Wednesday, 24 August 2011

KFB does Taco Bell

An introduction to Taco Bell
For all you readers out there who aren't aware of the intricacies of Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, you might not be aware that they also own Pizza Hut and more importantly, Taco Bell. My experience with the latter dates back to teenage trips to Canada in the late 90s. I recall being incredibly confused by the fact that a Taco Bell adjoined every single KFC we came across and decided that the only course of action was to give it a go. Now this was no minor undertaking my friends - you have to bear in mind here that I was effectively eschewing the Colonel in favour of an unknown quantity. My decision was a wise one, for Taco Bell, in my humble opinion, equals the deliciousness of KFC.

For years I wandered the streets of England, distraught at the fact that the last time Taco Bell had been available in the UK was back in the very early 1990s, as evidenced by the following photo of the Coventry St branch (where a very large KFC now resides).

Back in 2009 though we heard whispers that a brand spanking new Taco Bell was to open in none other than...Lakeside Shopping Centre. Ok, so that last part wasn't so great but we were willing to travel as far as it took to sample the Mexican magic.

The tasting
And so I found myself en route to glorious Essex on a warm summer's day, mouths watering at the thought of what lay ahead. Upon arrival at Lakeside (just 25 mins out of London on the train) I headed straight for the food court and was greeted by the following:

The excitement now reaching fever point I half-jogged over to the purple paradise. The rumours were true: Taco Bell really was back in the UK.

Time for the eating to commence. Wanting to sample as many menu items as possible (of which there are very many as evidenced in the above photo which you can click to enlarge), I decided the only thing for it was to eat both lunch and dinner at this establishment. I started with the Crunchwrap Supreme and noticed that I could add a taco for just 89p. Clearly I opted for the latter too, choosing a soft chicken taco.

Crunchwrap Supreme
It's big. It's also extremely familiar. You see, KFC has effectively been selling a version of the Crunchwrap Supreme for quite some time here in the UK (albeit as a time limited offer item) and labelling it the Wrapstar. We assume Taco Bell was there first though, given the presence of the wrap and tostada - both classic Mexican additions. 

The first flavour to hit me was the nacho cheese sauce - a personal favourite though an acquired taste. The assemblers were slightly over-eager with the lettuce but we'll forgive them this minor sin. The tostada (hence where the 'Crunch' in the name comes from) was a nice addition but not as crunchy as it perhaps should have been. The beef was flavoursome albeit slightly lacking in texture and the accompanying Mexican fries were a  welcome side. Overall, a filling, delectable treat.

Soft chicken taco

Given the bargain price I wasn't expecting much from this smaller accompaniment. How wrong I was. The shredded chicken was highly flavoursome and I could really pick out the individual flavours in this one - the cheddar being particularly noticeable. Top tip: make sure you opt for the 'Supreme' version which adds sour cream and diced tomato for a lot of extra freshness.

Dinner: Volcano burrito

For those that aren't aware, the 'Volcano' in this menu item equates to the addition of cheesy molten hot lava sauce to the standard burrito. Again a rather sizeable item and tasty but somewhat cloying in the mouth. The addition of lettuce or tomato would make a nice difference to this one. Spiciness-wise we're not talking set your mouth on fire levels here but there was definitely a pleasant enough zing.

Surprise addition: Beef Taco Supreme

Upon collecting my Volcano Burrito I was presented with a 'Saved by the Bell' loyalty card which had been stamped once. Perplexed, I studied further and found that Taco Bell's loyalty card offers you a free item every second time you purchased from them. Given that the menu is already extremely good value, this was a real turn out for the books. Naturally, I mentioned that I had purchased lunch earlier and was given another stamp, meaning I was owed a Crunchy Taco Supreme. Hence this final meal element.

The taco once again proved itself surprisingly simple, fresh and delicious. However, my over-eagerness to get out of Lakeside (i'd been there for several hours at this point) meant I was rushing and managed to crush the shell to many tiny pieces making it incredibly hard to eat. For this reason alone it earns a point less than it's soft-shelled cousin.

One more thing: the sauces

The sauces at Taco Bell are almost as important as the main menu items - they're that good. Assembled above are the four options, all bearing a variety of zany phrases on their fronts. In order we have:
Verde: This reminded me of jalapeños and was the freshest tasting of all the sauces. Awesome.
Mild: Some hints of McDonald's sweet and sour sauce but with extra zing. Another great option.
Hot: Some strange spices at play here with an almost cinnamon taste. Not great.
Fire: Bizarrely, just not that hot. 3rd best out of the 4 but still a worthy addition to those main menu items.

Closing thoughts:
Lip-smackingly (not finger-lickingly of course) delicious. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Taco Bell have put a link to your review on their UK official page.