Archive for June, 2011

Daddy Donkey. Mission: Burrito

Since I started this burrito blog all those years* ago, I have noticed a common theme emerging. And that theme is. ‘GO TO DADDY DONKEY. GO ON, GO TO DADDY DONKEY. IT’S THE BEST ONE. GO ON. DADDDDYYYY DONKEEEEY!’ So many people have recommended it (namely @MarinaMetro, @Lady_Lucan, @JimFam a girl in my office and around 65,436 food websites), I couldn’t leave it off my list.

The main problem is that Daddy Donkey’s opening hours are 7.30am-4pm on weekdays. I work just off Carnaby Street (please do not stalk me. Thank you.), and Daddy Donkey** is near Chancery Lane. Of course, I would be fully prepared to forgo a lie-in for the sake of my burrito mission.

But before 11am they only serve breakfast burritos (a situation universally known as The McDonalds Conundrum), and I couldn’t make a mockery of my own rules, which say each burrito needs to contain chicken for a fair comparison. Even if you squint, scrambled egg and sausage are impressively dissimilar to chicken.

I would have to either book a day off just to buy a burrito, which would be quite embarrassing when filling in my holiday form. Or, I’d have to fit a trip in inside my lunch hour. Could it be done? There was only one way to find out…

12.32pm: In-depth research (Twitter) has told me that the queue at Daddy Donkey’s blue-and-red liveried truck is usually about 25 minutes long (‘worth every second!’ @JonathanMathias parps enthusiastically). If I can get there early and whittle that down to about 20 minutes, it’ll give me 40 minutes’ travelling time. If I do that not-quite-running walk I do when I’m late for work but don’t want to look too unsexy, I might just make it. I glance at my computer’s clock. It is 12.32pm precisely.

12.46pm: Having nimbly hop-scotched my way around the tourists of Carnaby Street – who traditionally move at the same speed as an elderly man with an arthritic hip who is playing a game of statues in very heavy shoes – I emerge, blinking, from Chancery Lane tube, before heading to Leather Lane. Not-quite-running down the street, I spot a flash of blue and red…

12.53pm: I’m in the queue! If I can get to the front in 18 minutes, I should be back at my desk at PRECISELY 1.32pm. I bloody WIN at getting to places on time! I bask in the admiring glances of passers-by. ‘That’s a long queue,’ they are probably thinking. ‘She must really know her stuff, grub-wise.’ My mind wanders. I start to wonder if they do a donkey burrito.

1.02pm: DISASTER. I’ve reached the front of the queue in double-quick time. But Daddy and his Donkey have run out of chicken. It will take four minutes to finish cooking a new batch. A bead of sweat creeps apologetically down my forehead. I could go for pork. But that would be all wrong. People would revolt if I bend the rules! I may as well have had scrambled egg! I decide to risk it. ‘I’ll wait,’ I say imperiously, stepping aside for the chicken-shunning masses to place their orders.

1.06pm: The chicken is ready. My burrito is being made. It will cost me £5.50, and I also order a can of Diet Coke for just 60p. I look longingly at the Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette. It looks lovely, but is 50p extra, and would go against the spirit of my mission. A huge pile of crispy-looking chicken is heaped onto my tortilla. Daddy, I think I love you.

1.07pm: Luckily, there are no tables outside the van. I would have been sad to have to eat my burrito walking back to the tube if I hadn’t had to. But I would have had to, so it’s fine. Unwrapping the foil, my lips quiver. And suddenly, it’s happening. It’s really happening. I’M EATING A DADDY DONKEY BURRITO.

1.08pm: It’s okay.

1.09pm: Only kidding! It’s really nice. The crispy chicken has tons of flavour and is nicely juicy, and there is a LOT of it. It’s very different to the chicken I’ve had anywhere else. There’s not quite enough hot sauce for my liking, but what’s there is lovely. There’s a generous amount of cheese, and not too much sour cream to overpower it, and the filling is very well distributed all the way through. It’s a shame I’m having to eat it on the hoof, but that’s probably really authentic and street foody and awesome, maybe.

