- Taco Bell has arrived in London.
- The Tex-Mex franchise’s first restaurant opened in the English capital on Friday.
- INSIDER’s London bureau went along to see what all the fuss was about.
- While fast food restaurants are, of course, omnipresent in the city – several things surprised us about the experience.
Taco Bell has landed in London, England.
The Tex-Mex franchise has opened its first restaurant in the capital with three more to follow in the coming months.
Given the restaurant’s overwhelming popularity in the states, INSIDER’s London bureau had to go along to see what all the fuss was about.
“We’ve had our sights set on London for quite some time, and as we continue growing internationally, we’re excited to bring Taco Bell to one of the world’s largest cities – and one of our most-requested markets,” said Liz Williams, President, Taco Bell International.
The fast-food chain has some pretty aggressive expansion plans in the UK and across Europe, so it may not be long till Taco Bells are as omnipresent across the pond as they are stateside.
“We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response to our U.K. restaurants, and have ambitious plans for growth in London and the broader U.K., targeting more than 30 U.K. restaurants by the end of the year.”
Scroll down to see what surprised us most about the experience.
1. Taco Bell in the UK looks a lot different to Taco Bell in the US…
Whenever I’ve seen Taco Bells in the US they always seem to be large, detached properties in a kind of Spanish colonial Mexican heritage style build.
In London, however, where the roads are not so wide and the sky is not always so blue, Taco Bell blended in quite seamlessly in its typical British high street in west London.
… Inside and out
In the US (right), Taco Bells seem to be quite light and airy with plenty of windows, whereas in the UK the interiors are a little more dark and oaky.
It wasn’t unpleasant, per se, but there wasn’t a lot of natural light.
2. It wasn’t just tacos
Who would have thought it?
The Taco Bell menu was extensive, ranging from this Crunchwrap Supreme (pictured) to burritos to nachos to loaded fries.
There was also a number of combo meals like the Big Bell Box, which we were told is one of the only menu options that is carried across all of the chain’s territories.
3. You can customise a lot
You don’t just order a taco.
First, you decide if you want crunchy or soft-shell.
Next, you decide on your meat – beef, chicken or pork (which isn’t roundly available in the US).
Then you get to customise it pretty much any way you want, which is perfect for those who aren’t a fan of certain vegetables.
4. It was surprisingly cheap
I ordered two Tacos Supreme and my colleague indulged in a Crunchwrap supreme, which – with sides – came to just £10.18 ($US13.04), and we were absolutely stuffed.
We were also impressed with the budget “Crav£rs” menu, which offered wraps and tacos starting at £1.79 ($US2.30).
Most of the meals were less than a Burger King, and I know which I’d rather have.
5. You can drink beer (and rum)
This is a major selling point.
Taco Bell might be the only major fast-food chain in the UK where you can enjoy an alcoholic beverage with your meal.
There really is nothing better than a cold beer and some tacos – especially when that beer is just £3 ($US3.90) a pint, which is way below the London average.
Plus, on Tuesdays, you can get a taco and a bottle of Sol beer for £2, which is tough value to beat.
You can also get a Twisted Freeze Daiquiri or Margarita if you’re more of a cocktail person.
6. I didn’t get the sauce wisdom
I didn’t actually even notice the little messages on the sauce sachets until a member of Taco Bell staff pointed them out to me.
I didn’t realise or understand the significance of the short messages such as “no regrets” and “I do,” which are akin to the messages on Love Hearts sweets here in the UK.
It seems they’re much more of a phenomenon in the US, where people even attend fancy dress parties wearing their take on the sauce sachets.
7. Dessert was the best part of the meal
As delicious as the tacos were, it was the churros that blew me away.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the deep-fried dessert, but Taco Bell’s offering was crispy on the outside, fluffy within, and was coated in the perfect amount of cinnamon sugar.
While the chocolate dip tasted rather artificial, the caramel dip was insatiably moreish.
We didn’t come to Taco Bell in search of health food, and the reality pretty much aligned with our expectations.
While the food was heavy and fatty, it was also delicious, and very reasonably priced.
The addition of alcohol on offer, unsurprisingly, tipped it for these Brits and will likely do so for many of others.
It was recently reported that Taco Bell is America’s favourite Mexican restaurant. Could this be the start of their UK domination? Quite possibly.