There has been a little surge in the number of Mexican restaurants opening in central London lately, which has meant my quest for a lunchtime burrito has become easier and easier. Working in Covent Garden I did not wish to spend my whole lunch hour trekking miles to the nearest Burrito place as if I brought it back to the office it would not longer be hot, and if I ate inside the place I bought it from I would not wish to go back to work. Anyone who has had a good burrito knows you do not wish to walk much afterwards. You really just want to curl up under your desk and nap.
Yes, there are a few places that sell burritos if you eat in; such as Wahaca – but I really wanted one that’s takeaway and, to be honest, the Wahaca burritos are not that good.
So, here are the four that I now have the choice to go to around Covent Garden; but they also have other restuarants elsewhere. I tend to stick to the one at number one on the list though. For me they are reasonably priced, close and offer a really decent burrito.
First off, what exactly is this ‘burrito’ that I keep mentioning?
Well, if you were to look at one without having seen it being made you could easily mistake it for a paranoid conspiracy-theorist guinea-pig, wrapped in tin foil so the aliens can’t read his mind. Peel back that tin foil though and you get the lovely Mexican goodness that is: a flour torillia, rice, beans (usually black bean or refried beans, but often a choice of pinto beans also) a choice of meat (usually beef, pork or chicken) or vegetables, and then whatever you want on top – usually a little lettuce, a little tomato salsa, a little sour cream, a little quacamole and some cheese. Oh, and hopefully a nice hot sauce to go with it.
That’s it. All of the above packed into a tortialla wrap, about to burst and not at all pretty to eat.
By Jove it’s good though!
Here’s where you can get your hands on them:
4) Chipotle (website)
The first on the list, but also the worst on the list.
Chipotle are from the US and they have arrived in a prime location on Tottenham Court Road which is ideal for grabbing shoppers going between Oxford Street and Leicester Square/Covent Garden. Unfortunately in this instance prime location does not equate to a prime burrito!
The problem is, these guys are just too expensive. It costs just under £7 for a normal barbacoa burrito from here. Now, £7 isn’t too bad really – not in these places. You’re right, it wouldn’t be – but then you need to pay for everything on top. I know these places have a slight mark up on a spoon of guacamole, but these guys take the pee a little bit by charging a whopping £1.40 for a single spoon of it. You want some tortilla chips with that? Well, you’ll have to pay more still.
Altogether for a burrito with guacamole and a can of coke cost just under £10. The barbacoa was also a little too salty for my taste; the spicy sauce okay but not great and no additional toppings were added by default, not even lettuce.
The best thing about the place was that I was offered a choice of white or brown rice.
I’m not going to sample these guys again as, at those prices, there is no point returning there for lunch when there are better options available.
Verdict: Mediocre burrito at an extortionate price. There is no way they should be charging £1.40 for a spoon of guacamole. Give these guys a miss.
3) Chilango (website)
These guys make a good burrito. Their hot sauce is lovely, the meat is nice and – apart from their weird rice (I think it’s infused with lime) – they’re certainly going to be one of my top choices.
They feel the most like you’re in a chain though and the staff, though friendly, seem rather impersonal. Their burritos are reasonably priced with a steak one costing £6.70. On top of this though you will find the guacamole costing an additional £1.00 for a spoonful, the same as a can of coke costs. All in all you’re looking at just under £9 for your lunch.
If you’re extra peckish you can double your meat up for an additional £2.50 though which is quite a good price, especially if you’re in the mood (i.e. hungover) to mix it up and get something like steak and chicken.
The only reason why they not higher on the list is the location. They have a store on Upper Street and one of Fleet Street. Working in Covent Garden I can get to fleet street within a lunchtime but eating it there is a rush, and eating it at my desk means it’s cooled down quite a lot. If they were closer they would move to the number 2 spot for sure.
Verdict: A great burrito with fantastic hot sauce, just a little of of the way. If you are on Upper Street or visiting the St Paul’s area though, well worth checking them out.
2) Mas Burritos (website)
A new addition to the scene, Mas Burritos opened up in Covent Garden in mid 2010 and were the first to really bring the much needed take-away burrito to this area. They have since added a second location at the Chancery Lane end of Gray’s Inn Road.
Initially they appeared a little unsure on the burrito making process and the quantities and construction of them was not very consistent. This was improved over time though and their burritos are pretty good. Unfortunately their hot sauce is lacking a little fire and you can easily get the hottest one available for just a little kick but nothing more – it certainly needs to be hotter.
This operation feels the most like a family run small business in comparison to the other places which certainly feel more like franchises. As such the friendly staff are willing to chat away and, if you speak with the right person, offer you a decent discount on your lunch. A steak burrito with guacamole and a can of coke with set you back around £7.50 with the guacamole only costing 50p. If you want some chips though they will set you back a further £1.70.
Be prepared to queue if visiting at lunch time, especially the Fleet Street branch, as this place gets busy.
Verdict: A decent burrito at a reasonable price but without a hot sauce you feel there is something lacking. If you’re in the Chancery Lane area and fancy a burrito I would certainly recommend that you pop in and fill your belly.
1) Benito’s Hat (website)
Oh yes, Benito’s Hat.
They are the king of the London Take-Away Burrito.
Firstly, they make them so well. Sure, the other burrito places work in an assembly line kind of way but these guys do it so much more efficiently. If you’re in a rush you tend to be passed from one to the other quickly and smoothly – so much so that you’re in an out within a couple of minutes as long as there isn’t a huge queue.
You get a lot of filling, these guys pile it in there so you’re looking at the beautiful mess and thinking to yourself ‘there is no way that this guy can possibly wrap that up without it exploding’ – but they do, and the shape is just perfect when they are done.
The hot sauce is pretty decent, though admittedly not as nice as the one from Chilango.
Out of all of the places mentioned though, these guys make the tastiest burrito around.
And that’s not all.
Guacamole is just 50p, same as with Mas Burrito. The steak burrito, however, is only £6 (cheaper for pork and chicken). So, a steak burrito with guacamole and a can of coke will set you back £7.50 – and once you sample these burritos in comparison to those from Mas Burrito you will see why these guys are at number one.
But wait…it gets better.
They throw in a handful of chips to go with your lunch. Sure, a handful isn’t many – but these guys give you some for free when the other place make you pay heavily for them.
Benito’s Hat had their only store up on Goodge Street. Much like with Chilango, a trip here during a lunch break was doable but by no means ideal. However, they have now opened a shop in the heart of Covent Garden (about 30 seconds away from Mas Burrito) which make these the best guys to go to when in this area.
Verdict: Great value with a very reasonably priced burrito packed to the brim and with a free handful of chips. This really is the best place to get a take-away burrito in central London.
Still looking for more? Check out the excellent London Burrito site.