Tex-Hex

I’ll be honest from the outset, I have not always been a fan of Mexican food, or Texan flavours or Tex-Mex or whatever they’re calling it these days, but I think that I’m getting sympathy cravings as Misia goes through her pregnancy. In the past few weeks I have made no less than 3 tortilla based meals and I’m starting to get a tongue for it, where I previously didn’t even fancy peppers so much I am now using a whole bell pepper in a wok full of minced beef and Mexican spices.

On the basis of this I decided that it was time for a visit to one of the newest additions to Cardiff’s culinary scene, the chain Tex-Mex restaurant Chimichanga which opened late last year on the East-Side of the new St David’s 2 shopping centre. Sitting alongside its chainy-buddies Pizza Express, Nando’s, Yo! Sushi and Café Rouge it seems well in its place. Would it do well elsewhere in Cardiff, say for example on St Mary Street? Something tells me that it wouldn’t, but this isn’t a blog about effective urban location demographics so let’s move on.

It was 3pm on a Wednesday and the entire centre was pretty much deserted, not like at 3pm last Wednesday afternoon, at the height of the Easter half-term holidays when the entire place was filled with screaming children, when I was secretly wishing they would all throw themselves face-first down the escalators. No, the place was empty.

After hanging around for 5 minutes to be shown to a seat, despite being the only people there, bar a party of 4 who were already tucking in, we were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside, which was quite a puzzling question to be asked when you’re in a shopping centre. It turns out that there is an “outside” which is outside of what would be considered the main dining area, but of course is still inside, on the second floor of a shopping centre. A little puzzled we humoured him and said we’d sit inside, I guess it’s not quite summer yet so it might be chilly sitting outside. Inside a shopping centre.

The menu is extensive, with all the dishes you would expect from any good Tex-Mex restaurant, Tacos, Fajitas, Cajun Chicken, Chilli, Burritos and the rest. The choice looked good, now what would I choose?
The closest I suppose I have been to a Tex-Mex restaurant before would probably be Taco Bell which I sometimes stop by on my visits to the States. They do a mean 99¢ Burrito, let me tell you, they must either be making a fantastic loss on it or its all made out of ground-up horse bones because it’s packed with minced beef.

I had to try the Beef Burrito because it promises “A baked flour tortilla with jack cheese, sautéed onions and peppers garnished with sour cream, chives, guacamole and tortilla croutons”. Hell, if Taco Bell can do it right for GBP 0.75 (est) then for £10.25 this must be the mac-daddy of all Burritos. In fact it must be 13.66666666 times as good!

The chef was bored. I got a great view of his open-plan kitchen from my seat, and he was clearly not feeling the afternoon quiet spell. All alone with the shiny utensils, ovens and such he had nothing to do. I didn’t see his face light-up when he got our order, but I’m sure that it did. Finally, he could do what I can only imagine is his life’s work, to bring good Mexican food to the malnourished British public.

No less than 5 minutes after placing our order the plates were at the table, piping hot and waiting to be consumed. This chef is a wizard! Making a perfectly wrapped Burrito, garnished with hot beef chilli, nachos and salad and my dining partners “Grande Chicken Quesadilla” all by himself in 4.5 minutes flat? Wow.

Sarcasm aside for one second, we’re talking pre-made, pre-plated microwave job here aren’t we?
Seriously, if I wanted that I would have gone to Wetherspoons, where I could probably have had it for £3.99 or less.

What can I say? I noticed the quick turnaround time, attributed it to a microwave job and this immediately knocked 5 points off their possible 10 point review. It could only go down-hill from here.
The side garnish nachos were slightly soggy, something that is not good for any corn based snack and the Burrito itself was almost completely devoid of any flavour. It wasn’t wet, it wasn’t dry, it wasn’t spicy, it wasn’t mild, in fact, were there any spices in there at all? Nothing on the plate did anything to excite the taste buds at all, something that Tex-Mex is supposed to do with its fusion of spices from both North and South of the border. It’s supposed to reach up and bite you, but in a good way.
We were offered desserts but declined, dessert is never good in restaurants anyway.

But wait! There was one good thing. I ordered a beer with my meal, a San Miguel (from the choice of that, Brahama (which is Brazillian?!) or Corona) and the mug that was presented to me to pour it into had been kept in the freezer, a trick which always gets points in my book. There is nothing worse than pouring your cold bottle of beer into a warm pint glass.

Bill: £24.50 + tip.
Verdict: Go for the cold beer glasses and the amazing Tasmanian devil chef. The food? Old El Paso could have done better.

8 Comments

  1. Ick! There is no excuse for that kind of food. Fast food (or worse) quality at sit-down restaurant prices. I hope you’ll email them a copy of your review.

    Congrats on being a daddy by the way. :)

  2. What always baffles me is that these places clearly don’t care how obvious it is that they’re just chucking their food in the microwave.

    I ate at the Claude in Roath once and — I’m not exaggerating at all here — I hadn’t even made it back to my table after ordering at the bar before the waiter was there with my food.

    I suppose you’d expect that kind of quality at the prices they charge. But at £10.25, I don’t think there’s any excuse.

  3. There is a big difference between that sort of crap and mexican food, you should try a real mexican restaurant (not sure if there are any in cardiff though) or get a mexican to cook you a meal…

    Anyrate, I have it on good advice that in the UK if the food is not worth the price they are charging, you are within your rights to pay a reduced amount. I’ve not tried this out myself, however.

  4. I’ve been to chimichangas twice and the food was really good. Not speedy quick so perhaps they were cooking fresh.
    I’ve struggled with service though, non-plussed staff and the first time knocked a glass on the table over THREE times! Once it had wine in it and it went all over the table and the floor. It’s ok though because they gave me a napkin to clean up the floor myself – how nice!
    They have good cocktails though, the one for two is huge and delicious – and the starter and mains I’ve had were really good.

  5. If you’re looking for good quality, good value mexican food in Cardiff try Daiquiris in Cathays. We’ve always been happy with the food here (giant portions), it has a certain authenticity about it that chains, or myself at home, can’t seem to replicate. Make sure you book a table and try to ignore the students!

  6. Hello Nathan

    Good write up about the food.

    Unrelated.-
    I just listened to your ad. Wow, I did not expect that voice out of you. Authoritative. I thought it would be more laid-back. That voice demanded I visit the website and I obeyed.

    Really nice job. I like the creative, ‘latest technology at your fingertips’. I’m going to tell my brother the op3 site, that is if you do business with Americans.

    Ha Keeping an eye on chem-trails. You are really in-the-know.

    Hoping business goes through the roof. If it does, watch out for those seagulls.

    Quiet Reader

Leave a Comment.