It’s no secret that I’m not really a fan of chain restaurants. The process of duplicating the atmosphere and creating consistency in not just the quality of the food but also the experience of eating it, is one that can suck the very soul out of a place. But many others disagree and even I must concede that some chains are better than others (I’ve not been shy in polishing off a healthy portion of Nando’s in my time). But is what makes a ‘good’ chain restaurant the same as a ‘good’ independent? This was the question that burned in our minds as Suburban Gent and I enjoyed some Mano-a-Mano time when we found ourselves sitting in the puesdo-mexican surroundings of Chimichanga.
The site in question was at the MK One retail park next to the Odeon cinema and football stadium. It provides plenty of choice for all your chain eating needs but we chose Chimichanga on the basis that unlike Frankie and Benny’s or Pizza Express it may surprise us. SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t.
Drinks and wings
Drinks were served in thoroughly un-mexican but very hipster fake jam jars with handles and the mojitos appeared too quickly to have been anything other than a pre-mix. They did have fresh mint though and tasted of mojito so I suppose that should be at least cause for celebration. It was all just sickly sweet though and we tried both the standard and ‘virgin’ options but they both fell short of anything other than ‘meh’.
I’ll leave Mr Gent to expound his feelings on his half of the meal and concentrate on the two plates that fell before me. First came the wings; three of them in fact. For six quid. The mathematically gifted amongst you will have already realised that is two pounds per wing. TWO POUNDS!! Surely, they are having a giraffe? The wings themselves may have been juicy, tender and slathered in an acceptably spiced and pleasant sauce, but haute cuisine it certainly wasn’t and so the value for money scale was tipped firmly in the direction of ‘where’s the rest of it?’
Let the Chimi see the changa
I felt it would be lax of me to come to the restaurant and not order the very thing after which the place is named. It’s signature dish, it’s piece de la resistance if you will. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Let’s start with the positives: the rice and beans were OK. And now we’ve covered the positives we can talk about the rest of it. The green sludge on the top that attempted to call itself guacamole, held as much appeal as a spoonful of your granny’s mashed sprouts, the sour cream drizzle was supermarket fresh and the chopped tomato’s that had so carefully been sprinkled over the top brought nothing as they were totally tasteless and watery.
And as for the star of the show, the big kahuna, the main man; I chose the pulled chicken and broke open the pastry shell to reveal… well very little actually. More rice, more beans but where was my chicken? On further investigation the dry, factory churned meat had been tucked away at the end of the parcel as far away as possible from prying forks and culinary enjoyment.
Nachos and enchiladas at Chimichanga (by Suburban Gent)
Having recently visited Revolucion de Cuba Milton Keynes, with it’s South American and Latin inspired cusine, I was really looking forward to Chimichanga, the culinary output from this part of the world is right up my street. As RobsRibs points out above, we weren’t expecting Chimichanga to knock our socks off but it should have certainly matched the benchmarks set by some of it’s competitors in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas. As any modern man does, more than anything we just wanted something just to feed us as we got down to the business of putting the world to rights over a cocktail or two.
Things were off to a shaky start though as the nachos arrived – and for the first time on our blog, a frank and honest admission regarding our photography – I’m sad to say that the photo of the course in question was significantly better than the end result. There. I said it.
The toppings, supermarket-special guacamole and salsa, were ice-cold straight from the fridge so made the bed of nachos underneath stone cold. What a shame; even before the starters had arrived, my co-diner RobsRibs had only just uttered the words “it’s hard to get even nachos wrong” but somehow Chimichanga Milton Keynes achieved just that. A shoot and a miss.
This was all however, perhaps a sideline to the sour cream coating that my jeans and brogues received courtesy of the waiter, who dropped the side portion of this on the tiled floor as the dish arrived. Lovely.
Next up was the mains. I opted for the pulled-beef enchiladas, having had a prior disappointing experience with the steak (or should I say, lack of steak) fajitas. In fairness to Chimichanga, this dish wasn’t actually half bad. The enchiladas were warm, filling, had reasonable flavour, with a surprisingly high proportion of pulled-beef in contrast to the chimichanga sat on RobsRibs’ plate opposite me. They looked great on the plate and were actually quite tasty. £13.49 kinda tasty? Maybe not. But I enjoyed the dish.
Still, if I wanted a nice hangout with Latin-American inspired cuisine and a few cocktails, I’d personally opt for another venue.
Let me hand you back to my esteemed colleague, RobsRibs for the verdict…
.. so, Chimichanga Milton Keynes? Review verdict.
You know what the weird thing is? It’s not that the meal was bad as such, in fact we left saying to each other that it was acceptable at a push – but only when compared to it’s peers and that’s the key thing to remember here; Chimichanga is half decent for a chain restaurant, but in comparison to Bella Italia almost anything is. If you manage to look further afield then you’ll realise that places like this get blown out of the water by venues who aren’t hell bent on catering to the baseline that you need in order to create that consistency and control costs. It’s true that some chains manage it better than others, (Wahaca springs to mind for example) and of course there are some independents who are simply wasting everyone’s time and money but generally speaking in the chain versus independent argument, I’m firmly on the side of the underdog.
In summary then, having sampled the questionable delights of Chimichanga at the Milton Keynes Stadium MK One Retail Park, we are happy to report that there are so many other alternatives available to you that you’ll never actually have to spend any money here. Less than five minutes away is the significantly better choice of Mastee and even if you absolutely insist on giving your money away to a face-less conglomerate chains, Nandos is just next door.