British Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and business partner Mark Selby initially traveled across Mexico a few decades ago, but their trip lured Miers back for an extended stay where she cooked her way around for over a year and collected recipes. Upon her return she won a British TV cookery contest show in 2005 with a coveted Mexican dish.
Two years later, Miers and Shelby opened their first restaurant called “Wahaca” in a basement in London’s Covent Garden, which now serves five to six thousand customers a week. They opened their third restaurant in London’s Canary Wharf in November. The restaurant name “Wahaca” is modeled phonetically after the Mexican state “Oaxaca”, pronounced Waa’haaku.
What makes this Mexican culinary transplant across the world to Britain interesting is that Miers and Shelby attempt to source Wahaca’s entree ingredients locally and only dishes actually from Mexico make it on the menu. They offer habanero chillies from Kent, and cheese for the quesadillas from Lancashire. The edible cactus leaves, green tomatoes and “Huitlacoche” are imported from Mexico, but they’re wooing European farmers to supply them locally.
The buzz is Wahaca’s Pork Pibil — three small, soft corn tortillas topped with slow-cooked, shredded pork — is as good as the Cochinita Pibil you’ll find on the Yucatan Peninsula and the Chicken Tinga tacos match anything in a Mexico City taqueria.
“We love the idea of what Oaxaca state stands for. It’s a culinary center, it’s a cultural center, it’s got this wonderful feeling about it,” says co-owner Selby. “Everything about Wahaca is that we are inspired by Mexico but we are not just copying it. We never say we are authentic. But the style, the tacos, the flavor of the markets, the speed of the food, that’s what inspired us.”
Hoping that they will also be inspired in giving discount coupons on top of that [insert laugh here].
Wahaca is located at Park Pavillion, 40 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London 44-0-207-516-9145