Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Review: Zapatista Burrito Bar, Ridley Place, Newcastle

I was in Manchester recently and had the most overwhelming cravings for a burrito. All day I banged on about wanting a burrito and then as if by magic I got off a bus and the first thing I saw was a take away burrito place. I could have wept, I was overjoyed and crammed my chipotle pork filled, phallic shaped, bulging meat parcel into my mouth as fast I could. That burrito place was Barburrito, a small chain around the North west and was absolutely spot on. I'd also been recommended it by at least 4 different people that day so they are obviously doing something very right, or I really was talking about burritos way too much.

Of course anywhere else in the country a burrito place might not seem such an exciting prospect, but Newcastle has been sadly lacking in the Mexican department for a long time. I have said we need a burrito place more times than is really necessary so when I heard about the opening of Zapatista I was pretty fucking excited.

So what I got was even more of a disappointment.

Located up by both the universities on Ridley Place it is in prime location for milking the student market and is kitted out in a suitably Latin American vibe. The inside is actually very well done, stall seating down stairs and tables and chairs upstairs making it feel roomy and a bit nicer than just another sandwich shop. Lots of lovely exposed brick work, mosaics and sanded wooden floors. They'd made the most of the original features in this old Victorian three storey terrace so kudos for resorting an old building rather than setting up shop in some modern soulless shell.

Zapatista Burrito Bar, Newcastle

So it was my birthday, I was having a birthday burrito - I really know how to celebrate. The ordering system was pretty standard - queue up, pick your fillings, add your beans and salas and salad. Everything's £4.20, so a reasonable lunch (although you could get 2 slices for that price).

It was at this point I already started getting the feeling this wasn't going to quite live up to my Mexican dreams. There was a choice of chicken, pork, shredded beef and chilli con carne (made out of mince not shredded slow cooked beef!!) I opted for the pork and it was a weird dry grey texture, the salsas looked incredibly watery, the cheese was an unnatural shade of orange and the rice looked very stodgy.

It just didn't taste of very much.

No spicy flavours, smokiness or waves of heat, then fresh and vibrant salsa - it was just a big bland roll of carbs. Their menu says they serve 'lime and coriander rice' but I couldn't detect either of those flavours. Even worse, my friend's hadn't even been rolled properly so at one end all he had was rice and then it proceeded to fall apart in his hands and mine leaked watery sauce. The ultimate sign of a bad burrito.

Oh, I had such high hopes and I left so very disappointed. It's such a shame, the food and quality of it felt like an secondary thought after the design and look of the building. Just because you are the only people doing something in a city where there's obviously a demand for it doesn't mean you should turn out something average, being best by default is no victory.

Now the question is, what's worse - a bad burrito or no burrito at all?

Zapatista Burrito Bar is at 28 Ridley Place, and is open Monday - Saturday 10-7


  1. AnonymousJuly 04, 2012

    Totally agree. I know I'm spoilt coming from California and having grown up with this type of food, but I wasn't expecting California-style burritos. In all my life of eating Mexican food, even bad Mexican food, I've never been served beans with tomatoes in them. Maybe this is one of those concessions made for local (aka British) tastes? I had a chicken burrito and the chicken was very, VERY dry, and I got no flavour from the rice. The cheese actually didn't taste of anything.

    I'd say I'd rather have no burritos than bad ones as I can continue making good ones at home. Truly disappointing considering what a simple concept it is.

  2. snap. i'm all for setting up a place cos none even seems to be trying to be authentic! it's not hard!

  3. How sad.

    I love Mexican food and, like you, am waiting for a good place in the North East. It was disappointing to see a restaurant sign in Durham which announced 'Mexican and Mediterranean'. It summed it all up!

    The only good Mexican food I have had in Britain was from the Food Hall at Harrods. A Californian (the Americans know the best places in the UK) friend put me onto them and knew the old Mexican couple who used to make the delicious enchiladas. I do not know if they are still supplying.

    Talking about London, I have a friend who has started an excellent 'eating out' guide in London called Forking Knife - www.forkingknife,com It is beautifully observed and is backed up with talented drawings rather than photos.

    You might like it.

  4. Hmm, shame. Ate here a week or so ago, and I thought it was good. Not amazing perhaps, but very welcome given the dearth of burritos available round these parts. I had a pork burrito with chipotle salsa. The pork was good and rich and had clearly been cooked long and slow, as it was completely falling apart. The chipotle salsa had chilli heat and smoke. The other bits and bobs were fine. P'raps don't give up on them yet!


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