Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paco's Tacos, MoVida Terraza, Melbourne

I mentioned this a while ago, but I was travelling to Melbourne for work a LOT last year, It is one of my many, excuses for not blogging as much as I would have liked to.

I'm now back on the travelling wagon, but I have decided to use that to my advantage and blog my lonely, and not so lonely, food adventures that have been generously subsidised by my employer...

My most recent venture was to Paco's Tacos, a newbie to the Melbourne food scene, riding in on the wave of mexican madness that is hitting Australia, and Melbourne in particular, at the moment. Paco's is located on the MoVida Terraza, and part of the MoVida mega-group that includes MoVida, MoVida Acqui, MoVida Next Door, and now, Paco's. A van-like building, that somewhat resembles a 1950's drive-in cinema diner (or at least my American movie ideal of one...), is surrounded by re-purposed wood furniture, reused steel formed into a cage/pergola and a lot of greenery - but what else does one expect from Greenhouse's Joost Bakker?

The, large, open, servery-style windows of the van are framed above by blackboards listing the taco & drinks menus, and give you a look into the kitchen where dapper ladies and gents in kitsch 1950's aprons mix drinks and take orders.

I was meeting a couple of my high-school friends for dinner, lets call them K, A & R, who all work in the CBD. R snuck down earlier to save us a table, and had been met by A by the time I worked out how to get to the 'MoVida Terraza' . K sidled up later, but we'll forgive her and she'd just started a new job (congrats K!).

As usual, we all started talking first, and forgot about the food & ordering part. After a quick look at the blackboards, and with a few suggestions from R (who is lucky enough to work close by and have Paco's as a regular lunch spot), we were ready to go. R strongly recommended the BBQ corn, so A and I opted for the corn as well as a taco (or two in my case - all in the name of research!).

K, A & I shared a jug of Sangria ($35), to get us in the spirit, and I will admit, it was much better than my recent attempt at Sangria. Chilled, fresh and fruity, without totally overpowering the red wine behind it all.

I have always been a sucker for corn on the cob - I am the weirdo who eats buttered corn on the cob at music festivals -so the current BBQ Mexican corn trend is well received here. The Paco's version ($6) did not disappoint. With slightly more cheese than the Mamasita version, and a bit less melted on, it was still darn delicious.

camarones taco

There are six taco options, plus a special on the night we visited (all $6). I opted for the pato asado (roasted duck with spicy mole, lime and marinated red onion) and pescado (marinated fish, chipotle and radish), while A &a K both went for a camarones (prawns, pepita sauce and salsa verde) taco. R, having been there before, steered away from the tacos, and went for the nachos ($12).

pescado (front) and pato asoado tacos

I was really looking forward to the fish taco, the combination of the fish, chipotle and radish sounded like it would be a winner, but the overall result was a bit lacking in flavour, and quite dry. It seemed to be missing the chipotle, and much worse for it. The tortilla was quite dry and crumbly, making the whole thing quite difficult to eat. Overall, a disappointing choice.

The duck was a bit of a wild card selection, but it turned out to be a good one. The duck was moist, and slightly spicy thanks to the mole sauce. A vast improvement on the pescado - I could have easily eaten five of these.

chilli chocolate mousse

We added the dessert in later. R & A were keen to try the chilli chocolate mouse with candied walnuts, so we ordered two to share. I'll admit I've never been keen on the chilli & chocolate combo, but this was the best interpretation I've tried yet. A thick silky chocolate mousse, with just a hint of chilli, leaving your mouth slightly tingly after each bite, but wondering why, until you remember that there's chilli in the chilli-choc mousse! But, I have to admit, the candied walnuts were the best part - and the only bit we finished from both serves!

Adios amigos,

Thursday, February 2, 2012

London Bound

Mr Alphie and I are heading off to the UK for a few weeks later this year. We’re flying in to London, and the current plan, is to spend a few days being tourists, before catching the train out to Milton Keynes/Cranfield where my bestie, Ms Aqua now resides as she slogs through her Masters degree. Given the very little to do in Cranfield, we’re all heading up to Scotland on a roadtrip for a week or so, before Mr Alphie and I head back to London to round out the last week.

As you can tell, the plan is not all that ‘planned’ as yet. Mostly because I don’t know where we should go/what we should do. I was last in London when I was 16 (over 10 years ago – whew! That makes me feel old...), so I’m sure a lot has changed, plus I don’t think 16-year-old-me and 27-year-old-me really have the same interests... And, this is Mr Alphies first trip outside of Oceania/Southeast Asia, so he’s as good as useless!

My parents bought us/Mr Alphie tickets to see The Lion King for Christmas, so that’s on the list, as is the London Eye, Tower of London, Churchill’s War Rooms and the Greenwich Meridian. I’m also keen to fit in a day trip out to Hampton Court Palace, thanks to an obsession with The Tudors. I’m sure we can find things to occupy us though, what I really want to know, is where should we eat!? Friends of ours have just returned from a trip to Europe where they squeezed in a meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, just outside London, and unsurprisingly, highly recommend it, so we’re trying to fit that in somewhere. And, my regular readers (!), will know of my minor obsession with Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, so Ottolengi is also on the short list. But that’s two meals, over three weeks, so we really need some more suggestions.

I was pretty keen on trying Jamie’s Italian, but a bit of google-ing has revealed that it’s a full-blown chain, which has put me off a bit. Should it have? Is it a worth going to anyway?

So, readers, can anyone suggest ‘must-eat’ places in London? Especially some good value lower-end stuff – I’m sure we could manage to find great fine dining every night, but the bank balance might not appreciate it! Also, anywhere in particular to avoid – where the hype overrides the actual experience?

P.S. I’d also welcome tips for Scotland – food related or otherwise.