We walked through the hotel to the restaurant, two cooks out front thought it was closed but seemed unsure. Someone appearing to be in charge said the restaurant was closed, we explained that on the phone one hour previously we were told it was open, she then changed her mind and said we could eat there. By now, it no longer seemed like a good idea.
Back out through the front of the hotel, the door folk had a smirk on their face. They said it was probably because the hours had changed because of the Olympics. They didn't seem to really know or really care; an unlovely blend of ignorance and indifference. That then was our experience of Manhattan Grill today.
Accordingly we decided to try out Wahaca, the seven branch (and growing) chain of 'Mexican market eating'. The venue itself is an energetic sort of place with energetic chairs, tables and décor, brighter is better it seems as they seek to capture the vibrancy of somewhere that isn't Canary Wharf (shouldn't be hard I know). More energetic than even this however is the staff who were thoroughly enthusiastic and who, we have to say, lifted our spirits after the grumpy Grill folk.
The menu is very much designed to be an all day eating affair ranging from light snacks to what they describe as a 'hearty burrito' which it surely was. They also take the view that ready food shouldn't sit under a hot lamp so will be brought to your table when it is ready, so your order can arrive in, well, any order, something we experienced too at La Bodega Negra, though at Wahaca they make it clear from the start that that's their policy (at Bodega Negra, it was conceivably a mistake??).
We ordered a little bit from across the menu: a ceviche seemed a must, marinated chicken Taquitos (deep fried tortilla wraps), a steak burrito and a fish taco. With the salsas, lime, chillies etc, the food was never bland and was generally good enough, though the proteins felt like they carried something of a question mark: was that really chicken in the Taquito? How beefy was the beef?
But then what's to be remembered here we guess is that Wahaca Canary Wharf is a high volume business and the price point is mainstream. It may not therefore be the very best but it's hard to argue that it doesn't represent value. This food with two beers and service on top set us back just £20pp. It's hard to complain and it did the trick. There's good quantity too, it's inconceivable to leave hungry with a burrito that size and it's priced at just £6.95.
Wahaca however exceeded expectations. The food was good enough and we certainly enjoyed it more than the food served at the more lauded Ceviche. Service also counted, was perfect for their style of offering, but even more than that, our two waitresses' genuine enthusiasm gave us a genuine lift. And we liked the way everybody took responsibility - any server passing our table and seeing empty plates would clear them. Finally then, food portions and value for money were excellent too.
Overall, it put me in mind of Byron Canary Wharf, another flourishing chain that's trying to be a little bit better on the food front while allowing you to enjoy a good time out even when you're not so flush, and that's to be applauded
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