Acland St Cantina’s Mexican food in 30 minutes

acland-st-cantina-ceviche

Me: Where’s the rosé come from?
Waiter: Australia.
Me: Where in Australia?
Waiter: Somewhere in the south west I think.

The staff are young, friendly and helpful at the Acland St Cantina, the latest outpost of the Melbourne Pub Group in the basement of what was once the Prince Wine Store and Mink cocktail bar. There’s no complaints there.

Some of them even speak a second language – English – and as noted by @winebybrad on Twitter can even narrow a wine region down to the nearest 2 million sq km.

Pretty much everything has been shifted in the basement. The Prince Wine Store and the front end of Mink have become a diner-style tacoteria, sorry tacqueria, and bar. In the backend two of the famous private booths remain (but without curtains) in a room given a rustic feel and a complete makeover.

For now the group’s kitchen overlord Paul Wilson is assembling the food and it’s good. Very good for casual Mexican. And based on a December visit to its sibling, it is much better than at the Newmarket where standards appear to have slipped.

I dived into the Magarita ($16 each) of the day while my girlfriend

tried a disappointingly sweet and bland summer spritz ($16) of Aperol, watermelon liquor, lemon juice and moscato. The wine list is mainly Spanish and South American with some terrific value (unlike the Newmarket where bottles start at around $70) starting at $35 and mostly costing under $60.

Wines by the glass are either from a generic tap – bianco, rosso, rose, NV sparkling – with two available from the bottle.

acland-st-cantina-dining

Unfortunately my headline is an exaggeration. Our first order was ceviche which arrived promptly and comprised tiny discs of protein. The remainder all arrived at the same time meaning we’d pretty much eaten everything 20 minutes after arriving.

The Baja fried fish tacos (below) with slaw and chipotle mayo we hoovered down, hungry for more. And the authentic Al pastor tacos of spit roasted pork with a pineapple salsa were way more-ish.

acland-st-cantina-fish-taco

The red mole (that’s a thick Mexican sauce made with over 30 ingredients rather than a blind burrowing animal) with the current vogue brand of goat from Tallarook (below) was too heavy for a summers night and is perhaps worth a revisit come winter.

20 minutes in my current ex wife arrived at another table and we advised her to order separately as everything came at once.

Sure enough everything arrived at once for her too.

Quite possibly I’m being a little unfair reviewing the Acland St Cantina just a few weeks after opening but I couldn’t resist it.

Overall it is worth a visit if you live or are passing nearby and are hungry and thirsty.

If you want to try Mexican in St Kilda I’d choose this place or Radio Mexico on Carlisle St.

For now there is plenty of room. Try it before the crowds.

acland-st-cantina-mole Acland St Cantina on Urbanspoon