[Review] Chilango, Chancery Lane
76 Chancery Lane,London,WC2A 1AA
After the success of my Food and Drink Guide to Nottingham I decided that I couldn’t spend a year at Law School in Holborn without putting together a guide of the best places to eat in the area. So with that in mind here’s another review as I compile my list.
Last November I posted a review of a little known burrito place called Adobo. It’s no secret that I love this place, but when I struck up a conversation with a friend at law school about good food in the area he said that I’d got it all wrong. Just round the corner is a burrito place called Chilango. Chilango is part of a chain of burrito restaurants and when you Google it, it seems to be a bit of a love/hate affair.
My friend admitted that Chilango is a little bit pricey, but assured me it was still seriously good value for money as the food is THAT good. Now, I’ll never shy away from a chance to try a new place to eat and went with an open mind. This is what I thought…
When I walked in it was heaving, twice the size of Adobo with a much funkier decor and atmosphere. The place was full of modern day yuppies – young, attractive and rich people in suits! Fortunately I was dressed hipster enough to fit in!
So far so good…
I joined the queue with the other hungry diners and started weighing up the options. Much the same as at Adobo (I couldn’t help but compare) they have burritos, tacos and salads on offer. But there were a few differences… For a start it’s not entirely clear how much everything costs. As you go along the counter you get given a number of options. The only easy option is rice as there is only one type on offer. Next you’re asked if you want beans of vegetables. (But what if you want both?) You’re then asked which type of meat you want (guacamole is offered as a substitute for vegetarians, my partner wasn’t impressed – he wanted to go back to step one and get the veggies…), then you’re asked what temperature of salsa you’d like. The salsa option was the one that irritated me most. I was simply given the choice of hot, medium or mild. I had NO idea what kind of salsas these were; corn salsa, tomato salsa, jalapeno salsa? I still have no idea. I asked for hot and a tiny amount of a wet green sludge was put on top of my burrito. I’m obviously used to being spoilt for choice with the wide variety of salsas on offer just down the road. Lastly you’re asked if you want sour cream or cheese (again…what if you want both?)
So what did I go for as I was speedily passed down the burrito counter, my lunch handed to 6 different people along the way? I had a burrito with rice, black beans, pork belly, hot salsa, sour cream and cheese. I was also given the option of salad but I chose not to.
Once I’d made my selections the first thing I noticed was how appallingly my burrito was wrapped – or wasn’t wrapped as the case may be! I wasn’t looking forward to getting to the end of that mess! But perhaps the member of staff doing the wrapping was new? Perhaps she was just having a bad day? After all it was a busy lunch time shift. Whatever the reason I still wanted to make my decision based on price and taste.
So I got to the end of the counter at last and my order was rung up on the till. It came to over £9!!! I was gobsmacked. Getting both sour cream AND cheese obviously cost me more than I thought, the same for getting the extra guacamole. It all adds up. I was disappointed. But then again my friend had told me it was going to be expensive. He also told me the proof would be in the eating, so I sat down to tuck in to my burrito.
What did I think of the burrito as a whole? The pork was tasty, but it was also fatty and not as hot as I would’ve liked. Now I know that pork belly is an extremely fatty cut, but when cooked well this fat renders down to make it super tasty. This hadn’t quite happened here. In some places the fat was still gelatinous and chewy. I spat a bit out.
The hot salsa was nowhere to be seen. The burrito wasn’t completely un-spiced but I have no idea where that flavour came from. Was it from the pork? Or was I tasting the salsa? The green sludge I mentioned earlier had gotten completely lost. But wherever it was, I don’t believe it was hot to begin with.
The cheese also went completely unnoticed. It seems I had just added inches to my waistline and pounds to the bill for absolutely no reason.
Having said this, the pork that was still hot and cooked properly tasted absolutely delicious. I am talking CRAZY delicious. It was packed full of flavour and the black beans gave the burrito a fab texture and earthiness. The guacamole was also really good. I have a hunch that it was just mashed avocado (no garlic, onion or lime added to the mix) but this isn’t necessarily a criticism. The fresh flavour of the avocados shone through and worked well with the meat and beans.
The sour cream was unnecessary considering the salsa was non-existent and there was not much to say about the rice but all in all the meal wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great. Certainly not £9+ great.
The meal was a little disappointing. My friend had really made me think I’d been missing out all this time by going to Adobo. Chilango as a chain has also won a load of accolades, from “the best Mexican food in London” from the London Paper, the “food and drink top 25” from Time Out and “London’s Best Mexican Restaurant” in the Evening Standard and MORE! Somehow I don’t think they were eating at the same place I was…
Having said that from what I saw and tasted there was a LOT of promise. A lot of the individual components were nice and now I’ve learnt that all the extras add up so colossally and that their hot salsa really isn’t that hot it might be easier to put together a more well rounded burrito next time.
I’ll admit I won’t be going back in a hurry. My purse simply won’t let me. This doesn’t mean however that I won’t go back EVER and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.
So if you fancy a treat, why not give it a go. It’s also got a fab atmosphere, plenty of seating and cool artwork so is a great place for lunch with friends.
3***’s from me!