A burrito in transit, yesterday

1.13pm: Clutching the remains of my burrito, I head down to the tube. If all goes well, I might just about make it…I’m feeling too full to not-quite-run, but I do walk down the escalator. This is incredibly dangerous, as my rail-holding hand is clutching a burrito corpse. I’m feeling a lot like Ethan Hunt right now.

1.32pm: Panting and waddling, I arrive back at my desk. I look at the clock. 1.32pm exactly. I am so excited, I start hopping up and down, pointing at my screen and shouting, ‘One thirty-two pm! ONE THIRTY-TWO PM!!’ like Doc Brown getting over-enthused about the 1.6 Gigawatts needed to power the DeLorean***. My colleagues look bemused and tell me I smell of burritos. But I don’t care. I won.

Here is a picture of the clock. It took me a minute to minimise the highly sensitive documents on my desktop, and I didn’t take a ‘before’ photo either, rendering it entirely redundant

*Three weeks.

** My friend recently remarked, ‘What’s that burrito place you went to called? No Daddy Don’t?’ which is so funny I’m tempted to give it extra points.

**If you don’t understand what this means, we can never be friends. ADDENDUM: @Dookie3000 has pointed out, with rightful indignation, that this should be 1.21 gigawatts. I’d like to pretend this was merely a test, but lies make Baby Jesus cry. I’ve unfriended myself on Facebook, and am wearing a hair-shirt.

Mood before: Duh-duh der-ner, duh-duh DER-ner.

Mood after: WHO’S THE DADDY?

Rating: Food: 8/10 Ambience: 5/10 Staff: 8/10 Value: 9/10

Where: 100 Leather Lane, City of London, EC1N 7TE, weekdays only

Closest tube: Chancery Lane. You were paying attention, right?

Web: Find them here / @DaddyDonkey

Recommended?: Ee-AWWW! (Yes)

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Mas Burritos

The morning I went to Mas Burritos, I absolutely, definitely was NOT going to have a burrito. I’d been to Tortilla just the day before, where I’d gorged on my fifth burrito in eight days. Six in nine days would be ridiculously greedy.

A few hours of writing about ladies’ things for Cosmo later, I decided I deserved a treat. You know, because I’m worth it. But what could I treat myself to? I didn’t have the money for shoes. I am morally opposed to cupcakes. And I don’t like massages. What I needed was something that cost around £6-£7, wasn’t seven different pastel shades, and definitely didn’t involve me taking all my clothes off and being rubbed by a stranger. What on earth could I do?

Mas Burritos is easy to find, boasting a bright-yellow sign that told me this was definitely the kind of place that would shout ‘ARRRRRIBA!’ at me when I walked through the door, without a hipster lamp fashioned from beer bottles in sight. I went to the Covent Garden branch, not yet realising there was a Soho branch closer to my offices. That disappointment, like so many others, was yet to come.

ARRRRIBA!

Sure enough, it had tablecloths decorated with oranges, and a little tin foil model of a Mexican man playing a Mexican guitar in a Mexican hat. So far, so good.

Do Not Chew

I ordered the usual chicken – tinga this time, cooked in chipotle adobe marinade – noting that the black beans were almost sinister in their blackness, like a bucket of beetles with the legs pulled off. I also noticed, with some unease, that the cheese they used wasn’t cheddar, as usual, but a combination of cheddar and Red Leicester.

As any of you who have ever eaten a packed lunch at a British comprehensive will know,* there are two types of kids: those who eat orange cheese and those who eat normal cheese. It’s a fierce divide, each side viewing the other with mortal mistrust, like the Sharks and the Jets, but less stabby and more cheesy.

I always viewed Orange Cheese Kids with suspicion, especially as their sandwiches were usually made with brown bread. Madness. Despite the realisation that Mas Burritos is ruled by a not-to-be-trusted Orange Cheese Kid, I persevered, adding some pineapple and sweetcorn salsa. After trying it with great success at The Flying Burrito, I was filled with hope.

Unfortunately, said hope was wildly misplaced, as instead of small hits of sweetness lifting my burrito into the sublime every other bite, I was faced with hulking great chunks of pineapple which tasted like they’d been fished out of a can last week and stopped pretty much any other flavour coming through.

