The holiday season is firmly upon us and with it comes a delightful, seasonal variation on food when eating out. Restaurants all over have either switched out their normal dining options completely or, more commonly, present an additional menu of fancy options to explore. Bookatable have a wide selection of places with festive seasonal menus to choose from and they kindly invited me to review any one of the participating restaurants. Whilst we originally intended to spend a night out in London, we decided to opt for somewhere more local this time; Chiquito, Hatfield (Hertfordshire).
Given my partner and I are both vegetarian, the traditionally associated Christmas foods are not a factor for us. But of course we do love many of the various festive alternatives on offer. There are several restaurants to choose on Bookatable in Hatfield; I chose to visit Chiquito at the Galleria in Hatfield because the options available sounded tasty and I was curious about how they would blend their Mexican theme with the holiday season. Plus I haven’t really explored much of this type type of cuisine and had talked about trying this particular restaurant out before. Last but not least, it is local and easy to get to; and we needed something relaxed for this busy time of year.
Booking with Bookatable
Having used Bookatable before, I knew what to expect. The process from start to finish is simple and efficient; choose the restaurant, date and time, how many of us, then just give usual reservation details. The booking took hardly any time at all; the only minor hiccup was that I didn’t receive the email after. But I had already noted the reservation number and it was all on the system as expected, so this was no problem.
This particular Chiquito is situated within the Galleria Outlet Centre in Hatfield. The Galleria is positioned between junctions 3 and 4 of the A1 (M); from there it is well signposted. By train, Hatfield station is a 25 minute walk or a 10 minute bus ride. If coming in from London, the train journey is 20 or so minutes. There are multiple entrances into the Galleria, both in terms or parking and getting into the centre itself.
Chiquito is on the ground floor of the outlet. It can be accessed easily by those with disabilities and directly without having to go past all the shops and other facilities. Parents and those who have SEND considerations to take on board might find this welcome information. It is basically possible to park a short two minute walk away and head straight to the restaurant itself. Equally, if you wanted to make more of it; this is possible too. For an evening out, such as a date night, the Odeon cinema is just upstairs in the same building.
Situated inside the Galleria, the restaurant had both internal and external seating. However, the small seating area outside the actual restaurant is on (although closed off) the actual walkway.
Inside it was quite spacey with a combination of Mexican decorations, photos and props, as you might expect. There were also christmas decorations sprinkled sparingly between all this. The occasional snowflake, lights, ornaments and such. You could tell it was christmas time but not at the expense of their own identify or by overdoing the visual stimuli. I would describe it as quite tasteful.
The seating was spacious, the staff friendly, and the overall atmosphere worked well for one-to-one, family, and party dining. An interesting observation is that I don’t recall there being any music present, if there was, it was especially quiet.
We visited at a particularly quiet time too; early evening on a Wednesday. As we were ready to leave, the party bookings started to come in. Whilst our visit was very peaceful and this was not a disruption, there is space enough to host quite large party bookings and I imagine those especially sensitive to noise (sensitive children and autistic people for example) might struggle somewhat with this. Based on what we observed though, this can be worked around with an earlier booking.
The service was flawless at the start. We were seated on arrival, given sufficient time to make up our minds and asked how we were, but not assertively so. We had a bit more difficulty in getting the staff’s attention on leaving to pay the bill but this was because of a large booking and there being limited servers on the floor that night. I don’t feel this harmed the experience at all. We ended up spending a couple of hours in the restaurant, which is somewhat more than intended, but the gap between courses didn’t feel overly stretched out or that the wait was too long; it was just very nice to have an unhurried meal and we were in no rush!
The seasonal menu is substantially smaller than the regular. There are, of course, the usual sections of starter, main, dessert and sides. It also contains some festive cocktails too. Most of the menu is traditionally christmas food with a mexican or spicy mix. However, the vegetarian and vegan options are a little more limited. When you consider the scale of the normal main menu (and the lunch menu) which are still running however this is not a problem. I don’t see vegetarians or vegans going wanting.
For starter, my partner and I both went for Crispy Halloumi Bites; a vegetarian dish where halloumi is coated in panko crumbs with jalapeno jelly for dipping. We each received six of these; they were neatly presented, well cooked and absolutely delicious. When we talked about our trip later, we both agreed that these were an absolute highlight.
For mains, we again both chose the same dish. We opted for the vegan variation of The Piri Piri Fajita; sweet potatoes, courgettes, onions, pepper cooked in Piri Piri and complimented with Violife Vegan Cheddar, assorted sauces and of course tortillas to encapsulate all this goodness. The portions were more than generous; actually I needed a little help to finish mine from my partner. Not because it wasn’t fabulously tasteful but because I just couldn’t fit it all in. Again, well cooked and arrived piping hot.
Finally came dessert; we opted for the Mexican Yule Log and Churros to share both. The yule log was tasty, although some may find the cinnamon a little overpowering perhaps. We enjoyed it though.
The churros have a vegetarian option (dulce de leche; a caramelized milk of sorts) or vegan sauce (chocolate) accompanying it; we went for the vegan option. I liked the vegan chocolate sauce, although we both actually preferred the churros plain over dipped. We enjoyed sharing both desserts; the variety was good!
Mexmas set menu is 2 courses for £15.99 or 3 courses for £17.99. Our bill came to about £60 in total for both of us; including all three courses, drinks (a couple of large soft drinks, a mocktail and a festive cocktail) and the tip. This felt reasonable.
The christmas experience at Chiquito was a very positive one. It felt like an enjoyable christmas meal without falling into all the typical seasonal troupes. What’s more is that the atmosphere was stimulating (but not overly so), the staff were pleasant, the food was fantastic, and the service good. I strongly recommend the restaurant, and suggest you check out Bookatable also!
*The cost of the meal was covered by Bookatable and we were compensated for our time. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.