A casual neighbourhood eatery serving Mexican-inspired snacks, cocktails and agua frescas.
Introducing: Fonda — a casual Mexican restaurant, filling the gaping void that is the lack of Latin American cuisine in Parnell. Tucked away at the bottom of Parnell on Faraday Street is a small restaurant with big flavours. Fonda literally and figuratively lights up the semi-industrial area. Think bright floral table covers, festoon lanterns rigged along the trees and dishes with the colours of the rainbow.
This new eatery resides in the old premises of the Spanish tapas bar and restaurant Barulho. Owned by the same people, Sarah Ginella and Nico Mendez, Barulho is moving next door to a bigger location that is currently under construction. We can expect to see it open its doors mid-February.
The menu is split into sharing plates, and those a little harder to share. First up was the market fish ceviche with colourful tostaditas ($18). If you're not familiar with tostaditas, it translates to 'toasted' in Spanish. They're rounds of tortilla toasted or deep fried. In this case, they arrived in all their bright purple glory and were crispy and delicious. The raw fish was searing away happily in its juices along with fresh chilli and lime. Next came the summer slaw with roasted pineapple and sesame dressing ($12), a fresh and flavoursome salad with just the right amount of sweetness.
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Two absolute standouts are the yuca (huh?) chips and aioli ($12) and the smoky beef short rib ($22). Here's a quick horticultural lesson. Yuca is the root of a yucca plant, which is native to the hot and dry parts of the Americas and the Caribbean. Deep fried, they taste like a less stodgy and less starchy version of taro. The fibrous root makes it deliciously crispy and golden when fried. When matched with smoky aioli it's a ten out of ten dish.
On to the smoky beef short rib. This larger dish is accompanied by tamale wrapped in a cornhusk. This traditional Mexican dish is a cheesy corn dough, like polenta. In this instance, it is a superb way to soak up the short rib gravy. Guacamole, soft goat's cheese, coriander and salsa really do just top this dish off and bring all the flavours together.
What's a Mexican bar without a little tequila? We weren't quite game enough to shoot one back straight, so we opted for two classy tequila-based cocktails instead. A classic pisco sour ($18) and an equally classic margarita ($16). The red wine sangria ($12) and the ahumado seco ($18) are definitely on the list to try next time. As are the chocolate churros ($14) and the caramelised stone fruit flan ($14).