Mikkayla reviews: Mejico — ‘an elbows-on-the-table, sauce-on-the-chin experience’
1 Pink Alley, Melbourne
Melbourne is certainly not short of Mexican restaurants, so it’s a bold enterprise to bring another into the mix… but really, that’s what Mejico is all about. Bold colours, bold flavours, bold menu choices… and even bold hospitality with their guacamole table service.
The venue itself is, simply put, FUN: a neon-accented, open dining space with a glass-encompassed, weatherproof courtyard, and the tequila bar and margarita lounge upstairs. There are fluorescent pink chairs, bench seats with plush cushions, cages suspended from the ceiling filled, and an amazing vertical garden highlighted by a neon sign. ‘Hola’ – it reads, and if you don’t already feel welcome, then the friendly, attentive staff will get you there.
The place is already raising eyebrows with their extensive breakfast menu – imagine your traditional favourites with a Mexican salute – chilli scramble with salsa macha and bolillo (the country’s traditional savoury bread); or the ‘Méjico Benedict’ with gypsy ham, chipotle hollandaise and jalapeno crumb.
But the crowd-pleasers are amidst the generous selection of shareable mains, sides and street snacks – each dish showcasing local, seasonal produce and available for lunch, dinner or a late night visit. That, plus the almost-overwhelming drinks menu comprising over 260 mezcals and tequilas, a selection of flavoured margaritas, and a generous choice of local wines, craft beers and ciders.
Hot tip: start your meal with the guacamole. The server comes to the table with a tray of prepared chilli, coriander, agave syrup, onion, lime, and a perfectly ripened avocado – and proceeds to smash and mix it together in a mortar and pestle in front of you, customising it to your tastes. Accompanied by a generous serving of fried, slightly salted plantain chips (a type of dried banana), it’s hard to imagine how things could possibly get any better.
The jalapeno poppers stuffed with an oozy Kombu cream cheese and coated in fried quinoa are the perfect introduction to the potential spice levels you’ll experience throughout the rest of your meal – but feel free to inform the staff if you need them to go a bit lighter! The Daylesford beef brisket empanadas served with chimichurri are perfectly blistered with an almost-buttery pastry, hand-folded over rich, tender meat with delightful pops of salty and sweet, courtesy of the raisins and olives.
Hand pressed tortillas are presented open – the fire-glazed salmon is plump and juicy – and the mildly spiced cabbage and fennel salad and smattering of pico de gallo give the tastebuds a respite from heat before tucking into the Gippsland lamb barbacoa tacos with charred leek, iceberg and an almost-peppery salsa diabla.
The best on ground comes in the form of two glorious fried chicken breasts on a mound of plantain and hibiscus sauce. I’ve had fried chicken before – but never like this. The crispy, spiced coating encompasses the juiciest, most succulent fillet, and the only regret is that we didn’t get two servings.
Other winners include the sweet corn ribs glazed with chilli & lime miso and served with queso fresco (literally: white cheese); the roasted pineapple & habanero salsa (have it with the fried chicken!); and the Cochinita Pibil – a traditional slow-roasted pork dish spiced with citrus & Yucatan and mixed with smoked eggplant and hot sauce. And if the menu seems too overwhelming to make a decision, check out their Feed Me options ($62 for the classic or $79 for the deluxe).
Growing up in the 90’s, the closest authentic Mexican experience I had was some cheap taco shells with fried beef mince; powdery, home-brand shredded cheese; and a sachet of mildly-spiced salsa. Nowadays, for me at least, a Mexican fiesta is incomplete if the table isn’t groaning under the weight of at least 3 different proteins, vast amounts of chilli and spice in a combination of sides, plenty of mole verde… and tequila. Lots of tequila. Mejico’s offerings are a long way from my childhood – it’s a hands-in, elbows-on-the-table, sauce-on-the-chin, bulging-cheeks experience that will have you chanting arriba!
Mejico is open for takeaway breakfast from 7:30am on Monday to Friday, lunch and dinner daily from 11:30am to 11pm and supper on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 3am.