Saturday, 12 April 2014

Lucha Libre - Manchester

If you've been to our capital in the past few years you're bound to have heard of Wahaca, a chain that specialises in reasonably priced Wagamama quality (take that as you will) Mexican inspired food and has a menu featuring a range of small plates to share as well as larger dishes of Burrito, Tacos, salads and other standard Mexican fare. It was setup by the winner of the first post-Grossman MasterChef and is a resounding success - at the time it was a fresh concept done to a high standard, with a broad imaginative menu and great value for money.

You’ve probably worked out where I’m going with this but Lucha Libre is essentially a reasonably well done carbon copy of this format, I can picture lots of ‘research’ having taken place on the Wahaca website and meetings on the Virgin pendolino up and down the country. It's all fairly blatant, even the menu is set out very similarly. I have mixed feelings around this type of thing but if Wahaca aren't looking to make the move up here any time soon then shame on them and fair play to Lucha for filling a gap that clearly exists. 

I ducked my head in on a Saturday night around 7pm and it was absolutely heaving, with catchy pop indie tunes blaring over the stereo, people 2-3 deep at the bar and with just a 20 minute wait for a table I decided to go for it and get it ticked off the ever growing list. Things got off to a great start with the cocktails - including the comically named Negringo for a starter then on through the Gecko, Classic Margarita and Espresso Jalico. They were all nicely boozy, all very well done classics or imaginative enough twists to be interesting.

Having a list of places to visit as long as my arm I’m often working on the principle that I may as well try and order anything on the menu that sounds interesting as unless somewhere is particularly impressive I may not be heading back for some time and this lead to me going a bit too far here. Having said that, when I asked if we’d ordered too much, the waiter did suggest that we may need a few more sides – I enjoy a challenge as much as the next man but this was a ridiculous amount of food once it all arrived.

Spicy poppers – breaded jalapenos, stuffed with cream cream. I expected the peppers to be fairly bland but they had a decent kick, biting straight into one was a double whammy of melted cheese hotter than the sun with the spicy pepper. Coating was a bit flavourless.

Chilaquiles – tortilla chips smothered in mild salsa roja, melted cheese served with fresh coriander, jalapenos, fried eggs and I had also added chicken as an extra. It all worked together really well, it was good as a sharing plate to pick at during the meal - chicken was a tad dry and some of the tortillas had gone a bit soggy under the weight and juices of all of the toppings so it was inedible without help from a spoon, but overall pretty decent. 

Braised short rib tacos with jalapenos, yogurt slaw and spring onion - these were the special taco of the day and were lovely and light, there'd clearly been special attention paid to these - nice to see a chef grabbing the opportunity to show off some creative flair.
Baja fish burrito – beer battered fish, sweet potato fries, pickled onions, red cabbage and habanero tartar sauce all tightly wrapped. It was just like a stodgy overly-heavy burrito - the habanero tartar sauce was incredible, verging on eye-watering heat but wasn't enough to break up the too similar carby flavours in the rest of the dish.

Rib enchilada – slow cooked bbq rib meat in flour tortillas smothered in cascabel chilli sauce, melted cheese and sour cream. This was only spoilt by the tomato sauce which was very bland, considering the kick to the habanero and jalapeno poppers in the other dishes it seemed a shame not to bring a bit more life to them and expect me to add my own hot sauce. The meat was lathered in so much sauce and cheese that it was lovely and juicy but by now I was stuffed so just picked the meat out and polished that off.
Service was excellent, we were dealt with very quickly and our waiter was chatty, very attentive and kept the water and drinks flowing without having to constantly flag him down. Would I go again? Food was all of a good standard for this type of mini-chain, it just all got a bit heavy after a while - i'd order differently next time and have more of the small tacos. Nothing extra special to go out of your way for but if you have an itch for some Mexican food, fancy somewhere different for cocktails to start a night out or if you’re in the area for a cheap film at the AMC it’s a decent option.
Lucha Libre on Urbanspoon

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