Andale, andale. Arriba, arriba. We are standing in a queue outside the first ever stand-alone Taco Bell restaurant in the UK and it’s stretching out onto the pavement of Ecclesall Road.
Taco Bell’s target ‘young Millennials’ have been lured in their droves by the world’s largest Mexican-inspired chain , which opened its unique, state-of-the-art, 80-seat, dual-floor restaurant on September 25.
But that’s not the reason for the queue. Over their heads, we can see the open kitchen and it looks as small and stuffed as a burrito. There’s only one girl taking orders and as no one is a Taco Bell regular, it takes an age to decide what to pick from the illuminated menu above her head. But it’s a good job the service is slow, the kitchen staff look mega-busy.
I nip in and pick up a menu leaflet, in a bid to speed our ordering process up.
A whole 20 minutes later, a request for Volcano nachos, a side of Mexican fries, pork quesadilla and a chicken Crunchwrap Supreme rolls off my tongue. But then, confusion – do we want £4 Crunchwrap as a £4.79 meal deal, which would give one of us limitless supply of soft drink and negate the need for the side of fries? Yes we do, and along with a coffee and a Chocomarsh melt on offer at 99p, the bill is only £13.75. No wonder the brand, created in California in 1952 by a US Marine, has 6,500 US restaurants.
It’s had three UK sites, in shopping centres, for some time, but the Sheffield venue is the chain’s first stand-alone. It is being run by Sheffield-based food franchise specialists Northgate Fast Foods. Cool urban meets influences from Mexico and California – exposed ducting and neon lighting, exposed brickwork and rough clapperboard with faded images and lettering here and there. The ‘Millennials’ will appreciate the free Wifi and mobile charging stations.
It’s a further 20 minutes before we eat. Hardly fast food. There are apologies, but no explanations Call in Speedy Gonzales, someone.
The nachos are good and thick and smothered in chilli sauce, sour cream, pickled jalapeños and what I call plastic cheese sauce, and which the husband adores. The fries are fine, but swiftly go limp. The Crunchwrap was a winner – a perfect hexagonal parcel of smoky chargrilled tortilla containing crunchy salad, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and diced Mexican chicken.
My quesadilla was disappointingly flat; there was loads of cheese oozing from it, but no sign of creamy jalapeño sauce and the amount of meltingly-soft pulled pork in there was meagre. We were stuffed, though, and grateful the dessert, a Crunchwrap filled with melted chocolate chips and marshmallows, was dinky.
This Taco Bell model could roll out across the UK, I hear. I hope they make the kitchens bigger and the queues smaller.
Venue: Taco Bell
Address: 485 Ecclesall Rd, Sheffield S11 8PP
Ratings marked out of 6