Mexican food. I had no great love for it as a cuisine until a visit to Wahaca in London a few years back convinced me of its possibilities. Ex-MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers oversees branches of her popular canteen-style eatery throughout London, it won me over with the authentic and flavoursome fare, even though the heat was certainly dialled down for the English palate. In Ireland, we mostly get what passes for Mexican food from a yellow box in the supermarket. When prepared, it often appears on the plate to have already been eaten by someone else. This is not the case at Boojum, the new restaurant on Spanish Parade, here it is all aromatic, fresh, and zesty, a return to its street food roots.
The concept here is that of a taquería, restaurants specialising in burritos, although tacos and other dishes are often served as well. Originally, taquerías referred to the stands of street vendors and, similar to that, there are no frills here, no table service, no bookings — just lots of help at the counter from the infectiously enthusiastic staff. There is an upbeat, young, vibe in the airy main eating area, the room is all pared back functionality, brightly lit from the azure-blue painted windows.
The ordering system at Boojum (it's a kind of Mexican cactus, in case you are wondering ) is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. The food is prepared fresh every morning and then assembled exceptionally quickly to order from trays behind the counter, the O'Brien’s sandwich bar of Mexican food, if you will. First you choose what you would like – a burrito, fajita, or taco for the hungry, a burrito bowl or salad for the merely peckish. The second step is the filling – choosing from chilli, chicken, shredded beef, slow roast pork, or vegetarian. On to step three where the trimmings are piled on – salsas of varying heat, grated cheese, and sour cream. A few pennies will also get you extras of sautéed onions, peppers, jalepenos, and such. There are a few nice imported Mexican beers, soft drinks, and even a margarita if you so desire.
We tried the tacos, a little tin plate lined with rustling greaseproof paper where three corn tacos nestled, filled with a little bit of everything and perfect for sharing, the chilli one was especially good. Also, a burrito was built for us, big, fat, and filled to bursting. Cilantro-lime rice (they mean coriander, of course, but I will forgive them this one affectation ), whole black beans, shiny as molten tar, succulent pork, sweet corn salsa, and copious sour cream and cheese. The whole lot packed expertly into the flour tortilla by the practised hands of one of the lovely staff, with the folding skills of a seasoned Brown Thomas sales assistant. It was the most expensive item on the menu, but when that item is €6.45, I don't think anyone will be complaining. A side of tortilla chips with a coriander and lime rich chunky guacamole, fresh salsa, and a warm cheese dip were moreish, a million miles away from the cinema 'tortilla chip' experience.
Boojum is a great addition to Galway and a relatively healthy alternative to the fast food chains with staff that are more fun than a basketful of puppies. They seem to like where they work and they want you to like it too. They close at 9pm but I think they should certainly consider opening their Galway operation till 10pm, at least in the summer season. We are a party town, after all, and they are well placed to take advantage of the summer traffic. The food is aromatic rather than hot, they are rightly cautious about upsetting 'gringo' appetites. But even if true Mexican zing is missing from the plates, it can be easily adjusted at the table from the array of hot-sauce bottles situated there. This is good food, it is inexpensive, and if you were given it in Mexico, you would probably be very happy.
Boojum, Unit 1 Spanish Parade, Galway. Monday-Friday 11.30-9, Saturday 12-9 and Sunday 1-6.
On a related note, and if Mexican is your 'thing', one of my blogging buddies, Lily Romarez-Foran, can bring the taste of Mexico to your home. I had met her through her blog, A Mexican Cook in Ireland, and recently had the pleasure of meeting her moma and papa the other day for a feast of homemade tamales.
When she came to our part of the world over a decade ago, shopping for chilli peppers was an adventure, avocados were an oddity, and tortillas were totally out of the question. Strapped for ingredients and homesick for Mexican food made her very resourceful, so over the years she learned to use some of the fantastic produce found in Ireland as a substitute for the Mexican ingredients she could not find here; it gave birth to what she calls 'Irish-Mex' cuisine. Now they are sourced and available for us all to buy in her online shop mymexicanshop.ie, where you can find these and the best and most authentic Mexican food ingredients on the market today.
Phone 087 780 4750. Email [email protected]