Newest Review: ... and voucher was £25 or fact you could not use with other offers. having a vip voucher is like putting a target on ones head, as staff at... more
Member Name: ROGERTHEDODGER
Date: 04/06/12, updated on 05/06/12 (137 review reads)
Advantages: Great value, tasty food, extensive menu, good atmosphere,attentive staff
Disadvantages: Maybe not for highly unadventurous xenophobes! Branches will vary in quality.
Last night I visited Chiquito with my wife. This is part of the chain of Mexican restaurants throughout the UK. The Blackburn version adjoins a Frankie & Benny's and an ice rink,lies across from a Pizza Hut, and is in close proximity to a cinema and retail park. So, plenty of scope for post-eat activity to burn off those burritos. We had been here before, but not for some time, and were curious to see what it was like.
The appearance is attractive, with outdoor seating available - although this would be a rare option indeed given Blackburn's climate. You are often assailed by a Latin beat from some distance, which is not always unpleasant unless it's Ricky Martin. The interior is dark, very clean and airy with a nice, plentiful mix of tables and booths. There is a small bar area to your left dotted with high stools which surround a long, diagonally-slung table. They also line the front window, if you prefer counting cars. It is possible just to nip in for a drink, which is not a bad option given the ever-dwindling amount of decent drinking holes in the town.
Our acknowledgement and greeting was prompt and friendly, the waitress diverting us to a nice table with a long comfy-looking, padded seat opposite a couple of chairs (guess who got the chair -the clue is in comfy-'looking' grrr!). She did ask us if the location was ok, which is a nice touch often overlooked. I hate places where they march you over to a designated place, where you have to remonstrate needlessly to be re-located. They don't choose your food, so why should they decide where you sit?
The waitress offered us two menus, a main and a set carte, and told us that our server, Chris, would be over shortly. I know you don't really need to know his name, but I thought it was a nice touch and hopefully gives the servers some ownership, respect and a feeling of responsibility.
The menus had changed quite considerably since my last visit. We had actually got a voucher for 20% from a recent visit to the Vue cinema nearby which restricted us to the main menu. Nevertheless, the set version does contain a reasonable choice and looks particularly good value - hence the voucher exclusion, no doubt.
The main menu impressed me with its appearance and diversity. My feeling is that Mexican food is not everyone's bag and has had a rather unfair reputation for being one-dimensional. There is a pre-conception that enchiladas, burritos and fajitas make up 99% of that country's fayre . But there is plenty besides and Chiquito seems to have embarked on a culinary crusade to mix things up and diversify. They proudly maintain the Mexican dishes as the staples, with appealing photographs, painstaking descriptions and choices of fillings. They have also embraced Tex-Mex dishes and even tapas for those who would rather drink Texaco than eat Mexico. I really can't understand the anti-Mexican reaction - my hope is that it is ignorance and prejudice concerning the 'lack of diversity', but I feel Chiquito is on the right track here.
Some particularly interesting additions since my last visit were the Pollo del Fuego (fiery chicken), Slow roasted lamb shank (within a Mexican twist), and the Aztec Jambalaya. There is a curious fish dish (Mahi Mahi) which combines mango and a light chili glaze. There is also a good range of steak available.
Vegetarians are well catered for with dishes such as the Veggie Five Bean Chili, and the Jambalaya (vegetarian alternative), being two such examples. Furthermore, you can mix and match all manner of vegetarian fillings with the burritos,enchiladas, tacos etc.
The kids menu looks pretty extensive too with a Taco Tapas Tray, and mini burritos, and fajitas. I suppose it's difficult for Chiquito to persuade kids to try more adventurous food but they seem to be very resourceful and the kids are well looked after. There were some free colouring packs they could pick up on the way in and the few children that were there last evening seemed to be in their element.
At the risk of being 'listy' I would urge anyone wishing to view the menus to visit the website at www.chiquito.co.uk
Presentation and taste
I plumped for the Pollo del Fuego while my wife opted for the fajitas.
The fajitas was the first dish to arrive, suitably sizzling as it was set down with a cautionary 'don't touch the plate!' heads up. It was delivered on a large wooden block which was topped by a volcanic mound of steaming chicken strip fillets. These were accompanied by pots of sour cream, guacamole and salsa. There was a carefully parcel wrapped pile of rolled tortillas aside a dish of grated cheese and lettuce.The tempting appearance seemed to be matched by the taste as my wife entered the rare zone of tacit satisfaction! Furthermore, she said it was the most enjoyable meal she has had for a while which, believe me, is praise indeed.
