Review: Wahaca, Manchester England and a Long Weekend in Manchester and Liverpool

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

K will vow to anyone that the best burritos he’s ever had are from the Australian Tex-Mex chain Guzman & Gomez. In his eyes, they find the right balance between fast convenient food, and fresh food made to order. They’re great value, the ingredients are always fresh, and you’re guaranteed a good feed. Smaller Mexican burrito bars never seem to measure up in his eyes.

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To put some more burritos to the test in England, we visited Wahaca Mexican Market Eating in Manchester one evening for dinner. Like Guzman & Gomez in Australia, they’re a Mexican chain restaurant with locations around the UK – unlike Guzman though, they’re slightly more formal and do a stronger sit-down date-night dinner than work lunch burrito to-go.

Green and Lean Fresh Juice (apples, cucumber, mint and lime), 3.75 GBP and a Citrus Fizz soft drink (lime, mint, sparkling water and a hint of sweetness), 1.95 GBP
Green and Lean Fresh Juice (apples, cucumber, mint and lime), 3.75 GBP and a Citrus Fizz soft drink (lime, mint, sparkling water and a hint of sweetness), 1.95 GBP

We started off with a drink each – a fresh Green and Lean Juice for me, and a house-made Citrus Fizz soft drink for K. The Citrus Fizz was supposed to have a hint of sweetness, but if it did, it was certainly a lot more subtle than I expected as it tasted generally just of lime and mint fizzed up in a Sodastream. My juice was much sweeter, but still found a good balance between the sweet apple juice and the healthier cucumber juice.

Slow-cooked pork cooked for hours in a habanero & achiote marinade until meltingly tender, served with pink pickled onions, 7.15 GBP
Slow-cooked pork cooked for hours in a habanero & achiote marinade until meltingly tender, served with pink pickled onions, 7.15 GBP

K chose the Slow-Cooked Pork Burrito, which is served with corn chips on the side. Burrito aside, these were some of the best corn chips I’d ever tasted in my life – crispy and freshly fried, they had a great corn flavour to them and needed no additional embellishment.

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According to K, the burrito itself was satisfying but didn’t quite measure up to Guzman & Gomez. For one, it just simply wasn’t as large at only about three-quarters the size – which honestly, just reflects the fact that we’ve enlarged our stomachs so much through over-eating on this trip through Europe! Secondly though, he thought it just lacked an overall ‘punchy’ flavour – the pork hadn’t been as heavily marinated and cooked as thoroughly as meat mixes are at Guzman’s. While still an enjoyable burrito, it didn’t quite tick all his boxes.

The Sonora Salad (avocado, pumpkin seeds, beans, organic British spelt and cos lettuce tossed in a light chipotle dressing and served in a crispy tortilla bowl with grilled achiote chicken), 8.95 GBP
The Sonora Salad (avocado, pumpkin seeds, beans, organic British spelt and cos lettuce tossed in a light chipotle dressing and served in a crispy tortilla bowl with grilled achiote chicken), 8.95 GBP

I chose a slightly healthier option – the Sonora Salad with Grilled Chicken. To be honest, I could have chosen an even healthier option by having the salad served in a plain ceramic bowl rather than a taco bowl – but of course, I chose the taco bowl, which meant that I finished off my meal by eating deep-fried carbs. Mea culpa.

At least eating the salad itself made me feel virtuous. As a bonus, it was an incredibly tasty salad with delicious marinated and grilled chicken (a tad on the dry side, but that worked in the salad with the dressing), and a great mix of seeds, beans, and spelt to make it filling. The fresh herbs, creamy avocado and crisp lettuce rounded it off nicely.

Corn & bean salad (Mixed salad leaves tossed with diced avocado, corn & bean salsa topped with toasted pumpkin seeds), 3.95 GBP
Corn & bean salad (Mixed salad leaves tossed with diced avocado, corn & bean salsa topped with toasted pumpkin seeds), 3.95 GBP

To build up our greens intake, we shared one more side salad between us – a Corn and Bean Salad. A nice and light salad to share between two, with a nice tang thanks to the salsa, and a crunch thanks to the pumpkin seeds. Simple but effective.

Wahaca does fairly decent Mexican food in a nice setting. It’s more expensive than Australian prices – but what isn’t more expensive in the UK? The mains are well priced though, and large enough to satisfy one person. It’s only when you start to order multiple tapas-style smaller dishes that it starts to become a bit more expensive. Order according to your budget and your dietary choices, and you’ll be guaranteed a tasty and even semi-healthy meal.

Wahaca is located in the Corn Exchange Building in Exchange Square, Manchester. They also have other locations around the United Kingdom.

Just as an addendum, a quick recap of the three days we spent in Manchester, with a day trip to Liverpool! We did free walking tours in both cities – Manchester with an independent guide, and Liverpool with a Sandeman’s New Europe guide. The independent tour was far superior…I’d highly suggest checking it out!

We also ate out a little bit in Manchester as our Airbnb wasn’t particularly conducive to cooking too much at home. Federal Cafe and Bar was a highlight, but unfortunately the Rice Bowl can’t be recommended. K also loved our discovery of the Greggs bakery chain which serves up a pretty tasty sausage roll – and I won’t lie, we had one almost every day!

I also enjoyed the lunch we had in Liverpool at Wagamama, but it was definitely helped by the fact that we had some fantastic company in the form of my friend Tanya, her husband Mark and their daughter Samantha. All through lunch, I couldn’t get over the fact that the last time I was in England, Samantha hadn’t even been conceived yet…and now she’s in primary school! Mind-blowing.

Manchester and Liverpool aren’t the usual destinations for most people when they go to the UK. They’re a little more working class, a little more Northern, and tend to dull a little in the shine of the southern cities. However, as our guide in Manchester said, the city is coming into a new and vibrant period – bars, clubs, cafes are opening up regularly, there’s a strong live music scene again, creative types are opening up their own stores…there’s a lot to see and do now, and I’d recommend a quick visit for anyone!

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