London & South East

Developing Mexican dining with Wahaca

Written by Roma Publications


Mexican dining is set to undergo a radical transformation with the opening of two new Wahaca restaurants in London.

Wahaca Southbank and Wahaca Charlotte Street are the latest editions in the Wahaca portfolio and will serve the delicious traditional Mexican market food that has become synonymous with the brand.

In a break from traditional construction methods, Wahaca Southbank has been constructed using a collection of shipping containers that are intertwined to form a fully operational diner. Meanwhile, Charlotte Street is set to become the largest Wahaca restaurant in the UK when it opens in the autumn of 2012.

Main contractor for both projects is du Boulay Contracts Ltd, whilst Softroom is the architect.

Softroom Director, Chris Bagot, commented:

“Our involvement with the Wahaca brand dates back to 2006, before the restaurant chain had even launched. We were asked to create a Mexican restaurant that wouldn’t fall into the trap of employing typical Mexican clichés – and that’s exactly what we did.


“Our task was to come up with contemporary design that was both interesting and stimulating whilst capturing the spirit and energy of Mexico.”

Work began on Wahaca Southbank in November 2011 and was completed in June 2012. The overlying concept was to design a contemporary restaurant for London’s Southbank that could fit into the confines of the tight, yet very prestigious site. As a result, the restaurant was constructed using two rows of shipping containers each measuring 2.4 metres in height.

Chris Bagot commented:

“The Southbank is a fantastic location for Wahaca, however as we didn’t have the space to create a full-sized Wahaca restaurant we had to rethink the concept – which is when the shipping container idea was conceived.”

The back row of containers houses many of the practical elements of the restaurant, including the kitchens, bar and wash rooms. Seating areas, dining rooms and the lounge bar are housed in the front containers. The restaurant is fully fitted with bespoke furniture and all of the finishes are in keeping with the Wahaca style.


An external area at the site houses an alfresco dining space complete with timber decking and seating.

Chris Bagot said:

“We don’t know how long the restaurant will be here, but we have plans in place for when the site is officially closed.

“By making the restaurant out of shipping containers, we hope to be able to deconstruct the site and reconfigure it at a new location. It is impossible to say how we will reuse the components but it certainly has potential and this is what has made Wahaca Southbank financially viable.”

To continue the impressive expansion of Wahaca, work is currently underway on Wahaca Charlotte Street. Work began in March 2012 and is scheduled for completion in August.


The restaurant is spread over three floors and as well as offering diners a place to relax and enjoy the delicious food, a separate takeaway service will also be installed on the site. The basement level will comprise the kitchen and back of house services, whilst the ground floor will be reserved for dining and the takeaway counter. The first floor of the Charlotte Street site will house a stunning cocktail bar.

Chris Bagot said:

“Wahaca Charlotte Street was formerly three houses that have been reconfigured into one site, and it is completely different to Wahaca Southbank in almost every way.


“In conceiving the design of any restaurant, we always try to emphasis what the building was originally and then use our imagination to release the potential. Charlotte Street could become the most important Wahaca that we have been involved with, and it is certainly the largest.”

“Working with Wahaca enables us to employ our broad range of skills and experiences. When we see the finished result it really is a big achievement for us and makes all of the hard work worthwhile.”


T R Mechanical Services Ltd

T R Mechanical Services Ltd has been a part of the Wahaca team since 2009, when they worked together on Wahaca Canary Wharf. Southbank is the company’s 6th Wahaca restaurant and is without a doubt the most unusual design that T R Mechanical Services Ltd has ever been involved with.

Each Wahaca is different and provides T R Mechanical Services Ltd with a new challenge in getting the correct and most energy efficient performance from the ventilation and air conditioning systems.

When designing the mechanical systems T R Mechanical Services Ltd are very sensitive to Wahaca’s environmental policy and they ensure the kitchen extract passes through various stages of filtration to eliminate odours, smoke and grease before discharging to the atmosphere.

Whenever possible T R Mechanical Services Ltd also recover the lost heat from the kitchen extract and transfer it to the fresh air intake during the colder months. This helps to reduce Wahaca’s carbon footprint and save money.

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Roma Publications

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