It could perhaps have been the most successful opening in recent history. With little fanfare, Mexico, the newest, coolest kid on the trendy Britomart scene, has been solidly packed to the rafters since it opened in February. And that's despite its "no bookings" policy. Eager diners have been queueing out the door to get a table. Boyfriend and I visit for a late lunch/early dinner on a rainy afternoon where there are already three groups getting a Mexican fix.
Inside the compact space, the walls are bright red painted wood or exposed brick, jammed with Mexicana artwork and curios. The small tables are adorned with candles, fresh flowers and two types of hot sauce. The room feels intimate rather than overcrowded but I wonder if I'd feel the same if every table was full of rowdy tequila-drinking diners?
The new food menu – just launched – is short compared to the drinks list (a dangerously vast tequila menu, as well as beers, margaritas, sangria and soft drinks) but all dishes appeal.
We order a selection to share and enjoy every single one. The black bean and smoky bacon dip is served cold, with warm tortillas on the side. Strips of crisp bacon stand tall, emerging from the thick, chunky dip with crumbled, salty feta. It's hard to decide a favourite between the two types of soft-shell tacos we order – the caramel pork carnitas with plaintain chips and pico de gallo, or the adobo fish with watermelon and watercress slaw. Both are tender, tangy and generous portions and cost only $6 each. They're not particularly easy to share so you'd be advised to order one or two for yourself and enjoy.
Mexico's fried chicken comes under the "specialties" section of the menu, with the advice "not to be missed". I wholeheartedly agree. Large pieces of juicy chicken breast are coated in a thick, crunchy, fiery coating, served with a smoked paprika aioli. The five pieces are quickly devoured and leave a pleasant chilli tingle. The adobo braised lamb quesadilla is fantastic. Lamb, mint and cheese are grilled in flat quesadilla triangles, served with an almond red mojo dip on the side. It was a last minute choice, recomended by our floral-headband-wearing waitress but we're so thankful she steered us in that direction. She also tries to convince us to order dessert but we're both too full. We promise to return ... especially after hearing the good news that Mexico's new bar, Ikto, has opened on Galway St, where patrons can happily work their way through the tequila and margarita menu while waiting for an available table.
WHERE: 23 Britomart Pl, Auckland, ph 093661759, mexico.net.nz.
WHEN: Monday to Sunday, 12 noon-late.
WHAT'S TO EAT: Tacos, quesadillas, salads and specials. And a huge selection of drinks, with BYO option available.
HOW MUCH: $58 for five dishes and two drinks.
WHAT DO WE THINK: A new favourite ... provided we can get in the door.
Sunday Star Times