Friday, July 15, 2011

Zapatas, Tunbridge Wells: Finally, Great Mexican Food in England!

Zapatas Royal Tunbridge Wells
Zapatas Tunbridge Wells
Chips and Salsa at Zapatas Tunbridge Wells
Shredded Chicken Quesadilla
Shredded Chicken Quesadilla
Chicken and Chorizo Burrito
Chicken and Chorizo Burrito
Finding good Mexican food in England is like finding the golden ticket in a bar of chocolate. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans will like that little similitude. I have eaten Mexican food in numerous towns and cities all across the UK. And I've been disappointed with each. Wahaca in London is perhaps the closest I got to finding truly great Mexican food. But even they let me down with their infernal dining room, tapas style portions and Dutch waiter.

I had almost given up when, by chance, the wife and I decided to take a leisurely Sunday drive to the posh town of Tunbridge Wells, also known as, spoken in a haughty English accent, Royal Tunbridge Wells. This shouldn't of surprised me. I have only on rare occasion been displeased with RTW, as my mother calls it. We Americans like to abbreviate a lot: AT&T, IBM, P. Diddy, L.A., NYC, Mickey D's. It's what we do.

When we entered Zapatas I was expecting the usual; Guacamole from a jar, Salsa that was no better than Old El Paso, Tortilla Chips from a bag, Refried Beans, Orange Cheddar and stale Onions. What I got was so much more pleasing

My Chicken and Chorizo Burrito was delicious. Although, like the town it was made in, it was obscenely posh. The filling was not lovingly wrapped in a large Flour Tortilla, but instead, it was stuffed into a cone shaped Tortilla. There were two on my plate separated by an estuary of Salad and a river of Sour Cream. I balked at it at first, "Blah! Great sweets, we've come to another trendy Mexican restaurant that defies all authentic Mexican recipes and opts instead, for posh, uber-cool, tapas-Mexican." But I was silenced by my wife's boot and the glorious taste of fatty, spicy Chili and Meat.

Humbled and looking for more, I snatched up one of my wife's Shredded Mexican Chicken Quesadillas cooked on a Panini griddle. Interesting way of doing it. And then I ate another... and then another. Each time lapping on the Sour Cream, Guacamole and Chipotle Chili Salsa they had given me with my Tortilla Chips. Which, by the way, we were charged £2.20 for. You see, unlike in the US where Chips and Salsa are free, the English have chosen to charge for that. And not just a little, we paid over £6 for them. Thinking they were free, or inexpensive, I ordered them for some filler. The kind woman asked how hot I liked my Salsa. Naturally, I said, "As hot as they can make it, but the wife likes it mild." To which she responded, "I can bring both if you'd like." And being a naive American, I thought she was being gracious and giving us two for the price of one. Not so. The Chipotle Salsa was £2.20, the Salsa Mexicana another £2.20 and £1.50 for the Tortilla Chips.

Despite my little mistake, I left feeling very good. I had found an exceptionally tasty, affordable Mexican restaurant in England. Zapatas may be posh and they may do things their own way, cone Tortillas were odd, but they have won me over. I may just retire from this tedious work of restaurant blogging. I would be happy to after that achievement. But then my wife would have no more excuses for forcing us to go out and spend obscene amounts of money on food that only makes our stomachs grow and our bank account shrink.

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