Posts Categorized: Mexican

Acland St Cantina’s Mexican food in 30 minutes


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. 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. 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… Read more »

A Mexican Table fights for Fitzroy St

There I am, sitting opposite someone who has had more botox than expected and a smooth, smooth forehead. It’s the polar opposite to the chef to my left who has the hairline of Mel Gibson, the intensity of Russell Crowe and a brow so furrowed with concentration that it makes Gordon Ramsay look baby-faced. We’re in the St Kilda combat zone of Fitzroy Street, defined on the North by Grey St and the South by Acland St. It’s not a pretty place with some blaming the residents of the notorious Gatwick Hotel boarding house for dragging the area down. Certainly the wrong sort of crowd is attracted to this strip of dubious late night bars that are the drinking holes of last resort, that may or may not have something to do with the blood I’ve frequently seen being scrubbed off the street on Monday mornings. This strip isn’t a happy place to be for many a restaurateur. If fact St Kilda isn’t a happy place for all but a few operators, having lost its status as a destination to the Melbourne CBD and arriviste suburbs such Fitzroy and Collingwood. In fact you could argue St Kilda is broken bad with a council distracted by the future of the Triangle and festivals. Amid this chaos, a few years back, chef owner James Blackman opened The Table not too far up the street from Di Stasio (which is about to open a next door bar) and a planned Asian bar concept from David Zhou, the owner of the Oriental Tea Houses and David’s in Prahran. Blackman slowly has been building a reputation for Mexican-style food. It’s largely been ignored by the established paper-based food guides and reviews (probably because of the lamentable service) but has a health 82% score on Urbanspoon at the time of writing (despite the negative reviews generated by Scoopon deals). So what do you get for your money? The wine list is a handful of whites and reds and a single rosé, not inspiring but perfectly quaffable (as are the margaritas which I moved to). In terms of dollar per hour a lot and that’s because the service is slow, very slow. But once the food arrives it is a terrific surprise. We began with the Oyster Shooter Tomato & Mezcal Consommé, Cream Fraiche Ice Cream & Manchego Tuile ($9.5). The oyster itself looks like an alien floating… Read more »