The bit of the burrito that had escaped Captain Pineapple’s evil clutches was weirdly tasteless. It just kind of sat there in my mouth, going ‘meh,’ like a sulky teenager. After I’d gone, it probably moped in a darkened room, listening to Mumford and Sons and refusing to tidy its room. It wasn’t awful, and would have been fairly inoffensive without the pineapple. But for £5.85, I’d expect something a bit more exciting.

"Why did you even HAVE me? I HATE you!"

I hadn’t bothered ordering a drink (a really bad idea: if any meal needs a drink to go with it, it’s one primarily comprising bread, dry meat and hot sauce), and as if in divine retribution, the door of the drinks cabinet hit the back of my chair every time someone opened it. I could have moved, but I seemed to have caught a debilitating dose of ennui from my burrito, and couldn’t be bothered.

On the plus side, you can get another moribund burrito for half price if you return to Mas Burritos the next day clutching your receipt. It also boasts three different types of Cholula sauce: Chili Garlic and Chipotle, on top of the usual Original. I tried them all in rotation throughout my meal in order to give you the DEFINITIVE review. In the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, I have awarded them medals:

GOLD: Original

SILVER: Chipotle

BRONZE: Chili Garlic

There. Now you don’t have to fret about missing out on tickets to the ping-pong.

*Private school kids eat quinoa wrapped in lettuce leaves and spinach jus tartlets and stuff rather than cheese sandwiches.

Mood before: Burrito number six? I’M COMING TO GET YOU!

Mood after: *Shrugs. Wears fringe too long* 

Rating: Food 5/10, Ambience 6/10, Staff 7/10, Value 6/10

Where: Chancery Lane, Covent Garden, Tower Hill, Monday-Friday

Closest tube: Ummm…Chancery Lane, Covent Garden and Tower Hill?

Web: Find them here / @MasBurritos (They’ve only tweeted twice, don’t get excited)

Recommended?: Not bovvered

Tortilla

Having ventured all the way to the other side of Oxford Street to visit El Burrito, I felt I’d done my bit for the exploring community. I was like a modern-day Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, or Paddington Bear.

Exhausted by my impressive exertions, I decided to stick closer to home for the next burrito. Both @sophierobehmed and @hyperbolicgoat had recommended Tortilla, and after some top-level investigating that would make the late Columbo proud (Google), I discovered there was a branch down my end of Oxford Street, on Market Place. Phew.

Inside, the restaurant has gone for the same, ‘Oooh look, we’ve made a chandelier out of BEER BOTTLES,’ hipster-type vibe that they’re so keen on in Shoreditch. Personally, I prefer the cheesy, faux-Mexican pictures-of-cacti-type décor that screams ‘ARRRRIBA!’ at you when you walk in the door, but it was pleasant enough. They were playing modern poppity-hop music, which was fine.

A light drinker? *Chortles*

For the first time, I was faced with a choice of a medium (£4.95) or large (£5.95) burrito. Which is ostensibly Tortilla catering for the smaller appetite, but is in fact obliquely passive-aggressive. Of course I want large burrito. But I am a lady, which means I have to ask for medium in order to appear dainty, then feel cheated for the rest of the night. Sneaky Tortilla!

Their chicken is barn-reared, then marinated in a ‘mellow adobo,’ which sounds more like a hippy retreat than a sauce. As well as the usual lime and coriander rice, they offer Mexican rice, too. I don’t know what makes it Mexican. But it’s red. So, tomatoes, probably. They’re red, aren’t they?

I was briefly horrified when the person behind the counter put my chilled Diet Coke (£1.10) in the same basket as my hot burrito, but decided, in the spirit of international relations, to overlook it.

The only free table was draped in coats and luggage, so I stood next to it and coughed politely in a way that I hoped said, ‘Would you be so kind as to remove your bags before I go a bit Falling Down, dear chap?’ As a nearby group of tourists moved their things for me, I realised they were American, so I gave them a knowing smile and waggled my eyebrows.

