Could Melbourne be over its love affair with Mexican food? About this time last year it seemed that opening a Mexican restaurant was a licence to print money. We couldn’t get enough of tacos, burritos and of course tequila. The popularity of the so called “Mexican wave” of Mexican restaurants was such that none of them took bookings and if you had to queue to get in. But when I headed into Melbourne’s newest Mexican joint, Acland St Cantina, I was pretty surprised by how quiet it was.
|Nachos at Acland St Cantina|
Located just off St Kilda’s busy Fitzroy Street and underneath the Prince hotel Acland St Cantina doesn’t suffer from a lack of passing foot traffic. The cantina has the weight of the Melbourne Pub Group and super star restauranteur Paul Wilson behind it. The look is fun and casual, if a bit stark with bright multi coloured furniture and glowing neon signs in the front part leading through to a more moody restaurant at the back. Most importantly the food is good and cheap.
|Acland St Cantina’s fish taco|
The soft shell tacos here are super fresh and the baja-fried fish taco ($5) had a nice crunch to it from deep frying but the accompanying slaw mad the taco a bit dry despite the addition of a slick of chiptole mayo. A better option was the zucchini flower taco ($5) which was again deep fried until crisp and given some added pops of sweetness thanks to the addition of kernels of sweet corn. The basics are done well here with Acland St Cantina’s nachos ($12) coming with a big dollop of guacamole laced with chia for some crunch and chili salsa for just the right amount of heat.
|Empty street side tables at Acland St Cantina|
Admittedly the menu doesn’t offer anything startlingly different from the other Mexican places in town. There’s the same ubiquitous char grilled corn on the cob and mole you see elsewhere. But only a month or so after opening to long queues Acland St Cantina already seems pretty dead. It was only half full when I ate there for lunch and on Saturday night the front bar and diner area was completely empty.
|Zucchini flower soft shell taco at Acland St Cantina|
I’m sure places like Mamasita and Fonda will continue to pack in the crowds but Melbourne might just have reached saturation point when it comes to Mexican restaurants and new places like Acland St Cantina may struggle.
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Details: Acland St Cantina, 2 Acland St, St Kilda 3182 (Ph 03 9536 1122)
Damage: Reasonable. My bill came to $22 for one.