Tuesday, 8 November 2011

El Paso Old Street review - a very filling burrito that missed the mark


Address: 350-354 Old Street,
London EC1V 9NQ
Tel: 020 7739 4202
Nearest Tube station: Old Street

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £15pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
We can never be tired of Columbia Flower Market. It's a good thirty minutes trek to Columbia Market from out place, just right for a light morning walk but not enough to tire ourselves out. It certainly helps that there are a couple of designated pitstops along the way should the need arises - Cay Tre and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen being just two of them.

We were walking past Cay Tre when my stomach protested. While I certainly didn't mind a hot piping pho (given the chilly weather) I would much prefer something new. That was when I caught sight of El Paso just across the road. A spicy hot burrito is just the substitute for a hot broth. Brilliant!

Things just got better when we crossed the road and stood outside El Paso. "Free Wifi" was displayed prominently on a signboard. There was barely a handful of souls in the restaurant. Funny how the things I look out for in a restaurant when LO is with us. The emptier, the better. With her in a rather compliant mood, the last thing we need is a group who finds it an absolutely need to yell over each other in a desperate need to get heard. For those who think that a long queue outside is a sole indication of good food, well, The Breakfast Club comes immediately to mind.

With ample seating on the ground floor and walls filled with murals, there was an unmistakable chic air about El Paso. Wife gave a short gasp. I followed her gaze and saw a chap peering at us through a seat pod's opening on the first floor. Yep, more seating upstairs in case you are wondering.

Menu came in un-laminated pieces of paper fastened with staplers. The Greens will be pleased that El Paso recycles its menus as they were promptly retrieved after we placed our orders.


With a growling stomach, I went for the most substantial item on the brunch menu - steak burrito (£8). Interestingly, my penchant for steak burrito didn't start at San Franciso when I first tasted. Instead it was at Wahaca (the Canary Wharf's branch to be precise). Without fail, that would be the item I go for every single time I lunch at Wahaca. Not very adventurous I'm afraid but I simply refuse to waste my calories intake on something unproven. Don't fix it if it ain't broken, especially when you are past your peak metabolism age.

But lately I am disappointed by Wahaca's British steak burrito. Not only they have increased its price (which I am perfectly fine with) but they have decreased the its filling (which I am not ok with). Wahaca tried to disguise it by folding in the buritto's tortilla. Cheeky, isn't it?

In that respect, El Paso's came out tops. Its steak burrito was substantial. With a healthy serving of peppers and hand cut tortilla chips with salsa, it covered all bases. But it went somewhat downhill from there on. Its filling consisted mainly of lightly flavoured rice and beans. Whatever steak present could be better marinated - I swore I could still taste the water in the meat. A handy bottle of Cholula hot sauce rode to the rescue. Instead of melting the cheese in the burrito, El Paso decided to lay it on the burrito itself, which totally defeated the point if you ask me.


Wife's scrambled eggs and chorizo (£5.50) was served on toasted ciabatta. I find it odd that anyone would take the trouble of toasting a piece of bread and then lay oily food on it, only to turn the bread soggy in an instant. The dish was a soggy piece but a healthy one with the watercress, chilli and peppers. The chorizo with scrambled eggs mixture did remind me of the Chinese sausages with scrambled eggs Mum used to conjure up in an instant whenever I was feeling peckish as a kid. On that account, I didn't mind the dish too much and promptly polished it off when Wife couldn't finish it.

El Paso reminds me of The Big Chill House; I probably wouldn't go there for its food but it certainly tops my list of places to chill if you have a whole day to burn. The free wifi helps lots too. There was a guy who was sitting in front of us hunching over his MacBook. He looked like he had been there since last week. As if to prove me right, he was still at his seat when we walked past El Paso again on our way back from Columbia Flower Market three hours later. Tiempo!

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