‘I have been to New York,’ my smile said, mysteriously. ‘I, too, am wise in the Way of the Burrito,’ my eyebrows added. At least that’s what they were meant to say. The tourists probably ran home and told all their friends, ‘Damn, those Brit chicks are freaky, dude.’ (This is how people talk in America. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been there. Yeah, I have).

Anyway, back to the burrito. After tracking down a bottle of Cholula sauce, I was able to employ my favoured drizzle-chomp-drizzle-chomp style of consumption. And very nice it was, too. Great balance of ingredients, very tasty chicken, lots of flavour. The hot sauce had real bite, but even without it there was plenty of heat, and for a medium it was pretty hefty. And the black beans weren’t too dry or too sloppy, but just right.

Hot stuff, coming through! *Sniggers*

At the end, I encountered a horrible gristly bit I had to spit out, which made me regard the rest of my burrito with wary suspicion. I silently thanked the Burrito Gods that I’d picked the right end to start at, otherwise I would have spent most of the meal waiting for a nasty surprise. Gristle Bomb Russian Burrito Roulette isnt my favourite game, to be honest, being more of a Scrabble kinda girl. Despite that one hiccup, it was one of the better burritos I’ve encountered so far.

A medium burrito, yesterday

Sadly, outside it was raining, making Oxford Street damper than an El Burrito chicken mole mess. I left Tortilla behind with a soon-to-be-soggy sigh, and a small gap in my stomach which made me yearn for simpler times, when only large burritos roamed the earth.

Mood before: Soggy and cold and hungry 

Mood after: Quietly satisfied. And soggy and cold. 

Rating: Food 7/10, Ambience 6/10, Staff 7/10, Value 7/10

Where: Islington, Southwark, Oxford Circus, Canary Wharf, Leadenhall Market and Hammersmith, seven days a week

Closest tube: Depends. You do the math.

Web: Find them here / @tortillauk

Recommended?: Yes. But make it a large one.

The Flying Burrito

The day I headed for The Flying Burrito, less than 24 hours after my previous burrito ‘experience’, I had the day off with a strapping young man. I mention this because I was already in a pretty good mood before I even got there. I hadn’t just given £2 to a Big Issue seller then gone to buy my delicious burrito only to find that the card machines weren’t working and that I was £2 short in cash.

No, I approached The Flying Burrito like Maria Von Trapp, except I wasn’t wearing curtains and hanging out of a tree. The restaurant is located in East London near Petticoat Lane, on Middlesex Street, here:

A map to the golden treasure! (A burrito)

The outside of the shop is quite cute, especially in the context of the drab surroundings of the East End – nice colours, a touch of blue, a hint of holidays about it, all that stuff. Inside, the staff were being slowly tortured by Buena Vista Social Club on a loop, which was probably a bit awful for them, but was nice for me and Mr Strapping.

We were the only people there, apart from a woman from some nearby offices (presumably) with a long order scribbled on a scrap of paper. But we’d arrived at 11am, because that’s the kind of thing you do when you have a day off, so fair enough.

I ordered the Chicken Pibil burrito, which the website describes thus:

“Think sub tropical paradise chicken. Marinated overnight in citrus juices and achiote paste, grilled to add a fiery authenticity then baked in banana leaves because we’re mad.”

In retrospect, I’m really not sure about the, ‘I’m mad, me!’ tone of this description, and the lack of hyphen between ‘sub’ and ‘tropical’ is annoying to a grammar pedant like me*, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway.

To my standard burrito, I decided to add the pineapple and sweetcorn salsa. It sounded weird, but other people have said nice things about it on other blogs, and try as I might I simply am not a renegade. I passed on the cactus leaf salsa because I hadn’t heard anything nice about it – and as I said, I have renegade issues. All this came to just £5.70, which seemed reasonable. Even better, the burrito was delicious.

It was fat and juicy. The table had Cholula original chilli sauce on it (the one you see lots of places, with the round wooden top), which I drizzled on each layer as I bit into it. The pineapple and sweetcorn salsa was, as promised by many reviewers before me, genius – it added a surprising sweet juiciness to alternate bites which made it stand out from the crowd.

