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Chiquito You and I know.....
Member Name: noodlesandwich
Advantages: offers make for reasonable value
Disadvantages: erratic service
This review is about Chiquito in Durham. Chiquito, Durham, is based in the city's Walkergate complex along with several cafes, bars and restaurants near to the central library and Gala theatre. They've had a 'kids eat free' promotion over the summer holidays which has encouraged me to visit a few times recently.
Chiquito is part of a national chain that offers Mexican food. The decor in this one works hard at being Mexican, some might say too hard. There's a lot of dark brown wood, clay pots, sun artwork, plenty of plants, photos and rustic folk bits. The colours are terracotta, brown, reds and yellows. Mexican voices sing from the speakers to booths, tables and the bar where comfy looking sofas beckon, (children aren't allowed in the bar side). There's a large downstairs area, a more intimate mezzanine level where the toilets are located, and a handful of tables outside. The toilets are fairly typical of pub toilets - three cubicles, clean enough, nothing especially lush. There are some disabled toilets on the ground floor, but apparently they are not that easy to get into, being located behind heavy fire doors.
Both lunch and main menu's have plenty of choice. The lunch menu offers a main meal for £5.99 with a choice of soft drink for £1.50, combined with a free meal for a child this seems good value. On my last visit I chose the vegetable chilli enchiladas. These come served on a bed of rice with garnish. I liked the rice which was lightly spiced and chewy, but there wasn't very much of it. The two enchiladas didn't have much heat, but they were still pretty tasty. The filling was mainly beans and pulses. Having had this dish a couple of times I've noticed that the garnish varies with the chef, I preferred the original salad garnish to the coriander garnish on my second visit, ( the ubiquity of coriander distresses me). The enchiladas are quite small which makes for a light lunch, although if you receive complimentary nachos beforehand it's sufficient, I once ordered a side of chips, but was too full to eat them after having had nachos too.
I have tried the churros for dessert. These are priced at £3.99 and described as: Delicious soft dough fried until crispy, dusted with cinnamon sugar. Served with warm chocolate fudge sauce for dipping. I have to say I was disappointed. The flavour and texture reminded me of sweet waffles, but the shape and the fat I could feel oozing off them made me feel I may as well be dipping chips into chocolate sauce. The sauce was okay but nothing special. I can't recall any other occasion on which I haven't enjoyed a dish that involves chocolate, but in this case by the time I finished I felt I'd been forcing these down for the sake of it.
This is usually priced at £4.99 for a main meal, dessert and drink. My daughter tends to opt for the fish fingers and chips, it's a decent sized plate of food; four fingers with chunky chips cooked in the skin, a few beans or other token 5-a-day effort wouldn't go amiss. The ice cream is generally two scoops in a large bowl and might be sprinkled with powdered sugar, depends on the day. Fruit juices, milks and water are all included in the price, but a fruit shoot or fizzy soft drink has an extra charge.
I've found the service to be erratic. On one occasion food was served in a dish which was chipped and cracked, not something that suggests a commitment to a quality service. I mentioned the nachos - a couple of times we have received a complimentary plate of nachos and dip to nibble on while waiting for the meal, another day and no nachos. Also, while the website promises that children will be given an activity pack, my daughter only received this, nice little pack with crayons, colouring in and puzzles, on one out of three visits. One day one of the staff presented all of the children present with a helium Chiquito balloon, this was a big hit, and a one-off. On our most recent visit, in lieu of fish fingers my daughter was presented with a plate of what seemed to be fish nuggets, this may not seem like much of a difference but children can be fussy when something isn't exactly as they expect it to be and my child wasn't impressed. She had previously been impressed by the powdered sugar on the ice cream and she was really looking forward to having it again, but on the next visit the sugar was absent. On the following visit no powdered sugar again, but this was more than made up for in my daughter's eyes by the fact that there were three ice cream scoops instead of the usual two.
Service time has usually been reasonable, although we had a longish wait on our last visit. Staff members have all been pleasant enough, if a little flustered seeming at times, and it's never been really busy when I've visited. I've also noticed a reluctance on the part of staff to return to the table once the bill has been presented. The last couple of visits I've left money on the table and exited, I'm not entirely comfortable with doing that but I don't want to sit around waiting for someone to come and collect payment and the staff have been either invisible, or else rushing about looking distracted.
A meal at Chiquito in Durham seems a little unpredictable, with service standards dependent on the latest employee. It might not be a particularly expensive restaurant but I'm not convinced that Chiquito's full priced menu is great value. I've been given a couple of special offer booklet on visits; kids eat free vouchers, money off and so on within a time limit. It seems everywhere has some sort of special offer on these days, who pays full price anymore? Whatever the case, with the kids eat free promotion it's usually under a tenner for me and my daughter to eat lunch in Chiquito's and while the food is nothing amazing, it is nice enough to be considered a treat.
Durham DH1 1SQ
Tel: 0191 3706470
Opening Times: 11am to 11pm daily, (except Sunday 10.30pm closing).
Summary: experience seems to depend on the day: can be satisfying but sometimes not so much