REVIEW: Chichester's Wahaca proves the city has the appetite for more
A love of kitesurfing at West Wittering has lifted the dining experience in Chichester to new heights.
Mark Selby, co-founder of Wahaca - the Mexican food specialists - has been a keen visitor to the Sussex coastline in pursuit of kitesurfing and it encouraged him to open his 22nd restaurant in the city centre.
When the landlord of the former Cargo building in South Street showed him the enormous potential of the premises the idea became a certainty.
Mark is a man on a mission to share his love of great Mexican food - demonstrating that it’s nothing like the flimsy imitations that many Brits have experienced before.
This week, the restaurant was officially launched.
The food is pretty fabulous. It claims to be both healthy and hearty.
There’s no doubt that the ingredients have a vitality that sings from each dish.
Guacamole freshly made every day from Hass avocados and squeezed lime juice; creamy twice-cooked black beans served with crumbly Lancashire cheese; and diced courgette, cactus and summer herb with guajillo oil are just some of the starting ingredients.
The fresh tomato salsas; the roasted sweet potatoes with feta and caramelised red onion; and the slow cooked pork; add to that sense of well being.
Expensive? No, the price point is keenly competitive. And for bargain hunters and those wanting to take the effort out of choice a Wahaca selection of dishes (£22 for two to share) and a Mexican Feast (£34 for two to share) proves the point.
There are some amazing cocktails. It’s great to see they are not limited to the alcoholic variety. The green and lean - apples, cucumber, mint and lime - is so much better than a glass of fizzy water or coke. The vampiro - carrots, beetroot, ginger - leaves a healthy glow.
For those not driving, the range of Mexican beers and tequila is a great treat - as well as being something of an education. Tequila is as rich and diverse a drink as the multi varieties and qualities of whisky.
The whole place buzzes with atmosphere. The high-vaulted ceilings have been opened up. The music creates a Mexican carnival beat.
Young James who served us - his first job - was on top form. Polite. Friendly. He will do well.
He has great mentors. Staff like assistant manager Jack are supreme in the business. General manager Helen and regional manager Pauline have pulled together a great team.
Are there too many restaurants in Chichester now offering every taste from around the globe?
The evidence suggests that there’s no limit to local appetites for food that is fresh and creative. Like Oliver, people want more.
Wahaca is a smallish chain which grew up in London on the back of Mark and his business partner’s Mexican experiences.
Now he’s reaching out to discerning markets like Sussex.
Investment like this shows the local economy has never been in better shape - and nor have the diners.
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