Archive for July, 2011

Poncho No 8

In the guest blog written by Gary Bainbridge I posted here yesterday, I pointed out that I’m currently a poor little church mouse who can’t afford any cheese, let alone the tortilla wrap, rice, beans and meat to go with it.

But then I had a very bad day indeed, which I spent grumping about the place like a frowny rain cloud, and decided I needed cheering up. And that, of course, means food. Yum yum yum.

Last week, I went to the opening night of the new Soho branch of Poncho No 8, after emailing them about my extremely important blog and blagging an invite (nothing to do with me working for Cosmo, I’m sure). An eager crowd of foodie liggers were served extremely promising mini burritos and delicious frozen margheritas, and I couldn’t wait to go back.

DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM? Oh, you do. Oh…I’ll just sit over here then.

The interior is modern and minimalist, and although I favour the fake-cactus-and-sombrero style of burrito-joint decor, there was a soothing lime-green-and-orange thing going on instead, which got my vote by reminding me of my favourite flavour of tic tacs.

Service was a bit slow, which was understandable seeing as the burrista was probably all shiny and new, although he lost points by calling the guacamole ‘guac’, which is a pet hate of mine. I know four syllables is a bit of a drag, but it’s not your Uncle Guac. 

There was a choice of red (tomato?) and lime rice, and the black beans had red chillis mixed in, which was an unusual touch I haven’t seen before.

My burrito was a little on the small side, which meant it suffered a surfeit of wrap-to-filling, but the wrap was interestingly chewy (it started off being annoyingly chewy, but once I got used to it I decided I quite liked it), so all was forgiven.

It cost £6.10, although I’m sure if I’d revealed my true identity it would have been free, and they’d have carried me upstairs to the dining area on their shoulders.

It had a few things wrong with it – too cold (probably because of the Beginner Burrista Effect, which meant it took about 5,000 years to wrap), under-spiced, and slightly dry with al dente beans that got on my nerves a bit. I also accidentally chewed a piece of tin foil, but I’m not going to blame anyone but myself for that one.

However, despite these individual flaws, the whole managed to be greater than the sum of its parts. The chicken was full of flavour and nicely crispy, the rice was fluffy and tasty, and the tables had little bowls of lime slices you could squeeze onto each bite which worked brilliantly, lifting the whole thing above the norm.

An al dente burrito, yesterday

I’d liked to have seen some bottles of hot sauce on the tables, too, but maybe I’m just going to have to start bumping up my chosen salsa to Defcon Three when it comes to ordering, because lots of the burritos I’ve reviewed so far haven’t been spicy enough for a double-hard bastard like me.

All in all, my sojurn was a successful one, although not quite successful enough to turn my really quite spectacular frown upside-down.

Mood before: WAHHHHH!

Mood after: *Burp*. WAHHHHH!

Rating: Food 7/10, Ambience 7/10, Staff 6/10 (but they’re all new, bless ’em), Value: 6/10

Where: 11 Queen’s Head Passage, St Paul’s;  5 Steward St, Spitalfields.

Closest Tube: St Paul’s, Liverpool St.

Web: Here / @ponchono8

Recommended?: If you’re looking for burritos in Soho, this is your best bet.

UPDATE THE FIRST: Onwards and upwards (and, in the case of my stomach, outwards)

Despite Poncho No 8’s sterling work, I have grown to hate its chirpy green sign and proximity to my office. As the small early-days teething-creases have been ironed out, these burritos have grown in might and stature, and I have become ADDICTED, DAMMIT.

The worst (best) thing about the place, apart from the basic darn deliciousness of its burritos, is that they do tiny mini burritos for £2.10, which are perfect for luring innocent souls like me in, thinking, ‘I’ll just have a taste. Just a nibble.’ Then you eat one, dribble everywhere, and order a large immediately. Bad, BAD Poncho No 8.

In addition, they have now started putting this amazingly bright-green sauce on the tables. It is both delicious and a great colour. Look how happy it’s making @emily_nia!

“I LOVE GREEN SAUCE! AND DOGS!”

In view of all this, I have decided to upgrade Poncho’s rating to 8/10. Good work, burrito soldiers!

UPDATE THE SECOND: The Soho branch of Poncho No 8 has sadly closed (not through lack of appreciatiation of their deliciousness, I am assured, but because of An Offer They Couldn’t Refuse), but I’m sure the other branches are nice too.

Guest post: Barburrito

When Liverpool Daily Post Columnist Supremo Gary Bainbridge mentioned on Twitter that he was going to Barburrito in Liverpool, I made him tell me all about it. Then I made him let me post his tellings here, because I can’t afford burritos at the moment, and this is a cheap way of updating the blog. There are also branches of Barburrito in Leeds and Manchester, if you’re that way inclined.
 
I walked into Barburitto through a sea of sappy young things with tight T-shirts and pouting breasts. And the women wore equally skimpy outfits. It was warm, and I was wearing a suit. I felt precisely like Ed Rooney as he searched for Ferris Bueller in that arcade.
 