A bloody nice burrito, yesterday

As a whole, the burrito had a good balance of ingredients, and was far from stingy. Captain StrappingFace had the same as me, but with a bit of everything, which made his burrito almost as big as him, caused the ingredients to squirt out a bit (not in a bad way), and forced the friendly man wrapping it up to use TWO pieces of tin foil. That’s generosity right there.

It was definitely the best burrito so far, and worth a trip if you’re in the area.

Mmm.

*Now I look at this again, I’m starting to wonder if there should be a hyphen between ‘tropical’ and ‘paradise’ as well. Or instead. My head hurts, and I might go for a little lie down now.

Mood before: Top of the world, looking down on creation

Mood after: If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

Rating:
Food: 8/10
Ambience: 8/10
Staff: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Where: 18 Blomfield Street, EC2M 7AJ and 62 Middlesex Street, E1 7EZ, weekdays only

Closest tube: Liverpool Street, Aldgate

Web: Find them here  / @flyingburritos

Recommended: Hell, yeah.

El Burrito

Two days after going to Chipotle, I was due for a contact-lens check-up on Tottenham Court Road. I’m nothing if not timid, so I focussed my early burrito-finding efforts close to home.  But this was a great opportunity to try some burrito joints on the other end of Oxford Street. “Goodness,” I thought. “What a great opportunity to try some burrito joints on the other end of Oxford Street.”

Googling ‘Burrito, Tottenham Court Road’ bought El Burrito to my attention, along with Benito’s Hat*, but the less said about that the better.

Heading to a restaurant so small the woman who lived in a shoe would have been disappointed, I decided to go off-piste and order chicken mole instead of the usual grilled chicken. I was tempted by the description of mole sauce, which boasted ‘23 ingredients, including chocolate.’ Oh, foolish blogger.

As the lovely woman behind the counter spooned brown goop into a tortilla, I started to get scared. I added jalapenos and chipotle sauce to my usual order in a vain, panic-sweat-soaked attempt to make everything alright. But when it was served without foil in a polystyrene box, I knew all was lost.

I headed to a table at the back of the restaurant, which was not very pretty. Biting into my burrito, my first thought was, ‘hmm.’ Then, ‘umm…’ Then, ‘urgh!’ In short, chicken mole isn’t very nice. And it tastes of chocolate! They could have warned me. Plus it looked a bit like…well, you know what it looks like. Look.

A burrito only a mother could love, yesterday.

This was going to be my Mount Everest of burritos, one that would defeat me before I could defeat it. It was a big sloppy mess filled with conflicting flavours. But in the interest of fairness, I pulled it apart before throwing it in the bin, to see where I went wrong. Nibbling various bits told me the rice and beans were fine – it was the chicken that was the culprit. Maybe mole is always horrible. Or maybe only El Burrito’s mole is horrible. Who knows.

I couldn’t remember how much I’d paid for it, so I called the restaurant, feeling a bit guilty that instead of phoning for a nice chat, they were unwittingly facilitating the publication of a damning, if thinly-read, blog post. I discovered that ‘mole’ is pronounced ‘mow-lay,’ which I’d been getting right all along –hooray! – and that my burrito cost £5.50.

If enough people tell me El Burrito is actually great if you don’t choose choco-chicken, I might go back. If not, this is definitely one place I won’t be going back to. Even if I do need another eye test.

 *Benito’s Hat now instantly makes me think of these books, featuring Roger Red Hat, Billy Blue Hat and Jennifer Yellow Hat. Can’t think why.

Mood before: Very hungry

Mood after: Still pretty hungry

Rating: Food 4/10, Ambience 5/10, Staff 7/10, Value: 5/10

Where: 5 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia. Open Monday-Saturday.

Closest Tube: Goodge Street

Web: Here / Not on Twitter

Recommended?: Not really. Arguments to the contrary welcome.

Eye test: I had to go up from 3.25 to 3.75 in my left eye. Annoying.

Chipotle (UK)

After the terrible disappointment of Benito’s Hat, I was missing the juicy tang of a New York Chipotle burrito even more than before. So I decided to head to the only branch of Chipotle in the UK, which is on Charing Cross Road.

