Food review: Baja Mexicali near Fareham
In among the chain restaurants, stands one tiny independent restaurant.
As everyone loves an underdog, Dish Detective decided it was time to see if Baja Mexicali can stand its ground surrounded by all the major players in the hospitality industry.
Baja Mexicali opened at Whiteley Shopping Centre in May in a tiny unit opposite Rock Up following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Some of you may remember when it was independent restaurant Montagu’s, which closed in 2019, before being turned into a various ever-changing run of pop-up shops, even spending a festive season as Santa’s Grotto.
Whiteley Shopping Centre, which itself opened in 2013, has a vast array of big name chains: Wagamamas, Nandos, Five Guys, Harvester, and so on. They all occupy huge units, with large glass fronts and big illuminated signs. Whiteley really is the battle of the big boys.
And when we say Baja Mexicali is in a tiny unit, we mean it, it’s a small glass box unit, maybe 40 covers max.
You can see the kitchen and bar, and the staff hard at work, and the one toilet is a bit close to the diners. Watch out for the spicy food effect.
Being in the centre does have its benefits, free parking for one-to-four hours free or free after 6pm at Tesco.
It’s also near a huge multiplex cinema, plus most high street retailers have a presence.
We booked into Baja Mexicali online for a Friday night and note that most of its tables were already booked two days before – a good sign.
There’s just two of us dining, and Dish Detective commits a terrible sin of arriving early – but the staff were accommodating (there are unfortunately no real pubs to hang around in at Whiteley) and we sat down to enjoy a Mexican beer – Sol served with lime £4 – while we waited.
There’s a great menu of cocktails, all very tempting if we hadn’t been driving. We witness several margaritas and mexepressos being poured expertly.
Baja Mexicali serves ‘Mexi-Cali’ inspired food – offering a combination of Mexican and American cuisines – such as tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
There are a variety of small plates to share, tacos, plus loaded fries, and we go for the quesadillas, with a side order of Assada fries (£9.50)
We inquired whether that’s enough or whether we should order an extra small plate and were politely told that it would be more than enough for one person – and the waiter was not wrong.
The quesadillas – grilled flour tortillas – were delicious, perfectly tasty and spicy, served with mozzarella, smoked cheddar and smoked pulled pork and chorizo (£8).
Our companion goes for the veggie version (£7.50) served with roasted Mediterranean veg and balsamic glaze.
The loaded fries, which come topped with grilled chicken thigh, roasted veg and chipotle sauce, as well as cheese, guacamole, lime crema and salsa, were a meal in themselves.
It’s an exceptional meal. A real treat, spicy and flavoursome.
Although absolutely stuffed by our mains, it would be rude to turn down the desserts. It’s a small menu, just three carefully chosen options, and we plump for the churros, which come served with chocolate sauce (£6) and a slice of margarita cheesecake (£5.50). Again both are delicious, the cheesecake comes served with a lime glaze, with generous portions of both.
Nobody will be leaving Baja Mexicali feeling hungry tonight.
Dish Detective has eaten at many restaurants at Whiteley Shopping Centre - and Baja Mexicali is now one of our favourites.
If you are looking for an intimate venue that serves tasty food and excellent drinks, then this is the place for you.
RATINGS (out of five)
Tel: 01489 575061
A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.
We’ve reduced the cost of digital subscriptions to our website by 50 per cent for a limited time.
You can now subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, for less than 13p a day.