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Wahaca Street Van @ South Bank

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by Ellie Ross (subscribe)
Freelance travel writer and Policy Adviser for the UK government living in Brixton. View my blog www.my-big-fat-carbon-footprint.blogspot.com for ethical and budget travel inspiration
Published March 22nd 2013
Burritos in the snow@southbank
London has a dearth of excellent Mexican restaurants. As other writers on this site have pointed out, Wahaca is London's only option to eat some authentic, Mexican chow. And luckily for us, greedy, Central American food fiends, it's a really rather excellent option.

The bottled sauces are smoky with habanero and chipotle, and tart with citrus. The tortilla chips are puffy and made with maize, just as they are in Mexico. I miss Mexico, and I miss Mexican food, so going to Wahaca feels a little like getting a nice warm hug from a mixture of homey flavours, crunchy vegetables and warm spices.

Although it has been there for a while, it's taken an entire week of me purloining tortilla chips and guacamole from the Wahaca food van just next to the National Theatre to think that, hang on a mo, this food is really still great.

I think it was Dick, from Enid Blyton's Famous Five who declared that 'all food tastes better outside'. I think Dick may have a point. Much as I love Wahaca, the waiting time for tables can be a little irksome. This isn't a complaint by any means: the signs of a great restaurant lie in snaking queues out the door and Wahaca is no exception. Hell, it's even encouraged them to open up other branches closer to my house so as far as I'm concerned this is a necessary evil I'm happy to put up with.

But the Wahaca food van is just so classy. It's perfectly located to cater for pre-theatre overspill, and they serve tacos and burritos. Head to any fast food joint in Mexico and you will get burrito and tacos. Standard. Last night before going to see the Captain of Kopenick I was so desperate for some Mexican food (probably in a futile attempt to pretend that the -4 degree Celsius temperate wasn't really happening) that I would have eaten outside if I couldn't get a seat in the restaurant. And luckily, the cantina food van was there, so that's exactly what I did.

I selected my Winter Vegetable tacos, which got me two tacos served in the traditional Mexican way (More than just one maize taco so it doesn't just disintegrate - this was a really helpful lesson I learnt in Mexico. Restaurants offered tacos in quantity of how many you wanted. I often found that one was plenty - and cost about 20p- and the amount of stuff they scooped on, plus with the extra maize tacos underneath, there was plenty enough to make it look like you had three). On top of the smoky, tender winter vegetables were layered black beans, salad, pickled pink cabbage, and then a choice of sauces.

Mild, Medium, Hot or Extra Hot?"

Hot, with some Extra Hot" I replied.

It really is very hot." I noticed that she hadn't queried my boyfriend's attempt at ordering Extra Hot. Do women have more feeble taste buds or are men just sillier when it comes to spice?

Guacamole? 50p extra?"

"Yes." I would have paid ten pounds extra for guacamole, especially if I was going to have to sit outside to eat this. I paid up, 6 with the added guac, and took a seat on the metal bench and leant on the metal table.

It had started to rain, but I was too busy trying to keep my hands circulated enough to unwrap my tacos. The situation was incredible: the best view in the word, the prime restaurant location, yet with no service charge, and eating out of a van. Wonderful.

We ate quickly because the rain was turning to snow, Sam finishing up his soft, floury burrito, and me my soft winter vegetables encased in layers of Maize.

Absolutely gorgeous, and a great way to start a fun evening at the theatre. I imagine it will be even better when the snow stops, and the evenings start to turn balmy and mild. Roll on summer, London.
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Why? Because you might not want to queue for the restaurant
When: Evenings
Where: Southbank
Cost: 6 for a burrito
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