• Benito’s Hat: Real Mexican food! Now get that Chip(otle) off ya shoulder America.

    October 3rd, 2010quarrygirllondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    heyo, time for another field report from dadatamonkey! though his recent posts have been from barcelona, this one is about benito’s hat, a mexican restaurant in london. for a little back story, you may wanna check out his quite negative review of london’s chipotle. let’s see how this place measures up!

    The branch in Covent Garden. Very, very cool!

    On a quick visit back to London, I went to my fave places.. And was either disappointed or they had closed. Didn’t realise I spent that much money on eating out in London! Which meant I had to find new places to munch! Well, through twitter I’d heard good things about Benito’s Hat, and despite my reservations (largely due to my experience with Chipotle) I decided to give it a go. Now I know my Chipotle review caused a little bit of consternation over the pond, so I also know this one may too. So the UK cannot do decent Mexican food yeah? Dream on. This place blows Chipotle out of the water! Read on and see why people…

    Simple menu system but much clearer than the others.

    The menu is the classic multi-choice/stage type, but is really clear as to what’s veggie (actually vegan unless its cheese or sour cream). Instead of being over the serving area it was MASSIVE on the wall upon entry, which helps if long queues build up I guess. I like this. Style. Not sure why but I got to add in as much as I wanted from all the selections vegans can eat, but more on that shortly.

    Wow. This is uber cool. Beetles heaven. As in VW, not music!

    So first things first. It was a dead night in London, and I needed cheering up coz it was raining cats and dogs (virtually the whole time I was there). Walking in I just went “OK, this is cool. I feel at home.” Perhaps it was the fact the ladies working there were all speaking Spanish (Barcelona ladies are the best), but mainly the massive mural at the end of the restaurant with my first love. The VDub Beetle!

    Watch you don’t prick yourself now! These little cacti are cute as and a great touch!

    Now I am a bit of an aesthetic (I blame it on Alexander Baumgarten), and they’ve got this joint spot on. The high seats have tables that fold out, so if you need to fit on more food you can. They also have these cute cacti dotted about all over the place. Sad, but true. I love Cacti! You can probs guess by now I was slightly taken with Benito’s. But the important thing is the food. And as a very long serving vegan (30yrs), how it was served. i.e. Was cross contamination an issue?

    The serving area is really well designed, and keeps things totally separate so no cross contamination at all. I like this.

    Well, compared to Chipotle, someone had obviously put some thought into how the serving area was arranged. The meat and veg are totally separated. New gloves were used without asking (doubt this would happen at peak times, but the ladies said they will always change gloves if asked, and said it very, very nicely too). I went for the classic burrito, with loads of fresh coriander (cilantro) and lime rice (yup, I’ve been turned, me like now), refried beans (the black beans are also vegan), Guac, and grilled veg. I kinda noticed that they were really packing in the choices here. This was gonna be one big boy of a burrito. The smile was widening as I smelt everything…

    Here’s the Big Boy of Burrito’s (my name for this beast). Truly MASSIVE ATTACK! £5 Negra Modello £3-50

    As they rolled my BBB I noticed it was never going to form the traditional shape and totally enclose. Gotta say, I didn’t care. The smell of the grilled peppers, courgette in parsley, olive oil and garlic was getting the juices flowing so sod the shape. The menu online says it contains Chayote, but I didn’t see hide nor hair. Not that I was worrying by this stage. Add in the Salsa Brava with fresh habanero and I was away with the pixies. I ordered a Negra to go with it and thought.. Yup, I am gonna be very happy. Then the young lady started filling up my tray with freshly fried tortilla chips.. OK, my mouth was as wide as the moon by this stage. Time to pig out!

    Now that’s what I call a Burrito. OK, I’m a rice man now too.

    Biting into this baby just confirmed everything I had suspected, The tastes were superb. The courgette was pretty chunky, but cooked to perfection. Still crunchy, but not to much bite. The peppers were juicy and slightly smoky. Rice? Oh yeah. Fresh, limey (no Brits were harmed in it’s cooking ok!) and just the right bite back. Now I love coriander, and wow did they stuff it full of really fresh coriander for me.

    This was by far the biggest burrito I’ve seen, and the best I’ve ever eaten in London. OK, maybe I was lucky that night (I was), but something tells me this place is about customers. While I was munching one of the owners came in, and was obviously interested to see how the place was going as it had only just opened recently. I was pleasantly surprised by his attitude. I was even happier about the burrito. I ate the whole thing in minutes, and most of the vast number of tortilla chips too. If an American ever says to me that the UK cannot “do,” Mexican food again, I’ll happily take them to both Chipotle, then here. I know who will win. Benito’s hands down. I take my hat off to these guys, well actually, gals! This is near on as good good as my version of Mexican food, and I am not being big headed there. Just honest.

    So. Do I really need to summarise? Oh yes. And this is where I guess I’ll get a mouthfull of not food. Please, America, keep Chipotle. We do not need ya. The combination of Spanish staff and really good, fresh ingredients cooked to almost perfection means I will never walk through Chipotle’s doors in London again. Sorry if I offend any Americans. But I say it as I see, well, eat, it! Marks out of 10? Err.. Love to give you a ten, but mine is a 10/10. So, 9.5/10. I’m mean like that. That’s chefs for you!! If you are in London pop in and enjoy. You will, I reckon. ☺

    Benito’s Hat
    19 New Row,
    WC2N 4LA
    Tel:020 7240 5815
    Opening times: Sun – Wed 11:30-22:00, Thurs – Sat 11:30-23:00

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7 responses to “Benito’s Hat: Real Mexican food! Now get that Chip(otle) off ya shoulder America.” RSS icon

  • Hey, if it’s good, I’m happy about that. If I ever make it over there, I’ll certainly try it; I wouldn’t want to go to any place that we have over here, anyway, if I was on an overseas vacation.

  • This is 2 mins walk from my office and I’ve been going three times a week for over a year!

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    That vegan burrito looks scrumptious!!

  • mmmmmmm sooooo hungry!!!


  • DeeKay, its Covent Garden branch but both are superb! Although I prefer this branch.. Near one of my fave pubs!

  • Quarry Girl
    I’ve been eating at Benito’s Hat for over a year now (the Covent Gdn branch you visited is the second after Goodge St) and I can assure you, your visit was no flash in the pan when it comes to the quality of the product on offer.
    Myself and my wife have foregone plenty of traditional Sunday roasts when we realise we’re in the vacinity of Benito’s while out for a walk and introduced quite a few friends too. Uploading a photo to facebook of one of us eating a burrito there usually ends up in a torrent of a abuse for teasing them or claims of smacking their lips.
    Only 8am here but I’ve got myself all worked up about lunch already.

  • Yup, I know Davido, I ate there 5 times at least in 7 days! It really is superb!

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