets go to their website which you’ll find at the bottom of this article.
Wahaca Street Food Menu
If you haven’t eaten at one of these restaurants, let me give you a quick overview. The business was set up by Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and business partner Mark Selby. The emphasis is on Mexican market food which brings the vibrancy, freshness and flavours of this amazing country to life. With tasty ingredients ranging from plantains to sweet potatoes and feta cheese paired with jalapenos, black beans and cactus it’s a tantalising mix which is very pleasing for your taste buds. I’m just loving the street food menu at the moment which is small plates designed for sharing. They recommend ordering about two or three of these dishes per person. It’s just like Mexican tapas so it’s great to dine with a friend or your lover. Being a vegetarian I’ve tried a number of their veggie options which are plentiful and so darn tasty.
Cactus and Corn Tacos with Coleslaw Side
I’ll start off with the mini tacos which are toasted soft corn tortillas with an assortment of fillings. You get three mini tacos served on a metal stand so they are easy to pick up. I’ve tried the Cactus and Corn which were very cute and extremely delicious. These are filled with sautéed cactus, courgettes and tomatoes, sprinkled with summer herbs and scattered with corn and crumbly feta cheese. I’ve also tried the Plantain which comes with frijoles (black beans), some feta and hot chipotle adobe for a kick. Other fillings include slow cooked pork in a Yucatecan marinade and fiery pink pickled onions. The chicken is paired with sweet onions, smoky chipotle and tomatoes. Or you can go for the Steak with chipotle salsa and tomatillo guacamole.
You get two Taquitos per serving which are corn tortillas filled, rolled and then fried into crispy cigar shapes so they are quite crunchy. Over the top you’ll find shredded salad and some salsa. I’ve eaten the sweet potato and feta version which was amazing. The outer is blue corn, which is the crunchy bit, while inside is roasted sweet potato, feta and caramelised onion with crema, salsa fresca and chipotle mayo, yummy! The other option is poached chicken seasoned with lime and black pepper along with Lancashire cheese plus smoky chipotle salsa. I love the way they include an English cheese with Mexican flavours, it’s a great combination.
Sweet Potato and Feta Taquitos
Tostadas are crispy corn tortillas which come topped with ingredients and you get two per serving. I’ve eaten the black bean version which includes creamy frijoles, a green sauce along with a corn and black bean salsa. The other alternatives are salmon sashimi, chicken or crab with avocado.
Black Bean Tostadas
Quesadillas are toasted tortillas sandwiched together with melted cheese and additional ingredients, you get two pieces. I’ve tried the pinto bean and cheese plus the chilli versions before which are both great. If you like it spicy go for the chilli which has sautéed onions, jalapeno and habanero chillies and feta. Or you can try the chipotle chicken or chorizo with butternut squash versions instead. One of my favourite small plates is the Pea and Mint Empanada which is in the Market Treats section of the menu. You get two crispy pastry parcels with minted peas, crushed new potatoes and feta which are so delightful.
Pea and Mint Empanada
I usually order the Sonora salad which is just so fresh and fabulous and a meal in itself so is very filling. It comes in a really large bowl made out of a giant crispy tortilla which you can eat. It is best to tuck into this while still crispy otherwise the bottom might get a bit soggy! Inside you’ll find it piled high with cos lettuce, quinoa, beans, avocado and pumpkin seeds. This is quite large but is a nice accompaniment to the street food small plates. You can also add some sides which include corn on the cob, spicy slaw, black beans and more.
Aside from the street food small plates you can also order burritos (chicken, pork, steak, cheese or corn with cactus). Or perhaps go for the grilled chicken, steak or fish. They also have a number of classics like fish tacos. Desserts include chocolate churros (my favourite), ice cream and sorbet. Try the Horchata drink while you are there. It is actually quite difficult to come by in this country but you find it everywhere in Mexico and we often drink it in Chicago. It’s almond and rice milk with cinnamon which has such a distinct taste that’s not to everyone’s liking. Alternatively, they have plenty of freshly squeezed juices, mocktails, cocktails and Mexican beers to try.
Wahaca Upper Street Islington Interiors
There are quite a few branches of this Mexican restaurant in London now. I tend to head for the one at Upper Street because that’s the nearest. They have a few tables out in front so if you want to people watch, this is a great place to sit. Inside near the entrance there is a fuss-ball table and a few high tables with stalls.
In the main dining space you’ll see the bar counter and kitchen area. There is a mix of table and chair configurations along with comfy brown leather padded seating. You’ll find another level up a couple of steps which is at the front of the space. The decoration is light industrial with green foliage to brighten up the space. Overall it’s a pleasant place to hang out with a group of friends and is ideal for a bite to eat before going to the Vue cinema which is just around the corner.
Wahaca Upper Street Islington Information
Cuisine: Modern Mexican market food, street food small plates and burritos
Price: Street food small plates are around £3.75-5.25 and sides are £2.30-3.95
Address: I visited the Islington branch at 68-69 Upper Street, London N1 0NY but there are plenty of other locations in London plus Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester
Near: Angel and Highbury and Islington
Open: Islington branch is open Monday to Saturday 12pm-11pm and Sunday 12pm-10.30pm
Décor: Light industrial
Seating: Few seats on the street, additional seating spread over two ground floor levels it is quite a large space
Toilets: Yes, towards the back
Reservations: No need to book
Service Charge: For parties of five and more it is 12.5%
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Homeboy and Richie for dining with me.