The South American community in New Zealand really have put spicy, sultry and sensual food on the map. One such place that successfully has the balance right between food and liquor is Mexico. Popping up into the community post-quake and at a time where Tex-Mex and Cuban food appeared to desensitise the city, Mexico managed to offer diners something a little different, in a setting surrounded by authentic colour and quirk.
Visually appealing with great detail into the concept layout and interior of Mexico, one can't help but be encapsulated. The area is split between an indoor upper-class cantina style set up with colourful wooden seating, fully stocked bar and walls decked with South American paraphernalia from paintings to local beers.
The menu alternates regularly to showcase the culinary skills of the chef and his crew. A crowd favourite is, of course, the tortilla chips and fresh guacamole. You cannot go wrong with this option. mixed in with fresh jalapenos and chilli, it is the perfect kick to start your dining experience.
Corn Chips and Gaucamole @ Mexico Christchurch (Photo Instagram @neelsmcgee)
Croquetas: papa & smoky queso, green onion, candied almonds, remoulade @ Mexico Christchurch (Photo Instagram @neelsmcgee)
I've had the pleasure of venturing to Mexico's regularly with my former work crew to indulge in fiesta Fridays. Lunchtime is not too busy, so walking in off the street will not pose any hurdles in getting a table. Evenings are a different story. The cantina quickly fills up and is often booked out, especially from Thursday - Saturday, so it is recommended to book a table.
The colourful bar also serves an impressive list of cocktails (10 delicious Frida Margaritas), all priced at $12 each or a carafe for $20 (which will give you about two to three drinks depending on your pour). Seven Mexican beers are available with one on tap (called Cartel). Some Kiwi favourites from craft beer maker Pan Head and Emersons also make an appearance as well as a selection of international and New Zealand wines.
For that hardcore Escobar out there, the standout for the liquor selection is the impressive Tequila menu (so standout it is featured in its own leather bound book). A selection of imported Tequilas grace this menu and are worth a try. For those a little sheepish, there is a Tequila tasting option whereby customers can explore the three different ages of fine Tequila on offer accompanied with three different sangrias.
Onto the next highlight of the menu and it is, of course, the delicious snacks and tacos. These small plates are priced extremely well and if you are lucky enough to have a Mexico loyalty card, you can snap one of these items up for free. Yep, you heard right, just when you thought Mexican couldn't get any better, it does.
The tacos will usually range with a vegetarian option (gluten-free tortillas available too and no extra charge) either mushroom or cauliflower or a meat/fish selection such as poached chicken, beef carnitas or yeast battered fish. These are topped with fresh produce and provide bursts of flavour with every bite. Make sure to explore the sauces that are available on each table. These are ranked in terms of heat and will bestow the ultimate final 'garnish' to your taco.
If it is your first time at a Mexican restaurant and you need a little help ordering, ask one of the friendly waitstaff - they are always happy to help and are confident in the menu. Though the kitchen may appear relatively small, the staff (from the kitchen to the floor) are well trained and highly organised. Considering the food is prepared fresh every day, the variety and the speed of the dishes that come it, it is no wonder they have to be.
Signature Fried Chicken @ Mexico Christchurch (Photo by Praneel Lal)
There is no doubt that Mexico's speciality menu items may grace the table. If a recommendation could be made here, Mexico's fried chicken is definitely a crowd favourite. Served crunchy and packed full of flavour with a dipping option of jalapeņo mayo and chipotle mayo; this is one definitely not to be missed!
Mexico is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. It also holds on occasion margarita classes which are a great girls-night-out option.