It’s only a short walk from Soho, but I didn’t trip there happily, my little heart bursting with excitement, as you might imagine. Despite it being recommended by @DeenaTracey, @AnnaRoll and @Sarcastathon, I had heard dark rumours that Chipotle had come to London, seen that some pubs can get away with selling lager at £4.50 a pint, then rubbed its hands with glee and ramped up the prices. If this was true, I would cry bitter, sour cream tears.

I also hit a slight obstacle to the whole ‘tripping’ thing when I gave £2 to a Big Issue-selling cat, then arrived at Chipotle to be faced with laminated signs telling me their card machines were broken. Laminated meant they weren’t just a bit broken, they were really broken. And I was now precisely £2 short in cash to pay for a burrito. You couldn’t make it up.

A cat selling the big issue. Pic by @Broke2amillion

I had to retrace my steps, shaking my fist at the stupid, smug Big Issue-selling cat along the way, to get some more cash out. Once I finally made it into the cavernous interior of Chipotle I was pleased to find it was identical to the one I went to in New York – brown-hued, with walls covered in chirpy messages about how happy the animals were on Chipotle’s chosen farms before they got wrapped in a tortilla.

Unfortunately, the burritos weren‘t quite so familar. I chose the usual: chicken (‘Higher Welfare, marinated in our chipotle adobe, then grilled’) with black beans, medium salsa, cheese, sour cream and lettuce. I added lettuce because compared to their US brosephs, these burritos lacked heft. Although they did still come in a pretty red plastic basket.

With a bottle of water, the bill came to £8, which made me tut theatrically, as if to say, ‘I know your game. I HAVE BEEN TO NEW YORK.’ There, a burrito a third bigger, with a diet cola, was around $8.85 – under £5.50. Even allowing for the fact that you have to sell your mother just to get on a bus and stand in a puddle of sick for ten minutes in London, that’s quite a hike.

If it hadn’t been so pricey this wouldn’t have been a terrible burrito – it was a bit heavy on the sour cream, which dominated the other flavours, but the chicken was quite good, and they do provide mild jalapeno sauce on the tables, which I like. It was all just a bit too tangy, rather than spicy for me, and when compared to a far superior burrito it should taste the same as and be a similar price to, it was lacking.

A slightly dull burrito, yesterday

The actual restaurant is pretty soulless, even if it is authentic – high stools and metal tables that are not particularly redolent of siestas and sombreros. So I finished quickly and left: unsurprised, but still a bit disappointed.

Mood before: Expectations firmly held in check

Mood after: Disappointed and light of pocket

Rating: Food: 6/10, Ambience: 6/10, Staff: 6/10, Value: 5/10

Where: 114-116 Charing Cross Road, seven days a week

Web: Find them here / @ChipotleTweets (US feed)

Closest tube: Tottenham Court Road

Recommended?: Could Do Better

Benito’s Hat

After my exciting New York adventure (which I blogged about, very briefly, for Cosmo, here) I lasted four days before getting an itch which is now as familiar to me as Marilyn’s seven-year one.

I needed a burrito. A warm and glinting foil package, as plump and heavy as a soft-folded lover, gently urging me to peel off a crisp strip of silver, press my lips to the yielding, fleshy dough and fill my mouth with a steaming chunk of deliciousness, as welcoming as a homecoming queen.

Unngggg.

Sadly, I decided to go to Benito’s Hat.

For those of you gasping in horror, don’t worry: I intend to go back. I’ve had so many people telling me that it’s great, that I can’t possibly have not enjoyed it, that saying it wasn’t THE MOST AMAZING THING I HAVE PUT IN MY MOUTH, LIKE, EVER is like slagging off their mums, I’m going to give it another go. And those people include @MarinaMetro, @BurritoClub, @MrMcbear and @aclarke_cooking. You just don’t mess with that kind of recommendation.

But for now, all I have to go on is the disappointment of my visit to the branch on Great Castle Street. For the record, I have been to Benito’s Hat before, and I know I enjoyed it. But that was back in the days when a burrito was just some meat and stuff in a bit of bread. Oh, heady, innocent days.

