Cielo Blanco: A long way from Wahaca

Just weeks before learning of the existence of Cielo Blanco, I had quite literally begged Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca to move further north than Stratford.

“PLEASE,” I bleated via the medium of tweet, “Leeds needs you.”

Unsurprisingly, my pleas were politely swept under the virtual rug and it seemed my obsession with Oaxacan street food would have to continue dictating my social commitments during trips to London.

But it was with the opening of the new Trinity shopping centre that I heard an eatery boasting a similar menu to that of my southern fave was opening its doors.

I. COULDN’T. WAIT. So down I went with my pal a week last Thursday, salivating at the thought of all the guacamole I could now consume not 200 miles away, but on my own doorstep.

On arrival, it was evident the restaurant was popular, but being a party of only two I immediately spotted a table that could happily have accommodated us, albeit in the breeze of the front door. “Table for two?” I asked the host chirpily.

“It’s going to be about 15 minutes,” he said, consulting what appeared to be a reservations list on an iPad. “Can I have your name?”

“Oh we’ll just hang about here and wait,” I replied breezily.

“Well that’s fine, but I still need your name,” he snapped.

Sufficiently scolded, we were asked to sit at the bar, where we waited. And waited. And waited a bit more, until I asked, with a touch of impatience, if we had, perhaps, been forgotten about?

Out came the iPad: “Good job you mentioned it, your name hasn’t saved in the reservations list.”

Oh, the perils of technology.

We were asked to wait another five minutes when I pointed out the still empty table by the door, which by this point had been vacant for half an hour.

“Oh,” our host laughed, “I could have sat you there 30 minutes ago.”


Our waitress quickly came to take our order – a delectable sounding spread of steak tostada, pulled pork tacos, chicken quesadilla, achiote ribs, turtle bean tostadas and a squash salad.

While we waited for our food, we nibbled on some crisp, homemade tortilla chips served with three thimbles containing salsa and an unidentified green liquid. Our extra guacamole arrived a few minutes later in the world’s smallest ramekin and our mental scorecards flashed: Wahaca 1, Cielo Blanco -100.

Around 25 minutes later, our mains began to arrive and we delved in, eager to judge the Mexican fare by our high Wahacan standards.

But no sooner had I ravenously pounced on the steak tostada, it was whisked away by the host who declared that they “had caught at the edges”.

With my stomach practically eating itself by this point, I settled for picking at the turtle bean tostadas – where I could find no evidence of beans – and the pork tacos with pineapple salsa – where I could find no fruit.

Minor foodie gripes aside however, this is a restaurant which undoubtedly knows its way around a pig. The aforementioned tacos provided satisfying bite-size portions of juicy shredded pork and the meat on the achiote ribs slipped off the bone and into the accompanying pot of sweet and spicy barbecue sauce like they couldn’t wait to get it on.

The mix of flavours and textures in the squash salad was a refreshing break from the cheesy onslaught of the chicken quesadilla, with the beetroot and pumpkin seeds adding an earthiness to the dish.

Standout item however (when it returned ten minutes later) was the steak tostada. Chunks of North Yorkshire rump cooked medium rare and slathered in a jalapeno ketchup: a blissful morsel if ever I ate one.

Despite the unnecessary addition of grated carrot on every dish and the appearance on my plate of a very black hair which could not have come from my own bleached blonde head, the food was of good quality and could easily compete with, ahem, other successful Mexican restaurants. It was also good value for money, at just £10.95 a head.

But on the whole, the experience was let down by the hit-and-miss service. Perhaps the early teething problems will become a thing of the past when the staff and restaurant are more established. For my money however, a quicker turnaround in the kitchen and a lot less carrot would go a long way to improving Cielo Blanco.


  1. Me & the other half also went last week.
    Was pretty quiet & were seated straight away. Got told the entire menu (nearly!) by a super enthusiastic staff member only to be told minutes later by our waitress that at least 4 of the dishes were unavailable. Bit gutted when these dishes were what we really fancied. Food was acceptable. Dip portions are definately too small for the money & i could’t help but feel that the ipads were more of a hindrance than a help. I repeated my drink order 3 times before it was tapped into the ipad correctly. Nice decor.

  2. You should try the fantastic PinchePinche in Chapel Allerton.

    In my opinion as good as (if not better than) Wahaca (& yes I have made the trek down to London to try it)

  3. Went last week, heavy anticipation.

    We were a group of 15; I know this is a nightmare for staff, but didn’t excuse us not being seated AN HOUR late.
    We were then told that because we were a large party we couldn’t order what we liked, and were restricted to a fairly dull ‘sharing’ menu. There was I thinking I was visiting a restaurant…

    On reflection the food was fair but not good, but the service was terrible.

  4. Jan is right, Pinche Pinche is a fantastic restaurant. I’m lucky enough to have it on my doorstep.

    I’d heard that Cielo Blanco was owned by the same people as The Hummingbird, so was looking forward to going. Will be interesting to see what the experience is like, my expectations have been downgraded a little….. I’m a big big fan of guacamole and that photo tells me I’m going to be very disappointed when I get it.

  5. A group of 7 of us with 2 babies in pushchairs went last week. Initially I tried to reserve a table but was told they were fully booked all week (they quickly hung up before offering any other advice). Still the food looked great so we decided to turn up early, at noon, as their website said they opened at 11am everyday. They weren’t open yet when we arrived and we had to wait outside for about 15 minutes, no one came out to see us. We were eventually seated on a big table large enough for our prams which was great.

    On the whole the food was excellent, we all agreed on that. The juices were also lovely. But the erratic service and long gaps between courses did let it down. They were also out of a lot of dishes, although being veggie we weren’t disappointed with the range on offer for us. We also had the churros, their only dessert, which was good for only £3.50 (we all said they should charge more and make the portion bigger – more sauce more ice cream.)Our waiter was patient and friendly, though seemingly inexperienced.

    As a large group with 2 babies we were well accommodated and felt comfortable breastfeeding there. They also had babychange facilities. Everyone in our party agreed that we go back, and hopefully have cocktails next time.

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