For six years – 2008–2014 – Sarah reviewed Wellington’s cafes, bars and restaurants for the City Council’s online magazine, Word on the Street. It was a grossly underpaid but gluttonous gig that forced the pair of us to try out pretty much every new food outlet in town, and audition for our own food television channel which sadly never got off the ground. It was probably the sausage, right?
We gave it up after a pay-rise request was declined, our bosses apparently out of touch with the cost of stretchy pants and statins.
Here’s Sarah’s swansong – a review of Mexico on Dixon Street.
After six years and 100-odd reviews for Word on the Street, the time has come to doff the red hat, ditch the rubber nose, peel off the big-eatin’ pants, and sift off into the sunset. I’m pleased to say I’m going out on a high … a high brought on by tacos and tequila. Ole, ole, ole, ole!
Meanwhile, back at the rancho: ‘Mexico’ has joined the growing posse of Wellington’s Mex and Tex-Mex eateries (now numbering 15 or so if you count the holes-in-the-wall). Part of a chain, Aucklandish in origin, its amigos include four outlets in that big smoke, and one each in Hamiltron and New Plymouth. Our local wing is located on Dixon Street where Lazeeza used to be, and Simply Paris before that.
Mexico was swamped with patrons on both our recent visits, speaking volumes about the culinary curiosity of this city’s citizens, but equally as much about the appeal of cheap, cheerful food and frisky drinks, I suspect. This place has landed on a pretty big dime, but done so with one helluva splash.
Brace yourself, folks, because Mexico’s style is deliciously cheesy cliché – a refrito of Frida Kahlo with bocadillos of banditos, liberally drizzled with dulce Day of the Dead and leche de Lady of Guadalupe. The place is wall-to-wall gaud, dark and intense yet wildly colourful, lit by flickering candles and infused with Latino tunes from a more than respectable sound system. Flowers decorate the updo’s of comely waitresses; the barman wobbles his sombrero as he mixes the drinks. It’s fit for fun times.
Mexico successfully blends the zest of an upbeat bar, with the easy come, easy go of a casual eatery. The menu focuses on shared dishes, including the usual fingerfood suspects – dips, tacos and quesadillas, et al. But there are plenty of surprises such as a scallop tostada, and red rice salad with zucchini, almonds, brussel sprouts and honeyed cheese. Other unexpected ingredients that have inveigled their way into the mix include olive powder, leek crema, and shitake mushrooms.
Tacos are small and unwieldy and therefore a solo pursuit, which is fine as you’ll probably want more than one – there are six sorts at six bucks each. Our favourite was beef brisket, plantain & black bean; other varieties include prawn & pineapple, coffee-blackened pork and a vegetarian version with roast aubergine, orange and mushroom. Among our other highlights were fried chicken – tender body, crunchy crumb, fiery spice, cool mayo – and the tinga, a piquant, smoky adobo stew of soft, shredded rabbit, laden atop a crackly tostada. We also enjoyed the featherlight corn chips.
Drinks are essentially south of the border: nine Mexican beers, three sangria, and select cocktails above and beyond the margarita, several renditions available by the glass or carafe, shaken or frozen. I unreservedly recommend the one with black doris plum (a favoured ingredient in my own home-cocktail repertoire), although all that we, um, tested, had great flavour and kick. A cutesy compendium lists 50-plus tequilas, ranging from $8 to $80 a shot. That’ll be a sip rather than skull then, I’m guessing.
And with that, then, it’s adios amigos! Thanks for reading.