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Friday, 18 April 2014

Chiquito in Manchester's Printworks: A Pleasant Surprise (and a VERY Sticky Chin)

We all have our weaknesses. One of mine is cheese, although to be honest this has now gone so far as to be regarded as a way of life rather than a weakness; a lifestyle choice, if you will. Another is Tex-Mex, that oh-so-irresistible hybrid of American portion size and Mexican flavours that can wreak such havoc on one's waistline and, on particularly shameful nights, one's chin. So when I was invited to try the new menu at Chiquito it was hard to say no - it was quite simply full of things that I wanted to eat, so I went.

And I'm very glad I did. This is not a chain I've ever thought to visit, particularly as the one we were invited to is in The Printworks - a dark, cavernous, scary sort of place that I've never found very welcoming and have always been, frankly, quite snobby about. Once inside, the restaurant has a slightly "generic Mexican" feel about it, with its bright colours and patterns and sombreros left lying casually about - this is not a place I would come to on a Friday night, when it's all too easy to imagine those sombreros being sported by squawking hen parties and over-excited kids. But on a Monday lunchtime it's all very restful and welcoming indeed - good, salty popcorn immediately appears (I eat the lot, which serves my friend right for being a millisecond late in arriving) and I order a Margarita that is deliciously sour and has only half the rim dipped in salt - my absolute preference in these matters. A word of advice though - order it without ice, which takes up wasteful portions of the glass that could more usefully have accommodated more tequila.

For a starter, we share the Fully Loaded Nachos. I'm going to come right out and admit that these were perfect, and some of the nicest I've had anywhere. Yes, this isn't high-end cooking, but the tortilla chips are good quality and there isn't a duff one amongst them - too often with nachos there are a few heavily laden beauties that everyone fights over and then a million sad, dry, naked ones skulking around the edges of the dish. That simply isn't an issue here - Texan cheese sauce, jalapeno peppers, melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, homemade salsa and spicy chicken is liberally slathered over the whole lot and it soon becomes very clear why they've given us a little handwipe for afterwards. This costs £10.95 and I would come back just to eat this.

Mains don't quite live up the standard of the nachos, but are decent nonetheless. From the vast menu I have the Southern Fried Chicken and BBQ Pulled Pork from the Tex Mex section - Southern fried chicken breast topped with BBQ pulled pork and melted cheese, served with skin-on-fries, corn on the cob, onion rings, homemade coleslaw and BBQ sauce (and as you can from the photos, some of this was pretty randomly arranged on the plate). The corn cob is overdone and the BBQ sauce a little sweet, but the coleslaw and onion rings are excellent and the chicken and pork both have a good flavour (even if I can feel my arteries clogging as I eat them). My friend has "The Border" from the Hot Baked Wraps section - strips of crispy southern fried chicken, lettuce, ranch dressing and smoky BBQ sauce in a soft flour tortilla and served with the same fries and coleslaw as my dish. She enjoys it very much, although is glad she asked for the BBQ sauce on the side as, like me, she finds it a little sweet.

So: I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed this meal more than I thought I might. Prices for mains are - in my opinion - approaching the dear side, with mine coming in at £14.95, but I notice they offer a 25% student discount (I always knew that doctorate would come in useful for something) and a well-priced lunch menu. Go ahead and judge me if you want, but I ate at Chiquito's, and I liked it: I'm pretty sure there's a song in there somewhere...

- We dined as guests of the restaurant and were not asked to pay for our food or drink. I was however pleasantly surprised by the whole experience and have tried to reflect that honestly in this review.

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