There is a great Billy Connolly joke (which I’ve just spent an hour looking for on Youtube and failed) where he tells a story about Mexican food. When his food comes he says “this is the enchilada – I ordered the Quesadillas”. The waiter then takes the dish back from him, folds the food into a different shape and hands it back. The point here being that for years many of us thought of Mexican as pretty much the same dishes with meat, rice, beans and guacamole. Some places would serve the guacamole from a jar, the seasonings wouldn’t be far above what you get in a taco pack in the supermarket and the meat was dry and tasteless. Luckily with the emergence of Wahaca in London and our very own 777 things have improved, big time.
You probably know Xico as a nightclub and bar on Baggot street. It’s one of the most trendy to emerge in Ireland of late and popular with the “in” crowd. It is dark, dingy and ominous looking – not because it is run down but because a team have been hired to make it look exactly like that. They even call themselves a “dive bar”. It feels like the sort of place Walter White would walk into with a kilo of meth and glock strapped to his leg to meet some fat Mexican cartel bell out the back.
People dance on tables, they come here well oiled up to drink shots, and meet somebody they can end up spooning on a Sunday morning. In short it is a party joint, but a few months after opening they’ve thrown food into the mix and started serving a full Mexican menu. I’m always dubious about eating in what are effectively nightclubs for fear of sitting on some 2 week old puke, but I’m happy to report that this place is spotless. They are clearly aiming to draw people in early to eat food, drink cocktails and then stay for the night dancing on the tables ’til last orders. Get 100 Euros out of them rather than just the 30 they’d get for a meal.
The menu is light and I started with Taquitious which are soft tacos. I had the chicken and they were light, soft and delicious, with a great crunch on top. The perfect little starter. I followed up with a tuna ceviche which I rightly guessed would be pretty small despite it being 15 Euros. It was fresh with apple, cucumber and micro greens in there, but if I had it as a main on it’s own I’d be into the little kebab shop on the way out 10 minutes later. I had corn with mine which was super well cooked, although I didn’t read the fine print and spot the coriander pesto which I didn’t like and scraped it off. Not their fault but just my own aversion to that most love / hate of ingredients…coriander.
I was there on a Wednesday night and the place was dead. This place needs to be experienced at the weekend – it’s very much an all or nothing kind of joint. You come in, lash 4 cocktails into you, have some awesome spicy Mexican food, drink some shots, kiss the girl at the bar, go for a nap in the corner, drink some more and then fall out the door thinking “fuck yeah that was fun”. You don’t come here for a salad with the girls on a week night.
Mexican is my own favourite food in the entire world and there isn’t enough of it in Dublin. 777 still tops the bill in a league of it’s own and I wonder how much “inspiration” they’ve taken from that venue’s success. Either way I don’t care, because the more Mexican and new unique dining experiences in the capital, the better. In a street full of expensive restaurants, full of politicians and bankers, Xico is the odd kid on the block and that’s a good thing.