Unless you consume your laksa intravenously over at Laksa King you probably haven't paid enough attention to Flemington. Over the past year, a series of openings have begun to change the face of this historic inner city spot, as well as its adjoining suburb Kensington.
One of said new venues is Sugar Skulls, a taco joint on Mount Alexander Road. It brings a clean, crisp menu to the Flemington strip, and has filled the gaping void of exciting evening options in the immediate area. Plus, it was probably the only suburb in Melbourne that didn't have its own Mexican restaurant.
Everything about Sugar Skulls is hyperlocal. Sporting a sophisticated yet simple combination of solid timber furniture, blackened cool metal fixtures and fittings crafted by local furniture maker Carl Mützelburg, who operates out of his Moonee Ponds garage as Helm Furniture. The space is simultaneously open and cosy and naturally decorated with religious and Mexican iconography.
The team behind Sugar Skulls initially experimented with their own tortillas before eventually deciding on the one authentic option in the stone-ground stock from nearby neighbours La Tortilleria. The beer is also brewed locally, at Kensington's pint-sized Henry St Brewhouse. The end result is as fresh as it is delicious.
Sugar Skulls' menu is almost exclusively gluten free thanks to it's reasonably priced roster of tacos ($6.50 each), which account for nearly all of the food groups. Crumbed banana prawn is layered with crisp lettuce and a Thousand Island dressing, the 18-hour pulled pork is stacked with a refreshing shaved carrot and fennel salad, and the coconut confit chicken comes with pickled green papaya. That should round out your protein.
Vegetarian taco options include the sweet potato batons served with a salsa del dia and a red cocoa mole, and the sweetcorn fritters dressed in a red cabbage curtido and coriander mayo. Proudly supported by a growing cast of hot sauces — including some rare and imported varieties — you'll be tempted to test your limits as you work your way through the collection.
Sides include tostadas, the classic corn on the cob, guacamole, frijoles, salsa and corn chips, while the potato gems offer a welcome fried alternative ($3-6). Margaritas are understandably on the menu, but you can also pick your poison from the large selection of aged, blended and 100 percent agave tequilas tucked behind the bar. Chase with a pot of Henry St Blue Billy Amber Ale (from $6).
Images: Lewis Fischer.