Late one Friday night, two vegetarians walked into a burrito bar… what comes next is no joke though, because there’s nothing funny about how utterly delicious the offering of Mexican street food is at FreshMex.
A relatively new business, FreshMex started out in 2015 as a pop-up food stall at local farmers’ markets and fairs. But I first heard about owners Robbie Moult and Calum Wright when they entered (and won) the Evening Express Retailer Awards last year. By then they had gained food residency at The Adams and I was able to have a wee tour of the bar and kitchen as part of the awards process. But even then, shamefully, it’s taken me until this year to actually try out the TexMex street food. And I don’t know why because, man, I love nachos!
So when catching up with my childhood pal who also shares my love for nachos smothered with guacamole and cheese… cheese, oh so much cheese, I suggested we try out FreshMex at its new stand-alone premises at Schoolhill in Aberdeen.
The trendy 40-seater burrito bar is very easy on the eye. The walls feature exposed brick which really give the place a cosy, relaxed feel when you walk in – that’s if you can fully get in the door, as I nearly couldn’t because the queue of hungry customers was almost spilling outside. Always a good sign!
To the right were bar stools gathered round some breakfast bar-style wooden benches and hung over them were some on-trend pendant ceiling lights.
To the left were smaller wooden tables in front of leather booth-style seats which sat under those attractive exposed brick walls. There was also some greenery dotted around – again, very on-trend in the world of interiors right now.
And the open-kitchen sat centre back with the mouth-watering menu above it for diners to pick from.
The build-your-own menu was split into three main simple sections: choose a base, choose a filling and choose toppings. Followed by desserts and sides. With nine bases to pick from I was a little stumped. Fajita? Burrito? Or maybe a quesadilla? I decided to opt for a burrito which came filled with lime and coriander brown rice and refried beans. My friend went for a quesadilla which was folded and toasted with cheese.
Being two veggies, we both decided to try out the BBQ pulled jackfruit which was recommended to us – something which I’d never heard of before. The helpful FreshMex employee explained to me that jackfruit is vegan “pulled pork” which is served up with an onion and pepper base and homemade Tex rub. Intrigued, we were both excited to try it out and I was chuffed to know vegetarians were catered for.
Then it was time for the really fun part – and the part that’s got me salivating as I write this – picking toppings. As well as the jackfruit, I decided to pack my burrito with cheese (naturally), guacamole, sour cream, nacho crunch, lettuce, queso sauce and a hot chipotle salsa.
Craving something similar, my friend filled up her quesadilla with guacamole, cheese and chipotle salsa. And there was no way I could go out for Mexican food without ordering a portion of nachos, which was layered with all the classics – yep, more guac, more sour cream, even more cheese and salsa.
As my friend and I called out our selections, we watched the team rustle up our food which was great to see. I’m a big fan of open-kitchens – we all hear horror stories about restaurant kitchens – but there was nothing scary at FreshMex. Clean, tidy and the service was super friendly and extra speedy. I could see exactly why they scooped the Food On The Go accolade at the Retailer Awards!
After paying for our meal, we grabbed a free seat (there weren’t many – a testament to the popularity of the place) and prepared to unwrap our food which had been sealed in tin foil and popped in a little tray.
As I made my way through the burrito I was thankful for the tin foil as it helped keep everything together – disclaimer: FreshMex makes for messy eating. But about those flavours – wow. I had made all the right choices. The soft flour tortilla soaked up the rich avocado flavours of the guacamole which had a thick, creamy like texture, but a little kick too. It complemented the sour cream as the two go hand-in-hand. And complementing both of those, was the hot salsa which I was a little apprehensive about. While I’m not afraid of spice, I don’t like anything too hot. Unfortunately they’d run out of the mild pico de gallo salsa so I’d taken a gamble with the hot one. But I was surprised to find that the hot chipotle didn’t leave me gulping down water. In fact, I felt I could have handled it a bit hotter.
Adding a different texture to the mix, I was glad I included the nacho crunch to my burrito – which was as it sounds, broken up nachos. It added something different and was deliciously mixed in with the cheese and rich, creamy cheese sauce.
After a few big burrito bites I came up for air and decided it was time to dive into those nachos which were flirting with me across the table. Nothing disappoints me more than when people are shy with cheese on nachos, but I’m pleased to report back to base that FreshMex is very generous on the cheesy front. The gold stuff was spread out between the layers of crispy tortillas and dolloped on top was some salsa and guacamole, with sour cream squirted in a zig zag-style pattern over all that. Perfection – the perfect side and more than enough to split between two people. Although I could have quite as easily had a Joey from Friends moment when I scooped up all the toppings with that first nacho: “SAMANTHA DOESN’T SHARE FOOD”.
Beside me, my friend was nodding with approval as she tucked into her quesadilla which was a little less messy to eat compared to my burrito. The quesadilla was a generous size for one person and the toasted cheese inside had melted into the neatly folded tortilla.
Like two peas in a pod, my friend and I had gone for similar fillings and, like me, she found the combination of flavours to be perfectly complementary to each other. The bursts of flavour spoke volumes for the freshness of the meal.
As if we weren’t already bursting at the seams, we decided to push the boat out and order a dessert.
A kind employee overhead us talking about the churros on the menu and offered to go get them for us to save us losing our seats, and we would return to the till to pay when we were done. We didn’t wait long and our fresh finger doughnuts were served up with a caramel sauce.
The sugary churros were a little bit on the hard side for our liking, but tasty and sweet nevertheless. And they were still great for dipping into the smooth but not sickly caramel sauce which was served in a small pot. The caramel literally slid down our throats like a warm, silky coating.
Feeling full and completely satisfied, my friend and I gushed about our meal as we left – FreshMex had left a lasting impression. The city centre business proved it lives by its tagline “fresh is best”. And to be honest, the burrito bar on Schoolhill is a breath of fresh air in general and exactly the type of eatery Aberdeen needs. As a vegetarian it can still be tricky to find good places to eat who offer more than risotto as a veggie alternative – although that would be a bit weird to offer on a Mexican menu… So the addition of something quirky like jackfruit on the menu was a very welcome one.