I'm not so into fashion 'trends' but I love food 'trends' and Mexican is peaking in Melbourne right now. I remember reading an article a few years ago on food trends, which used the then-current example of how Mexican was everywhere in New York. I found that really hard to believe; what could be done with burritos, nachos and tacos that hadn't already? Since then, I've learned that Mexican cuisine is a lot more expansive then those three menu items, and that they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Icy horchata made the meal
Now however, Melbourne has well and truly embraced the innovations within Mexican cuisine.
What was once associated with soggy nachos and stodgy enchiladas, has become a food-style based around fresh ingredients and easy eating. One article even termed Melbourne's version of Mexican food as 'Mel-Mex'. It's easy to see why we've taken to it; the small sizes of each dish, and the shareable nature of Mexican also means the price isn't out of the question for most people. Fonda, which sits somewhere between Mamasita and Touche Hombre, is the perfect place to begin exploring the new wave in Mexican food.
Perhaps it was the effects of a big weekend, but my friend and I weren't particularly daring when it came to selecting our meal. I've heard good things about Fonda's kangaroo burritos, but as I'm back on the (pescatarian) wagon that wasn't going to happen. I settled with one of the fish tacos, and a pickled cactus quesadila. The tacos were really, really good. Fresh, crumbed fish and light mix of chipotle aioli, carrot, onion and cabbage and left you feeling keen and ready for more, probably like a good taco should. At $6 each, I have no regrets.
Ordering more out of curiosity then from the heart, the pickled cactus quesadilla reminded me of a Mexican version of pizza. Although it was hearty, with lots of cheese, beans, tomato salsa and some background spice, it was tasty, but wasn't as exciting as I might have hoped. I still wish I'd ordered the corn, at only $3.50 it was super cheep and looked delicious covered in cheese.
My favourite part of the meal though, was the fact they serve Horchata. Horchata is a Mexican drink, similar to a very lightly spiced milk, that I had had once before with Mexican friends in Japan. It manages to be both refreshing without being super sweet and should you have hit the chilli bottle too hard, takes the edge of any spice in your meal. Horchata is delicious and if you like cinnamon, I highly recommend you order one here too, but they also have Jarritos soda, which are cute.
As somewhere to hang out with a close friend for a casual meal, I really liked Fonda. It wasn't too loud to have a conversation, and the 'vibe' was casual and easy. There was no pushing us out the door, even though the food arrived not long after we ordered. I also appreciated the size of the restaurant, not awkwardly small or dauntingly large, and each table has a good amount of its own space. The staff were also friendly, and food came out quickly, which made it the perfect Sunday night eatery.
These tacos are the best thing I've spent $6 on in a long time.
248 Swan Street
Good for; Meeting with friends, dates (depending how busy it gets on the night you are in), catching up for dinner before a gig or going out, take away or a quick bite.
Vegetarian options: Are there, but aren't as expansive as you'd hope.
Wait time: For seating, we walked straight inside to a table at around 6.30 on a Sunday night.
Food Waiting time: Not long at all, less then 10 minutes.
Cost: I think I paid about $22.00 for the taco, horchata and the quesadilla. Although it did exceed the $20 I usually set aside for meals, I really, really loved that they had horchata. Despite the Mexican-food invasion in Melbourne over the last year or so, Fonda are the first Mexican joint that I have seen serving it and I appreciated this dedication to Mexican eating.