Food & Drink

Eating Out: Tortilla - taking you on an epic quest for a quesadilla

Battling Mexican ‘inspired’ offerings that were either bland or salty, Seamus Maloney eventually finds something worth the wait at Tortilla

Tortilla review Tortilla, Arthur Square, Belfast (Mal McCann)
9 Arthur Square,
028 9002 3837

A visit to Tortilla, the British-based Mexican-ish chain that planted its first flag in Ireland in Belfast last year, didn’t start as an epic quest for a quesadilla.

In the style of the long established, born-in-Belfast Boojum, itself aping the MO of American mega chain Chipotle, it serves up heaps of rice, veg and meat, variously customisable in different formats with different bits and pieces.

There’s not a lot more to it than that. The place itself is bright and chainy, you shuffle along the production line queue, answering each question – Burrito? Bowl? Salad? Meat? Beans? Salsa? Etc? Etc?

By the time you reach the till you’ve got everything wrapped up or topped off nicely. Then, if you’ve gone down the burrito route, there’s the endless struggle to maintain you dignity while trying to manage the whole thing into your mouth.

And so a chicken and chorizo burrito and a pork equivalent in a bowl both tasted perfectly fine without blowing anything away. The meat was fresh – the chicken had a bit of citrus zip about it and the slow-cooked pork was smoky and sweet, while the beans in both were earthy and rich.

The sum of the parts was fine but instantly forgettable. Much better were sides of queso fundido – molten cheese and little nuggets of chorizo – and sweetcorn ribs – chunks of smoke dusted corn on the cob.

While not quite Billy Connolly’s bit about all Mexican food being the same ingredients, differing only in “how it’s folded”, similar stuff being served up in each dish wasn’t quite enough to form a rounded opinion.

So, a return visit to try the thing that appeared most different from everything else – the quesadilla – was settled on.

Tortilla, Arthur Square, Belfast (Mal McCann)

But this would prove much more difficult than anticipated. The first trip in the evening brought the news that “the machine was off”. Not being au fait with the intricate workings of what appeared to be a big sandwich maker, disappointment was set aside to surf the menu off the record.

That led to the discovery that the barbacoa, which comes with a supplemental charge, is by far the best meat Tortilla serves up. You can taste the time its taken to get to its intensely beefy state. The vegan chilli no carne, meanwhile, fermented soy bean tempeh masquerading as mince, tasted of something more difficult to identify. Regret, perhaps?

The first trip in the evening brought the news that “the machine was off”. Not being au fait with the intricate workings of what appeared to be a big sandwich maker, disappointment was set aside to surf the menu off the record

If you want to go meat free, then just leave out the meat. The beans and veggies will do the job much better than whatever this was.

Another visit, this time a little earlier, ended just as quesadilla-less.

“I don’t think they’re on, I’ll check.”

They weren’t.

The lesson this time was a salty one, with guacamole seasoned almost to the point of inediblity.

So, in one last attempt at completeness, it was a quick visit for lunch.

“A quesadilla please.”

“Sorry, they’re not on yet.”

Another member of staff overhead the exchange, or maybe saw the exasperated eye roll I tried to suppress.

“Are you in a rush? It’ll be 10 minutes.”

I had not come all this way to let another 10 minutes put me off.

So, as I sat perusing the menu I noticed they didn’t start serving quesadillas until 2pm. So this one was on me. Thankfully the one constant on every visit was the bright helpfulness of the staff.

I also ordered some of their churros, the only sweet thing on the menu, and boy was that a bad idea.

Even though you could never expect them to be like the fresh-out-of-the-frier, crisp treats churros can be, these didn’t come anywhere close. They were an affront to the real thing.

But then the quesadilla finally arrived. And you know what? It was delicious. The best thing in the place. It’s difficult to make a mess of melted cheese and bread in any form, but that shouldn’t take away from Tortilla’s effort. If only the stuff you can get all the time was anywhere near as good.

The bill
  • Large chicken and chorizo bowl £9.20
  • Large pork burrito bowl £8.20
  • Corn ribs £2.75
  • Queso fundido £2.75
  • Chicken quesadilla £8.10
  • Churros £3.95
  • Lemon soda £2.10
  • Cherry soda £2.10
Total: £39.15