My fiery chicken flew in shortly after and also looked pretty hot, in more ways than one, This was made up of long fillet strips in a spicy coating, atop a bed of brown rice and 'fajita vegetables'. The dish was indeed hot and spicy, so the sour cream that topped it proved to be a welcome cooling device. It wasn't macho-macho hot, but my tongue knew it had been in a fight. My only slight concern was that the chicken was ever so marginally on the tough side, but the piquancy and combination of tender rice and vegetables helped to offset this.
Part-way through our mains we opted for a large pitcher of Sangria, which was a nice deep ruby red, topped with ice and swirling wedges of fruit. The taste was excellent, and much better than some we had in Barcelona a couple of years ago. I don't know; they can't overcome Chelsea and then they are toppled by Blackburn at sangria-serving!
It was accompanied by two curvilinear wines glasses and straws, and we easily got six glasses ( three each) out of the giant jug. I know that it's not the done thing to have lager, cocktails and sangria but... what the hell!
We had no room for dessert and, mercifully , this was not pressed upon us. I think any attempt to do so would have been met by a Roberto Duran-style cry of "No mas!", as we waved the white towel. Having said that, we were pleasantly but not gut-bustingly full. For the sweet-toothed there is no shortage of options.If I did have room for more I think that I would opt for their Chocolate Sizzler. I could attempt to describe it but make no apology for including the Chiquito sales pitch version:
'The ultimate chocolate luxury! We take a marbled, double chocolate brownie served in a hot skillet topped with vanilla ice cream. Then at your table, we pour over butterscotch sauce & watch the sizzle! A bubbling combination that is heaven for any dessert lover.'
I needed a good reason not to succumb to that! Otherwise there is a selection comprising fudge waffle, vari-flavoured ice cream, cheesecake, banana taquito, churros (fried soft dough dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with hot fudge sauce) and more. The other standout option is their dessert shots where you can combine anything from one to five mini samples of various desserts.
The service was attentive throughout, albeit the only time we had a prolonged wait was when waiting to pay - Chiquitos have got that aspect of Latino life off to a tee! The bill came to £52 after our discount (the 20% was only redeemable against food orders). While this was more than we set out to spend, we could not complain given the seldom-ventured savouring of sangria that we enjoyed.
We ended with another drink at the bar, for a change of scenery. I sandwiched the evening with another San Miguel while my wife went for a Black Russian - not literally!
Although Chiquito is a chain, I truly had a great evening there. Ok, I realise that the food is on the mass produced side of things but, even so, the taste and experience made it punch above its weight. The enjoyment was enhanced by polite, efficient and courteous staff. They were not in your face, but gave us just the appropriate amount of attention. The atmosphere is lively and pretty authentic due to the latino beats that play at a perfect volume. There is none of the chaos of Frankie and Benny's
where the lights suddenly go out, I stab myself in the hand with a steak knife and, to make matters worse, Cliff Richard airs his larynx to the death knell of 'Congratulations'. I am basing my rating on the overall experience and, while it may not be the best cuisine in the world, the evening's enjoyment was top drawer.
So, I would heartily recommend that you give Chiquito a go. Contrary to popular opinion it's not all cactus juice and rings of fire!
Lower Audley St Retail Park
Alternatively you can book a table for any Chiquito using the postcode finder via their website at www.chiquito.co.uk
Online bookings can be taken for parties of 10 or less. If there are any more than 10 people, they require you to discuss your requirements by telephone.
Very convenient, although there is no car park at the front of the restaurant as it sits on a main road. There is ample space on the retail park/ice arena behind or there is a large car park that serves Matalan and Staples across the road.
It seems our cinema offer was not so exclusive after all. This applies to any visit between Sunday and Thursday. They also have Kids Eat Free and Lunch Deals.
This can be accessed in more detail on the website but if you do pay a visit they may well hand you some vouchers, as they did with us, when you leave.
*This review has also been posted on Ciao under the username FLOCKOFSEAGULLS.
Summary: Not haute cuisine, but taste,value, ambience, and service were all excellent.