18 Market Hill, Cambridge, UK

A Mexican Wave hits Cambridge (with a Cali Twist): Tortilla Review

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that messy food is the best food. Grabbing your meal with your hands and taking a massive bite is oh so satisfying! If that's precisely what you're in the mood for this lunchtime, you can't do much better than a classic burrito. Burritos originally hail from Mexico and traditionally comprise a soft flour tortilla with fillings such as meat, refried beans, cheese, and chilli wrapped up inside. Mexican burritos usually contain just one or two of this selection of ingredients but when the burrito travelled north and made its way into US cuisine, American tortilla lovers (unsurprisingly) supersized them! The resulting Californian burrito, a staple in the San Diego area, includes not just two fillings but all of them - including the kitchen sink. This beasty type of burrito usually adds in carne asada (that's grilled and sliced beef to the uninitiated), French fries and a generous serving of cheese, as well as salsa fresca. No Cali burrito is complete without a healthy dollop of guacamole either! While loosely inspired by its southern neighbour, the Californian burrito does not pretend to be authentic Mexican cuisine. It has quickly become a tradition of its very own, beloved by Cali's hungry surfers. But you needn't travel stateside to embrace this delicious cultural amalgam, you only have to drop in to Cambridge's Market Square!

Tortilla Cambridge restaurant review burrito taco

Cambridge, meet Tortilla

To allow the residents of Cambridge to get their fix of burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos, Tortilla opened their newest branch in the city on Friday 4th October. I was lucky enough to receive an invite to their press launch and I jumped at the chance to go along. If you haven't heard of them before, Tortilla is a worldwide chain of Mexican/Californian style restaurants, who opened the doors of their first branch in October 2007. Since then, Tortilla have become the largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand in the UK and Europe, operating out of more than 30 locations. Their restaurants will be familiar to those based in London (they have outlets in Wimbledon, Camden, and Soho to name but a few) but they also stretch as far afield as Dubai, Saudi Arabi, and Bahrain! Tortilla's mission is to provide high-quality, fresh, and (above all) delicious grub but with an important healthy twist. That's why you won't find the traditional Californian French fries anywhere near their burritos - but with all of the other flavours packed inside, I can guarantee that you won't miss them!

Tortilla Cambridge restaurant review vegetarian vegan

The Menu

Tortilla's menu may seem limited on first glance, but every item is totally customisable and personal to you. In a Subway-style format, you watch your meal being freshly prepared and assembled right in front of you, selecting your perfect mix of tasty ingredients as you go. The base for your meal can be one of five options: you can plump for a classic burrito, a naked burrito (a bowl of tasty burrito fillings without the usual tortilla), Tres Tacos (three flour or corn shell tacos stuffed with your selection of fillings), nachos queso (crunchy nacho chips stacked with toppings), or a quesadilla (a toasted filled tortilla served with nacho chips).

Filling options include grilled chicken, pulled pork, marinaded pulled beef, tender jackfruit or grilled veggies. Next comes rice and beans (available in a variety of flavours), your choice of sour cream or cheese, followed by optional guacamole and salsa. There are four different salsa types available, ranging in spice from mild to fiery! If you are a big fan of the heat, Tortilla's salsa roja is made with habaneros – the hottest chillies in the world!! You're guaranteed to find a combination to tickle your fancy from this extensive range.

Tortilla Cambridge review Mexican Californian

My Veggie Burrito

I went all out with my vegetarian-friendly Medium Burrito (£5.80), choosing jackfruit, tomato rice, black beans, cheese, guacamole, and mild Pico de Gallo salsa. I really could not fault the taste or texture of the dish. All of the ingredients had clearly been freshly and carefully prepared. The tortilla was warm and light, the jackfruit beautifully seasoned, and the avocado soft, ripe and delicious. However, the £5.80 price point was perhaps a little high for a medium burrito, especially given that you have to add an additional 80p for guacamole and a 75p supplement if you choose the beef filling. On the plus side, the Tortilla staff did not scrimp on the portions, even for a medium size - mine was positively bursting with fillings! A medium would be perfectly adequate for a lunch and would definitely keep you full until dinner, but there's also the Large Burrito (£6.80) for those with a bigger appetite. 

The burrito receives extra praise from me due to the fact that it wasn't excessively soggy - in the past, I've eaten burritos where the ingredients are so watery that everything seeped out of the bottom of the tortilla, leaving my hands and clothing covered in residue and not smelling amazing. To be completely honest, this experience put me off burritos for quite some time but Tortilla has brought me around again! The only slight niggle about my meal was that the fillings were not particularly well distributed inside the burrito. All of the guacamole was collected in one big lump in the middle of the tortilla, meaning that I had two big bites where there was nothing but guac and then no a trace of it in the rest of the meal! I'm sure that giving the staff a little more training when it comes to rolling the burritos would easily solve this problem.

Another positive that has to be mentioned is Tortilla's commitment to high welfare standards for the meat sold in their restaurants. All of their chicken and pork is Red Tractor assured, meaning that it has been safely produced, responsibly sourced, and that the animals have been well cared for. Tortilla's beef is sourced from UK farms as well. For those of you not inclined towards a meaty meal, it's also incredibly easy to eat as a vegetarian or a vegan at Tortilla - their dishes have received official accreditation from the Vegetarian Society. Full marks all round!

Tortilla Cambridge restaurant review food fast

Drinks and Decor

I washed down my burrito with a couple of drinks from Tortilla's offering, starting off with a Peach and Basil Cider (from £3.50) from the Rekorderlig Botanicals range. The basis for this drink is a pear cider, which to be completely honest isn't my usual cup of tea. I often find ciders too drying and struggle to enjoy more than a few sips, but this one was delicious. It was really strongly refreshing and fruity with a pleasant peachy aftertaste. This was a really summery drink and I'd definitely treat myself to another! Also on the menu were Tortilla's signature Frozen Margaritas (£4.75). These were attractively served in dinky glasses with a slice of lime and a paper straw. The margaritas had great potential but unfortunately it seemed like they hadn't been mixed correctly on the night - they were too frozen to be sucked up by the straw but when allowed to melt, the resulting drink was far too sweet. Again, I'm sure this is just a little teething problem that will soon be sorted as the staff gain experience.

In terms of decor, Tortilla harks back to its Californian heritage with the look of the restaurant, including surf-inspired wall murals on the stairs and neon lights illuminating the words San Francisco above the kitchen. As well as leaving their origins in no doubt with their decoration choices, Tortilla also embraces what seems to be an in-vogue trend in restaurant design at the moment: an industrial feel. This was apparent in the exposed light fittings and visible ceiling beams in the upstairs seating area, on which pot-plants had been positioned. The Tamatanga Indian restaurant in Leicester also makes use of this quirky design element and I love the cool, urban feel that it brings. During my visit, Tortilla was absolutely packed with bloggers, journalists, and hungry locals and the atmosphere was buzzing. The downstairs where the food is prepared becomes full very quickly but there is plenty of space upstairs for diners to savour their burritos. Tortilla certainly provides food in a flash but in far more upmarket surroundings than your typical fast food outlets. I'll certainly be paying them another visit soon!

Tortilla Cambridge restaurant review decor

Tortilla can be found at: Unit 1, 18 Market Hill, Cambridge, CB2 3PE

What are your favourite burrito or taco fillings? Let me know in the comments below.

*My meal at Tortilla was complimentary in exchange for a review.