A few weeks ago, I was invited to Chiquito in Hemel Hempstead to try out their menu and see how the restaurant was getting on. They had a party back in May to celebrate their 500th day, and with nearly a year and a half under their belt, are well established in the Jarman Square part of Hemel.
If you know the area, Jarman Square used to be known as Jarman Park - a leisure park with a swimming pool, cinema, a couple of restaurants and a big Tesco. It was built in my teens, so twenty odd years later it was looking a bit sad and in need of some TLC. That's finally happened recently, with plenty of new restaurants opening up including a Bella Italia and a Nando's, and the Empire cinema being replaced by a Cineworld. It's streets ahead of where it was when I worked in Hemel a couple of years back.
We popped into Chiquito on a Friday night, and it was busy and bustling. Neither of us had been to a Chiquito for years, so we opted to try a few new things on the menu and see what was new. My overriding memory of previous visits to Chiquito is eating tons of food and leaving uncomfortably full, so I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to move for our cinema trip later, but there was so much on offer in the menu that I went a bit mad trying to choose everything. Shame I hadn't had time to change out of my work clothes (even if I did switch my heels for comfy flats from Spartoo before I went).
We started with some mocktails (a combination of needing to drive and needing to stay awake for said cinema trip) - I had the Yucatan Breeze and Matt had the Virgin Colada. Both were really nice, although let's face it, would have been better with some rum in. Such is life.
What struck me with the menu is that it seems to have been heavily influenced by other Mexican chains that have sprung up more recently, with a street food section that's also inspired their starters.
With that in mind, we chose the Soft Taco Sharer to start which consisted of six small, soft tacos covered in different toppings; chorizo and sweetcorn, beetroot and feta and pulled pork. They came with salsa on the side, and were topped with lettuce and pink onion. They were really nice - although they weren't stuffed to bursting, that was fine for me as they were the perfect bite-size amount for starters. It always sucks when your main course comes and you've eaten too much to start with!
For mains, Matt chose fajitas - a classic - and I opted for a selection of the street food dishes. We decided we'd share the lot. Now, there are lots of different street food options and you can get 3 for £12.95 or 6 for £23.95. There were far more than 3 that I wanted to try, so I went for 6, thinking I was being ridiculous and wouldn't be able to finish it all. But... actually it was fine. We even had dessert. I think you could be savvy with what you chose, if you just wanted to have three - I had a couple of the dips and salads, but if you went for quesadillas, a mini burrito and a tortilla stack, for instance you'd probably be pretty stuffed. So if you want variety, I say 6 dishes for one person is totally acceptable.
We went for Quesadilla Bites, Chorizo Croquettes, Mini Burrito, Halloumi Bites, Fiesta Salad and the Whipped Feta and Honey dip. A good mix of heavy and lighter dishes, and I think that's why I had plenty of room for half Matt's fajitas after eating half of this lot!
It was all good - the quesadillas were cheesy and the burrito was stuffed to the brim and super flavoursome. The croquettes and halloumi bites were nice, in the way that chorizo and halloumi is always nice, but also nothing hugely special, just your usual party food type dish. But that's what Chiquito does well - crowdpleasing, tasty food. It's not as spicy or highly flavoured as other Mexican restaurants but if you want the super authentic stuff, you don't go to Chiquito, right?
We finished with churros, which were excellent - and points to the waiter for telling us to ask for more chocolate sauce if we needed it (we totally did).
It was a really nice meal, and despite the fact that we organised a ridiculous amount of food, it was a good quantity - we were happy and full afterwards, but didn't feel like we wanted to explode. Which happens to us a lot. I like Chiquito - yes, I've had better Mexican food, but they do a good job of bringing Mexican food to the masses, and it's consistent and tastes good, which is pretty much all you need.
We went to Chiquito at 4 Jarmans Fields Leisure Complex, Jarman Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 4JS. The restaurant gave us a voucher towards the cost of our meal in exchange for this honest review.