The set-up was just like Subway, if Subway had got out of the Meatball Marinara/overpoweringly be-oreganoed extended roll game and got into burritos.
 
I asked the nice man behind the counter for a burrito. He reacted, to his credit, as if this were a common occurrence, and asked me which meat I would like. Although it was impressive to see the marinated chicken breasts being grilled BEFORE MY VERY EYES I fancied the pulled pork, if only because it sounded funny.
 
I was surprised to be charged extra for peppers and onions and guacamole. I know little of the ways of burritos, but from what I have gleaned by reading Mullies’ Burrito Blog, it is like going into McDonald’s and being charged for the optional bottom half of the bun*. Then he asked which of the four levels of heat I required from a chilli sauce. I had no idea because I had never been there before, but I went for level 3, the chipotle.
 
He then slid the burrito over to another man. As far as he was concerned, I was history. Man number two asked me if I wanted cheese and sour cream. I said yes to the former, and pulled an ‘Ugh’ face to the latter. ‘No, thank you,’ I said. I do not like cream. This is on record. I am not keen on milk, either, but I have it in tea. And what I do know about milk is that sour milk is a terrible thing. So why the hell I would think sour cream is a good thing is beyond my limited dairy-based comprehension.
 
Man number two wrapped up my burrito niftily in a foil-like wrapper  – by the way, this was the worst thing about the burrito. I had to leave half of it – and I sat down with my burrito and a refreshing cardboard cup of fat Pepsi. I bit into my burrito… and…
It was quite nice.
 
Moist without being sloppy. Not particularly spicy, but there were six thousand bottles of Tabasco about the place. The lime and coriander rice was pleasant. The guacamole was first rate. I was halfway down the burrito before I realised I hadn’t tasted any pork, but there was some stuck in my teeth, so I must have eaten some.
 

The greatest picture of a burrito ever taken. If it is, indeed, a burrito.

I will have another one somewhere else, now that I have a frame of reference.
 
I am now burping peppers and onion.
 
*Ed’s note: Gary’s rookie mistake here is that onions and peppers are what you have instead of beans and rice if you want a fajita rather than a burrito, hence the extra charge. Technically, what Gary had was a Fajitto, but let’s not be pernickity.

Freebird Burritos

It was lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, and it had been days – literally DAYS – since my last burrito. I was pining for the promise of meaty, ricey goodness, tenderly wrapped in silver foil like a tasty baby robot being tucked into bed.

I only had my lunch hour to find one, so like an addict desperate for a hit –  any hit, from anywhere – I decided to go to Wrap It Up!, which is a three-minute walk from work and sells burritos for a mere £3.

Then I remembered why their burritos are only £3 and decided that, it being Friday – a happy day, a noble day – today wouldn’t be the day I’d subject myself to that particular horror again, even if I’ll have to eventually for this blog.

Instead, I headed to the burrito stall on Rupert St, Soho. I’d been there before, but that was back when I almost never compared burritos to tasty baby robots. So I was thrilled when I realised it was actually a branch of Freebird Burritos, which has been recommended to me by @HoveHousewife, and lauded around the internet on other (less robotty) food sites.

The skilfully altered sign at the front, which suggested that the burritos had recently cost £6, but were now a fiver, worried me a bit. Hopefully they were just being really nice?

*Supiciousface*

I soon discovered that Freebird Burritos are NOT very nice, in more ways than one. Ordering the usual (chicken, lime-cilanto rice, black beans, cheese, sour cream, medium salsa), I noticed the end product was looking a bit sorry for itself, so added some lettuce.

It had also been hanging around for a little while waiting to be wrapped, so I decided to eat it as I walked back to give it a fair chance of being all tasty and warm. Mmm!

Or rather, as Homer Simpson once memorably demanded of a rice cake: Hello taste? WHERE ARE YOU? I have simply no idea how it’s possible to wrap seven ingredients in a tortilla and have them taste of so little, unless those ingredients are meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh and meh.

‘The taste must be at the bottom,’ I thought, manfully (womanfully?) soldiering on. But no. One mouthful tasted a bit chickeny. But otherwise, it was just an insipid, watery nothing that only a mummy robot could love.

DAMN YOU, TASTELESS BABY ROBOT!

It was also tepid to begin with, and stone cold by the time I got to my office five minutes away, even the hot sauce having apparently given the whole thing up for a bad job. Eventually, I decided it really wasn’t worth the calories, and chucked the last bit away. Then I wrote this to take my mind off the terrible hunger pangs and ALL THE MEH.

Mood before: It’s Friday! Yay!

Mood after: Christ, are my taste-buds broken?

Rating: Food 3/10, Ambience 2/10, Staff 4/10, Value: 4/10

Where: Corner of Rupert St and Brewer St, London W1F 0RG, Monday to Friday

Closest Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Web: Here / @freebirdburrito

Recommended?: Umm, no.

UPDATE: Wrap It Up has since closed, relieving me of the duty of revisiting it. PHEW. It’s since become a kebab shop, which also shut, then a lovely-looking pizza place which I really want to visit before it inevitably closes.