Cardiff’s Caroline Street (a.k.a. ‘Chippy Alley’) is well known for its kebab houses, burger bars and, you guessed it, chip shops, but now you can also grab a Mexican burrito from newly launched restaurant, Tortilla.
Tortilla opened back in September on the former site of PiPi’s Greek restaurant, becoming the third burrito bar to open in the city centre following Bar Burrito in St David’s 2 shopping centre and Mission Burrito on The Friary.
The Cardiff restaurant joins 25 other branches of Tortilla throughout the UK, 19 of which are based in London. However, the restaurant insists that it is not a franchise or “some big soulless restaurant group”, explaining that the idea was only made possible with help from friends and a dedicated team who are passionate about bringing fresh, tasty California-style burritos and tacos to the UK.
Inside, Tortilla Cardiff is decorated in uplifting shades of yellow and blue, with a geometric tiled floor and chandeliers hand-made using recycled Corona bottles – all of which have been consumed by guests at Tortilla’s other restaurants.
What intrigues me about Tortilla is that, despite focusing on traditional Mexican food, the restaurant prides itself upon serving ‘real California’ burritos and tacos. So, what is the connection between Mexican food and California?
Well, Tortilla was set up by husband-and-wife Brandon and Jen in 2007, following a four-year search across London for decent burritos and tacos. The couple are originally from California and used to enjoy spending their time in the taquerias (taco restaurants) of the Mission District of San Francisco. I was very surprised to learn that this is actually the self-proclaimed burrito capital of the world, as opposed to Mexico; hence why Tortilla specialises in ‘real California’ burritos and tacos.
As far as the menu goes though, I couldn’t spot any major differences between Tortilla’s ‘real California’ burritos and tacos and that of traditional Mexican burrito bars.
First, choose whether you’d prefer to have a burrito, a naked burrito (a.k.a. salad) or tacos; after 3pm, you can also choose to order a chicken quesadilla or nachos topped with cheese sauce, jalapenos, pico de gallo and guacamole. Each meal costs £5 except for large burritos and naked burritos, which cost £6.
Then, choose your filling from a choice of grilled chicken, steak (+£0.70p), barbacoa (shredded beef;+£0.70p), carnitas (pork) or vegetarian. Tortilla is committed to stocking fresh ingredients (never frozen), with fresh deliveries to the restaurant six days a week, while the restaurant only uses Red Tractor chicken and pork and grass-fed British beef.
I ordered a medium chicken burrito with coriander rice, peppers and onions, black beans (apparently this is one of the Californian twists on the menu, as opposed to refried beans), guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and a medium salsa verde. The chargrilled chicken had a delicious smoky taste and all the ingredients tasted incredibly fresh and full of flavour.
Meanwhile, my guest ordered a large grilled steak burrito with coriander rice, onions and peppers, black beans, iceberg lettuce, guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, jalapenos, pico de gallo and hot salsa roja. He commented that the steak was very tender and the filling was tasty, although he felt the burrito could’ve been wrapped better as it kept falling apart in his hands.
If you fancy something else to accompany your main meal, you can take your pick from several sides and extras including tortilla chips (£1.20/bowl), guacamole (£3.50/bowl), salsa (£2.50/bowl) and sour cream/cheese (£1/bowl).
To drink, choose from a Margarita cocktail (£4.50), a selection of beers (£2.95 – £3.95) or a range of soft drinks (£1.10-£1.95). I opted for a Margarita, served in a rounded glass jar with a coating of sugar around the rim. This had a fairly sharp taste and it wasn’t the freshest Margarita I’ve ever tasted; I wasn’t surprised to discover that it came from a frozen drinks machine – a bit like an alcoholic Slush Puppy!
On the whole, we had a great time at Tortilla and I’ve already paid the restaurant a second visit. The value for money is great, the food is delicious and the atmosphere is happy and lively – what’s not to like?
30-32 Caroline Street
(029) 2022 1908
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, you might like to take a look at my other Mexican restaurant reviews.
I was invited to Tortilla as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.