Taco Bell, 207 Broad St. Mall, Reading, RG1 7QH.
1121: Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I. Its foundation led to the town becoming a notable place of pilgrimage and hugely enhanced the town’s profile and prosperity.
1688: The Battle of Reading was the only military action of William of Orange’s Dutch invasion. Orange’s victory led to The Glorious Revolution and the Jacobite King James II retreating to France.
2020: Taco Bell opens on Broad Street in Reading. The chain soon linked up with food delivery service Deliveroo, which led to widespread diarrhoea throughout the town. The long-term effects of which are yet to be revealed.
INT. THE TASTEFULLY DECORATED HOUSE OF A GOOD-LOOKING YOUNG PROFESSIONAL COUPLE – SUNDAY EVENING
6.20pm: We’re hungry. There’s bugger all food in the house and neither of us are dressed to go out. Storm Dennis is raging outside, Countryfile’s on and Sunday misery’s starting to kick in. Fuck it. We decide to get a delivery in.
6.30pm: After the same ten minute debate we always bloody have (she doesn’t like Chinese, I resent paying more than £25 for a takeaway), we realise that the newly-opened Taco Bell is now on Deliveroo. “It’ll probably be shit,” she says. “I do hope so,” replies I, a man who selflessly prioritises #onlinecontent over personal satisfaction or the happiness of his common-law wife.
6.37pm: We order online. Our order, we’re told, should take around 25 minutes to arrive. Taco Bell is, after all, only a four minute bike ride from our house, according to Google.
6.38pm: I make the mistake of thinking about the fish tacos I ate in San Diego a few years previous. Cor, they were bloody good, those. That was a daft and unhelpful thing to remember.
7pmish: On time, our food arrives. Well, at least some of it does, anyway. Around half of what we’d ordered. Here’s what some of what made it to us looked like:
We’d ordered these ‘meal’ things that consisted of a taco/quesadilla, fries, a dessert and a drink. We’d also bought some extra stuff on the side to try because it’s all pretty bloody cheap. Turns out it’s pretty bloody cheap with good reason. It’s all pretty bloody terrible. And half of it pretty bloody doesn’t turn up.
We were missing a portion of fries, a quesadilla, all the hot sauce we’d ordered, a portion of jalapeños and the churros. What we got was a ‘chalupo’ (a kind of fat greasy soft taco which was actually alright), one portion of cold fries, two cans of drinks (one of which was different to what we’d ordered), the shitty extra tacos on the side (see above) and some ‘cinnamon twists’ (more on those bastards later).
7.05pm: She goes on the app to complain. Refunds take 48 hours, apparently. There’s no mention of sending more food.
7.10pm: I ring Taco Bell to complain to them too.
A saga begins.
The manager (who was – to be fair to the man – sympathetic, helpful and polite throughout) apologised and said he’d send out the full order again. Once more, it’d be around half an hour. To ensure we got our refund though, we’d have to speak to Deliveroo on the phone, he said.
7.15pm: She rings Deliveroo. They confirm they’ll refund the money.
7.16pm: As she speaks to the Deliveroo call centre, I stick the oven on. What made its way to us is free food now, effectively – so I see what can be salvaged. I give the 32 limp, stale and uncooked chips a ten minute blast at 200 degrees. The seasoning on them quickly burns in the oven and the kitchen begins to give off a smell I want to describe as ‘Eau du Grenfell‘ but won’t because that’s a joke even more tasteless than the dry black bean soft taco now sat rotting at the bottom of our kitchen bin.
7.20pm: Foul burnt-tasting fries now in the bin next to the rest of the initial order (chalupo apart – I ate that), we now waited for Order Two. Why we waited for it, we’ve no idea. It would basically be like the first delivery, just with twice as much shit to throw away. Sod it, I figured – we’ve paid for it. Even if we have also been refunded. It’s free now. And I can always eat the chalupo thing.
7.50pm: She’s getting antsy now. I can sense her mentally rummaging through the mostly empty fridge and cupboards. Oven chips and a Mini Babybel might be getting readied soon.
8pm: It’s been over 45 minutes since Order Two was confirmed so I call TB back. The manager answers. He says that Deliveroo called him and had refunded us. As such, there was to be no replacement order. We were just to pretend that the whole silly thing never happened, apparently. “This will never do,” I tell him. “I want my famous Taco Bell diarrhoea!”
He was only too pleased to send it again. Trouble is, to do so… we had to call Deliveroo to tell them that’s what had been agreed. Otherwise they wouldn’t pick it up and bring it to us. I’m feeling oddly generous, all things considered. I agree to do just that.
8.05pm: One of us calls Deliveroo (probably her, by this point I was starting to disengage from it all) and explains it all over again. Something was said and agreed.
8.25pm: We quietly considered a quick trip round the corner to Mr. Cod. We resisted though. Instead we sat tight, stayed strong and remained hashtag positive.
8.44pm: There’s a knock at the door. A Deliveroo fella has half of Taco Bell balanced on his moped. It was our food. And about four other customers’ food by the looks of it.
8.45pm: The dozens of paper bags were opened. They’d resent us the order, but doubled everything. Was it just another balls-up? Or, as I prefer to think, had the manager tried to atone for the earlier nause-up (we never did find out who was to blame, by the way) by just drowning us in a skipload of Taco Bellshit?
8.47pm: We spread the food out on the living room table (yes, we’re working class – fuck off) and surveyed it. It was a feast. A feast for the bin, anyway.
It was all there: Chalupos, fries, cheese-topped fries, soft tacos, hard tacos, quesadillas, jalapeños, churros, cinnamon twists, cans of drink (which were wrong again)… There was no hot sauce again, but fuck it – It was nearly 9 o’clock and we were hungry.
8.50pm: Poking around a bit, I realised that all of the five or six portions of fries were just as stale and cold as the first batch.
8.51pm: All the dreadful chippy-chips are binned.
8.52pm: The tacos we’d ordered as ‘sides’ were assessed, prodded, tasted and then also binned. They really have got absolutely nada going for them, those things. Except the ability to be simultaneously dry and soggy. Which, to be fair, is quite an achievement. They’re tasteless, pointless and a bigger insult to their mother country than Donald Trump wiping his arse with a Mexican flag after shitting himself at a teenage girl’s quinceañera.
8.55pm: I ate my chalupo again. She ate some of her quesadilla. We had one hard cold churro each and gave up. Dinner was over. Some eight minutes or two and a half hours after it started, depending on how you look at it.
8.56pm: I remembered I had my own ‘dessert’ to ‘enjoy’. Four (!) bags of something called ‘cinnamon twists’. What are they? Well, imagine a load of big contorted white Wotsits but all covered in cinnamon. Then imagine yourself putting them straight into a bin.
9pm: After nearly £50 worth of truly sub-dog dirt food matter had been dropped off to our house, opened on our table and then chucked into the rubbish, we relaxed. True, we’d barely eaten, spent an evening ringing people, complaining and throwing away food. But, it had killed almost a entire Sunday night. And, even more importantly, it gave me something to take the piss out of for you lot. #content
10.07pm: I delivered the chalupos to my toilet on time and in full. Diarroo.
For a more detailed breakdown of why it’s just as bad an idea to try eating this stuff in the ‘restaurant’ itself, read Edible Reading’s comprehensive hit piece here (it’s decent and no longer than this lazy, gimmicky, stream of consciousness rant).
🌮 🛎️ 🔚