The meaning of Mexway

By - Monday 9th March, 2015

Where the hell is Mexway? Lauren Furey demands to know

A beast of a burrito. Photo author’s own.

A few months ago I wrote a piece for the Citizen about gentrification and the positive and negative impact that it could have on Croydon. I sought to find examples of businesses and entrepreneurs that were helping to maintain and shape the cultural landscape of a town as diverse as Croydon.

My journey of what it means to be from Croydon, how it feels to live in Croydon and what makes Croydon tick has taken me to live music events, art shows, retirement centres and beyond. Ruskin Square’s World Food Market proves that the good folk of this town will brave all kinds of weather for a fresh cooked Malaysian lunch. The Oval Tavern shows us that even when you think you’ve seen it all in Croydon, there’s still a hidden gem lurking just around the corner. RISE gallery demonstrates that you don’t need to divert your weekends to the trendy corners of east London to view astounding pieces from some of the world’s most renowned artists as well as some remarkable up-and-comers. And Mexway showed us that delicious Mexican street food can incorporate authentic flavours without being complex and overpriced.

Mexway had it going on!

It’s no secret that I was a big fan from day one. My love of messy, spicy, cheesy food was perfectly encompassed in those succulent, albeit gigantic, burritos. The portions were big and the prices were fair. What’s more, the staff were really friendly. They were efficient and honest and pleasant and seemed to actually care about the work they did. Making those monstrous burritos wasn’t like throwing together some fast food cheeseburger, it was a work of art: tortilla, rice, beans, chicken/pulled pork, steak, peppers, onions, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and hot sauce. Fitting that calamity into a single tortilla wrap is a mean job but they did it and always with a smile.

Thing is, where the hell is Mexway? Mexway had it going on! A delicious menu, a brilliant team of staff, food challenges and beer! For almost two years the place was queuing out the door. You expected to be standing outside on George Street, trams whizzing by, to get your hands on a burrito but you didn’t mind. It was all worth it.

Then one week, like a senseless idiot, I booked a Friday off work. When I came back on the Monday, I found out that Mexway had shut its doors that very Friday afternoon. The lights had gone off and signs now littered the windows advertising a space for hire. There was no rhyme nor reason. Management had left a sweet message thanking the people of Croydon for their support and how it had been a pleasure serving us… but that was it.

How could somewhere so obviously enjoying success disappear so suddenly?

Many local businesses have previously closed up shop for temporary refurbishment or because they’d shuffled off to another location, usually no more than a hundred metres away, but Mexway had vanished, with no explanation.

Some questioned that perhaps there had been an issue over food hygiene, but with a kitchen that is clearly visible to all the patrons that seemed highly unlikely. Others suggested that they just weren’t making enough money but the place was always busy. At almost £6 a burrito you could hardly call it a cheap lunch but you were in no doubt you were getting value for money. How could somewhere so obviously enjoying success disappear so suddenly?

Mexway started life at Boxpark in Shoreditch before moving to their more permanent venue on George Street. Time Out, the popular ‘what’s on in London’ magazine, recently published an article that suggests there are serious plans afoot to bring the success and flexibility of Boxpark to Croydon. Could Mexway re-emerge and reinstate themselves at the new Boxpark? I certainly hope so.

Mexway represented something that is positive and life-affirming about Croydon

I feel that an important part of Croydon has been lost. It may seem somewhat melodramatic and sentimental to rate a Mexican street food restaurant as being so culturally significant in a London borough, but Mexway represented something that is positive and life-affirming about Croydon – that change can be good. Croydon is beginning to embrace independent businesses again and celebrate its diversity. Mexway formed a part of that positive step forward and brought people together over something so fundamental and simple – lunch. It was leagues ahead of every other Mexican street food restaurant, truck and stall I’ve ever visited and its popularity was unifying and much celebrated.

Losing Mexway feels like a step backwards in the positive town makeover that is currently underway. It was a warm, inviting place with excellent service and superb food. It was everything a good town should have and it was unique. Though I may never find out what really happened to it, I hope that this isn’t a sign that independent, passionate, businesses will find it hard to stay afloat in Croydon as it continues to evolve.

RIP Mexway.

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Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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  • MH1984

    I still walk passed everyday with the hope that it was a temporary closure :(

  • common_sense

    Mexway is sorely missed. A fantastic place. Let’s face it, Croydon is grim but this was a lone shining light…