When my husband revealed that his new favourite cuisine was Mexican fodder, I just knew I had to find him some decent salsa inspired food for his birthday dinner. Looking locally for ease, I found a branch of the popular Chimichanga chain, situated in the town centre of Hornchurch, just off the high street and on the same road as the District line tube stop. Booking a table for eight people, I was looking forward to sharing Dan’s newfound love of all things Mexican with his nearest and dearest to celebrate getting another year older.
When we arrived, we were directed to a table right at the very back of the restaurant, in an extremely secluded alcove over to one side. Although this afforded us more than enough privacy, in my opinion, it had more pitfalls than plus points. Getting the attention of the waiting staff for extra drinks or condiments was quite simply a nightmare, as we weren’t privy to the random check ins the other tables received since we were more out of the way – the staff only headed in our direction when they came bearing food or the bill. Our table was also directly in the firing line of a huge air conditioning unit. Now, while I get cold at the vaguest puff of autumnal air, my mother in law on the other hand was feeling the heat, so you can see the difficulty here. At any one time, one of our group wasn’t 100% happy with the temperature, so that was an annoyance.
Décor wise, you can’t deny that Chimichanga attempts to bring the sunshine to humble Essex, with vibrant and bold splashes of all things rainbow centric scattered across the whole restaurant, with fun geometric prints and straight lines offering a modern spin on this busy and bright scheme. With a relaxed and holiday like vibe, it was easy to unwind in, and we were soon chatting away as we browsed the menu.
For me, I instantly honed in on the drinks menu, as it is so rare to find decent sangria out of Spain. Seeing this red wine based beverage as part of the cocktail menu, I promptly ordered it, and I adored it’s flamboyant appearance in a tall hourglass shaped glass, topped with an abundance of apple cubes propped against a couple of colourful straws. Now this is my kind of drink! Being a true sangria lover, I can also vouch for the punchy, boozy flavour – sangria fans will be pleased with Chimichanga’s version of this concoction. I decided not to go for a full starter, but to instead go for more of a grazing option, picking the marinated olives, the glossy, fat green and black balls coated in a delicious mix of chilli, garlic and coriander. Spearing with the provided cocktail sticks, olives have such a distinctive and almost pungent flavour, but they were tasty and really woke up my taste buds, ready for my main meal.
Although Chimichanga’s menu includes a whole host of moreish sounding grills, burgers and hot dogs, when in Mexico… I decided to go traditional, picking a burrito. This flour tortilla was absolutely rammed with flavourful BBQ pulled pork, combined with tasty peppers, onions, chilli sauce and cheese. Sat on a bed of spicy rice and black beans, generous dollops of guacamole, salsa and sour cream were plonked tantalisingly on top – perfect for dunking my accompaniment of sweet potato fries. I may have also got coleslaw…hey, I was hungry! The sweet potato fries were cut thin and were beautifully crisp to bite in to, with that lovely soft and sweet flavour that I love so much about this veg. The coleslaw in comparison was all about the bite, the cabbage combination added a decent level of crunch, which I rather liked mixed up with the small soft shards of flavoured rice. The black beans added a classic element that matched up particularly well with the burrito itself – a bomb of full on Mexican flavour. The pulled pork was saucy, tasty and shredded up so it combined nicely with the other vegetables. Plus let’s face it – anything featuring melted cheese is instantly ten times more tasty than it was previously. Fact. I may have gone overboard on sides as this portion size came up rather large, but I really enjoyed the complete contrast in textures and flavours, everything being so different yet combining so well to create a really delicious main course. Serious yum.
We all know by now that dessert is my forte, and that no matter how fully stuffed I may be, dessert will always and forever be on the cards. Although it was just my husband and I chowing down, I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to tuck in to churros – always such a treat, and especially since you can’t get them in too many places. These wonderfully light doughnut like ovals are made of a batter than it so crisp on the outside, yet have a super squidgy, doughy inside that makes them so moreish and 100% addictive. Dusted with sweet cinnamon sugar for an additional grainy bite, you get a dipping pot of toffee toned dulce de leche, as well as a ramekin of neatly scooped vanilla ice cream – the silky counterpart to the crunchy churros. I absolutely adore churros, and Chimichanga’s version with the caramel sauce is simply amazing, the flavours working in ideal harmony for one of the best desserts ever. The portion size is also perfect, as you get more than enough churros rings to tackle, and it finished the meal off wonderfully.
With everyone else full, I had to just look longingly at the incredible array of boozy floater coffees, but I did enjoy my Chimichanga meal. The food was spot on and very tasty, the menu definitely improved since my last visit. Despite the food and drink hitting the nail on the head, I would say our restaurant experience was under par, just because of our table location and the problems this afforded us. We were ignored by waiting staff, and the air con played havoc with our comfort levels. For a smaller number on a more regular table, I’m sure it would be spot on.