I skipped there happily, excited about having a burrito after five days in the burrito wilderness. I ordered the usual – chicken, black beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and medium salsa – as there weren’t any tempting extra options. Even the rice was just…rice. Where’s my lime and coriander? Hmm?

I was given my burrito on a little red tray with a handful of suspiciously yellow tortilla chips on the side. I don’t like tortilla chips, and they probably added 50p to the £6.10 price of my meal just so I could stare at their golden triangularity with hatred in my eyes while I ate.

Bearing in mind that this was the first burrito I’d eaten since I’d been to Chipotle – where their tasty fare is the size and weight of a small wildebeest – I was disproportionately horrified at the tiny amounts of rice and beans and chicken which were ladled onto my 12” wrap. And when I didn’t ask for lettuce, they just bunged in a bit more rice to make it slightly less puny.

The service was friendly, but I didn’t have high hopes for my burrito. And sure enough, it was a bit drab and flavourless and ‘meh’. It tasted mainly of rice which didn’t taste of anything. I don’t have a picture of it, as it was consumed in the days when a burrito was dinner, not a mission. But it was mainly white, browny-cream and creamy-white. And by way of compensation, here’s a photo of the outside – I even did pixellating!

Benito's Hat, and a pixellated man

As I said earlier, Benito’s Hat is well loved, especially the Goodge St branch, so I’ll be giving it a second chance. Watch this space. (Not literally. It could be ages).

Mood before: Over-expectant

Mood after: Disappointed, yet contemplative

Ratings: Food: 5/10, Ambience: 7/10, Staff: 7/10, Value: 5/10

Where: 56 Goodge St, Fitzrovia; 19 New Row, Covent Garden; 12 Great Castle Street, Oxford Circus. Open 7 days a week.

Closest tube: Goodge St, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus

Web: Find them here / @BenitosChat

Recommended?: Not yet, but give it time

UPDATE

Benito’s Hat: The Return

After the above review went up, uproar ensured. Everyone bloody loves Benito’s Hat, as if it were their very own, favourite hat, or Prince’s Raspberry Beret or something. Having got wind of my review, @BenitosChat had even got involved (I hadn’t posted the review directly to them. That would be mean), Tweeting me, ‘Sorry @Mullies. I’m really keen for you to give us another shot as we’re very proud of what we do.’ I felt terrible. I’d been mean to their baby robot. That, along with everyone glaring at me malevolently from Twitter, made me venture back.

I’d just been to the opening night of Poncho No 8, and the tantalising taste of mini burrito I’d got there had made me want more. ‘Now might be a good time to visit Benito’s Hat,’ I thought, heading for the Goodge Street branch which seems to be everyone’s favourite.

Sadly – and I really am very sorry about this – it seems there’s never a good time to go to Benito’s Hat. Despite there being only two of us in the queue, the server tried to make two burritos at once, at lightening speed, their hands a blur – fine during a busy lunchtime, but not necessary on a quiet evening. That kind of speed makes me panic.

The burrito itself was incredibly dry, and tasted really weird. I think either the sour cream or the cheese were a bit off, because it had that same feety taste to it that dairy takes on when you’re a student and cut the mould off cheddar. I couldn’t taste the chilli sauce at all – not even the tiniest tang – which was disappointing. I gave up halfway through, unable to carry on.

I wanted to love you. I really did

To be fair, although he agreed it was dry, my date couldn’t taste the offness, and he also argued that his burrito, which included lettuce and guacamole, was fine, although not spectactular. He reasoned that you should have the full monty when you go for a burrito otherwise it’s not fair – the burrista (from now on a REAL WORD) can’t demonstrate his or her powers of burrito-ness properly, like Heston Blumenthal being denied a vaccuum cleaner and dry ice.

Plus, he said, it’s only my opinion. I argued back: shut up stinky, I’ve had some really nice burritos so far, so that’s no excuse. And my opinion is awesome, so shush. He totally got served, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’m very sorry my relationship with Benito’s Hat didn’t work out. I won’t be going back there, but I hope we can be friends.