Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tortilla review




Tortilla
6 Market Place
W1W 9ah

This affordable chain of Mexican 'casual restaurants' (think fast food for the more discerning palate), now boasts four locations across the centre of London: Islington, Southwark, Canary Wharf and Oxford Circus. Established to tap into an obvious gap in the market ,Tortilla aims to provide fresh, authentic and delicious Californian-Mexican food minus the shots of tequila. This is food designed to attract the lunch hour crowd rather than a post-pub/club one the set-up being reminiscent of Subway, with burritos, fajitas and tacos made to order while you wait, from the selection of ingredients on show at the counter. One would be wise to look past this though, as the quality of what is on offer here soars above that of the ubiquitous 'way.

Ignore the fast food trappings and you really will be pleasantly surprised when you sink your teeth into, say, the soft innards of a carnitas (braised pork) burrito (Medium £4.70, add on 50p for each extra), packed with tender well-seasoned meat, lime-cilantro rice, zingy guacamole, soured cream and pinto beans, and all topped off with one of Tortilla's amazing salsas. The portions here are more than generous (for the ravenous or sharers a larger size can be had for £5.70), and the soft drinks are bottomless (Nando's had the right idea about that at least). it is telling that one of my only other experiences of Mexican food in London has been a visit or two to Chiquetos, and quite frankly, Tortilla kicks it to the kerb in terms of flavour and value for money. Whilst you are unlikely to come here to wile away an evening, it is the perfect alternative to some of the pizza or hamburger joints that crowd the city.
There are also options for vegetarians (beans or guacamole) and for those who wish to avoid red meat or carbs you have the choice of Pollo Asado (grilled chicken) or the Naked Burrito (everything but the tortilla in a bowl).
Staff are the usual friendly sort, but again their uniforms remind one of Nando's employees, including t-shirts with pithy slogans on the back. Sadly, the way the food is presented just adds to this deja vu; it may help to keep the tortillas hot but wrapping them up and putting them in a wire basket doesn't make for a great dining experience. Yes, for takeaway it would be fine, but for sitting down with a beer or a margerita a plate would be nice.
It's a shame that these few points of comparison could put some potential customers off. It's unlikely that I would walk into a branch of Tortilla unless I already knew how good it was. It just looks a little too chainy. Of course, these sort of compromises are the reason why Tortilla is so much cheaper than Chiquetos. However, its clear that as soon as word of mouth kicks in the formula works and the queues pile up a lunchtime.

So give your taste buds a treat and pop into Tortilla's newest branch at Oxford Circus to try the Salsa Verde, splash out on the Carne Asada (grilled steak) or sample the crisp fresh- -as- a- daisy tortilla chips. Buen provecho!

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