I have a confession to make. Believe it or not, but beneath my sophisticated, witty, urbane exterior beats the heart of a simple country boy. Tough to get your head around I know, but I swear it’s true. As such, I’ve not always been a clued up as I am now when it comes to the world of international cuisine, and in no area was this more apparent than when it comes to Mexican food. Growing up, south-of-the-border fare consisted solely of beef mince tacos complete with Old El Paso seasoning sachet and crunchy, corn chip tacos that would instantly disintegrate upon your first bite and leave you holding what amounted to a pile of nachos and salad in one hand. Sure we got a bit more sophisticated later on, adding fajitas with tortillas and chilli con carne to the repertoire (oh how exotic!), but it always came accompanied with the ever present Old El Paso accoutrements. Pass the sour cream and taco sauce please!

As much as it embarrasses me to admit it, my ignorance of the cuisine in its proper form continued unabated until very recently when I finally lost my authentic Mexican virginity at El Publico in Mt Lawley. Accompanied by my fabulous Aunt Jen, we sauntered in relatively early on a Thursday evening and were immediately impressed with the layout and ambiance of the place. It’s what I would call the restaurant equivalent of smart casual dress; nice enough to be considered something special but not so nice that you feel you can’t let your hair down. Décor wise it manages to intelligently blend modern chic with traditional Mexican artwork. The staff also immediately impressed with big smiles, helpful and non-condescending advice and excellent drink recommendations. Jen had a margarita and I opted for the tequila and fresh apple, both of which served as excellent aperitifs while we perused the intriguing menu.

Smart Casual Mexican; Like Wearing A Sombrero With A Tuxedo

The best way to describe the style of food is that it’s almost like Mexican tappas. You order a few small things to share and are easily able order more food as and when you like, depending on how hungry you happen to be. Best of all, there isn’t a corn chip taco or Old El Paso product anywhere! We opted for the guacamole (which came served with excellent fried tortilla chips), ceviche verde apple mint (a delightful, tangy mixture of raw fish, citrus juices, herbs and julienned green apple), grilled onion cheese salsa negro taco and the adobo chicken pickled onion peanut salsa taco. Being a complete novice, all of it was new, exciting, original and very tasty, with the smoky, charred chicken in the adobo tacos being a particular highlight. I also love this style of eating as you get to try a whole lot of different things, and the portion sizes and option to order more mean that your free to finish eating once you reach a state of elegant sufficiency, rather than being lumped with a huge main course that you plough your way through out of obligation (and an intense hatred of wasting food) and end up feeling overly full and nauseated. Oh yeah, they also have an awesome habanero based hot sauce on the table with which to spice up your dishes as you see fit, and while it is delicious, this bad boy certainly kicks like a mule (or should I say Burro?) so tread with caution.

Guac’n’roll: Guacamole + Tortilla Chips + An Awesome Margarita = Mexican Bliss

Special mention must also be made of the clearly talented bartenders and their fantastic margaritas, which were so damned delicious we simply had to have a second round (and which Jen went so far as to claim  were the best she’s ever had). Feeling a little reckless, which was probably due in no small part to the cocktails, we decided to splurge and share a dessert. Thank god we did too, because the peanut butter ice-cream served in a jar on toffee and peanut brittle chips was simply amazing and the perfect way to finish the meal.

The Best Margaritas In Town, And That’s No Bull (It’s A Donkey)

So there you have it, I have lost my authentic Mexican virginity and the world will never be quite the same again. Now while I can’t promise you I’ll never touch another Old El Paso product again (you can take the boy out of the country etc…), I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’ll never think of Mexican in the same way again, and that having scratched the surface I’m very, very keen to learn (and eat) more.

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