Named after La Condesa - a beautiful bohemian district within Mexico City, known for their stunning Art Deco buildings and a bounty of hip and arty boutiques, restaurants and cafes - Condesa along Henley Beach Road has recently opened the doors to their vibrant establishment, which is decked out to replicate and electric atmosphere of the streets of the beloved Mexican city.
Upon walking into Hurley Hotel Group's new venue that is situated within Hotel Royal and looking to your right, you are greeted with walls that are treated in pastel pink, which beautifully highlight the rustic and dark emerald furniture that is perched up against them. Semi-open archways open up the space and make it look grand. Tables are dressed with mini cacti succulents that add to the character of the space. A fireplace and a dining area to accommodate plenty of hungry customers creates a moody and inviting atmosphere and guarantees a feast (and a fiesta)!
Veering towards the left, you see a bar that is stocked with quite a generous selection of Tequila (among other spirits, including Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, and Scotch), in addition to being fully equipped with beers on tap. Towards the far end is a brightly painted wall by Adelaide's very own James "Jimmy" Smith of The Walking Creative, who has effortlessly created a mural that captures the essence of the Mexican streets of Condesa with his colorful drawings that inject a sense of playfulness into the space. It's best to visit the restaurant during the day, as you can see the mural in its fullest form as it is illuminated by the natural light pouring into the restaurant, through the floor-to-ceiling windows adjacent to it.
Mural by James 'Jimmy' Smith (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
Specializing in Mexican cuisine, head chef Ashley Nguyen has carefully curated a menu that offers authentic Mexican dishes with a modern spin to it. Having been born in Australia to parents with Vietnamese, French, and Irish backgrounds and through his celebrated achievements as Head Chef at Viva Zapata's (Semaphore) and Mexican Society (Chinatown) in his career, Nguyen has demonstrated that his passion for food knows no limits, which excellently coincides with his motto that "food is everything".
While you may find the traditional burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, you will also be surprised to find the lesser-known yet equally irresistible options such as hibiscus kingfish ceviché, chorizo and beef cheek quesadilla, chargrilled Ancho Chile octopus, softshell crab tacos. By providing a range of options of Mexican delicacies and street style food that is plated together with its combination of fresh ingredients and sauces, customers have the opportunity to be encapsulated by the essence and flavours of the beloved Mexican streets.
For drinks, you'll find a selection of local and international wines and beers, along with South Australian Gin and Tonics, such as Prohibition Gin, 78 Degrees, and 23rd Street Distillery (to name a few). In the cocktails section, you'll find the classics and the 'twisted staff specialities'.
During my visit, I was fortunate enough to sample the regulars.
The Mojito, which is served with Bacardi white rum, strawberry, passionfruit, and topped with mint leaves, hits the spot in being the ideal drink to enjoy, whilst basking in the sunshine.
For a drink that is quintessentially Mexican and has a level of strength and classiness roped together, go for the Margarita, which is served with Espolon Blanco tequila, jalapeño, and raspberry. Sipping on margaritas at a Mexican restaurant is pretty much like icing on a cake - they just go together!
The Caipirinha is a drink that I found to be in a tie with the Mojito. With Sagatiba Cachaca, strawberry, and kiwi flavours infused into this crisp drink, the flavours are subtle enough to refresh your palate, whilst giving you a mellow buzz by the end of the drink.
For food, I was glad to have come hungry, because I opted for a range of dishes that added to an unexpected yet thoroughly enjoyable feast for my partner and myself (who are both avid Mexican cuisine lovers). With the aim of encouraging share plates, it was money well-spent on dishes that gave us an all-rounded introduction to the exquisite flavours offered at Condesa.
For the entrées, we got the wild mushroom tostadas ($10). Presented atop crispy tortilla shells, we had wild mushrooms, carrot, tinga sauce, crema, black bean puree, and dry-aged ricotta. They may appear to look to big to be bite-sized, but they were demolished within minutes. The tostadas presented with a beautiful balance of sweet and savoury and were a brilliant introduction for the quality and flavours presented on the menu.
Wild mushroom tostadas (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
We also got the crispy fried chicken wings ($17), which was served with watermelon snow pea tendril salad, spicy valentino mayo, and pickled mixed cabbage. My partner and I can never go past chicken wings on any menu, but the ones we had from Condesa were, hands down, some of the best fried chicken wings that we enjoyed for the first time in a (very) long time!
Crispy fried chicken wings (photo by Fatema Sitabkhan)
For the mains, we opted to share a small portion of the roasted chicken mole ($13). While there is a larger portion available for $26, we had never tried this dish before, but wish we had taken the risk! Plated with heirloom carrot puree, the chicken mole was served with roast pepitas, charred cucumber, and, jalapeños, which was topped off with cilantro and lime. I wasn't expecting the size of the vegetables that came with the dish, but combined with the meat, made for a thoroughly hearty dish. A very zesty dish that was fired up with the hottest of spices, I'd say that this isn't for the weak-willed.
While we were pretty full by this point, I simply couldn't look past the housemade churros ($11). Carefully stacking 6 churros (3 x 3) and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, the dessert dish was presented over a blanket of Mexican chocolate and topped with orange powdered sugar, cajeta, and edible flowers. The churros had an excellent middle ground of being crispy on the outside, whilst being soft and juicy with the first (and subsequent) bites. The warmth of the churros was excellently combined with the cold ice cream and 'dipping' it in the Mexican chocolate blanket only accentuated the overall quality of the dish. Another fantastic dish to cleanse the palate and round off what was a fantastic meal from start to finish.
While we had an amazing feast for lunch, I am extremely curious about the Fiesta Banquet ($45), which includes entrées, a choice of tacos, a main dish, and dessert and sounds like exactly the kind of meal that I'd love to share with a group and get to taste a bit of everything on their menu.
There are also specials on offer, as part of their "Fiesta Fridays". These include $10 margaritas, 2 for 1 tacos, $10 loco fries, and $7 selected Mexican beers from 5-7pm - a brilliant way to kick off the weekend festivities! Of course, being a Mexican restaurant, you can't go past their $20 Sangria jugs that are available all day, every single day of the week. While you take advantage of these offers, you can also learn Spanish on the fly - simply refer to their drinks / food menu to pick up some common phrases and you'll be singing in Mexican in no time!
Condesa Bar and Restaurant has a level of vibrancy that emanates in its décor, its food, its drinks, and even its music, which thereby offers their customers with a space where they can wine, dine, and feel oh so fine at the newest dining scene along the west side. So, bring along a couple of mates and prepare yourselves for a feast that is freshly made to tingle your tastebuds, as you soak in the festive ambience that is created through its Mexican music that is sure to get your feet tapping and even encourage a dance (or salsa!) with your loved ones.