Monday, 10 June 2013

Cheap Eats - The Mexican Kitchen

Mexican at the Orient, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, plenty when you consider that last venture at the Orient Hotel was a failed steak restaurant called 'Swill'.

The Orient Hotel is one of the last remaining 'ungentrified' hotels left in Brisbane, that is, it hasn't been taken over as a gastro-pub and the yuppies around town have not made it their edgy watering hole (yet).  The Orient Hotel has been around for a long time, in fact it was opened in 1875 and while there have been renovations to the hotel, it still retains much of its old world charm.  You can imagine coming down Ann Street in the early 1900's and not seeing much change from the current Orient Hotel, perhaps there would be not billboards hanging off every building nearby!

I had never been to the Orient before, but had walked by it thousands of times and always wondered who would go to the Orient Hotel nowadays.  I was certainly amused when I first wandered by and saw that a new Steak Restaurant had opened up in the 'old girl' and was not surprised when it closed a short time later....  I mean, who came up with the idea that Swill would be an attractive name for a restaurant?

So, how did I come to be sitting in The Orient on a Friday afternoon waiting for lunch?  It was fairly random when a late change to a team meeting turned into a lunch meeting and we needed somewhere close by.  It was a suggestion from CN and once no one objected, we were booked in for a midday lunch.

The new restaurant in the Orient Hotel is called The Mexican Kitchen and a quick look on the internet showed that it billed itself, rather brashly, as 'Brisbane's hottest new Mexican restaurant'.  It also billed itself as Brisbane's best new Mexican restaurant offering fresh Mexican and South American food.  These were a couple of bold claims that I would now be making a (semi) professional comment on at the end of the meal.

The menu itself is fairly simple and has the usual suspects for a Mexican restaurant but the key thing that stood out was the prices.  Everything on the menu was super cheap.  CN and I had arrived fairly early so we ordered some starters while we waited for the rest of the team to arrive.  The first of the starters were the Mex Wings - Mexican chili chicken wings and in my opinion were the pick of everything we ate on the day.  As you would expect with chicken wings, they were super messy to eat but well cooked and very spicy, with the chicken meat just falling off the bone.  The great thing was that there were plenty of them for the price.

We also snacked on the Chip & Dip, which was crispy tortilla chips with guacamole pico de gallo and frijoles.  The tortilla chips were very morish and very tasty when combined with the guacamole.  This is a very simple dish but a good starter to the meal as they don't fill you up, which as we would learn shortly was a good thing.

Shortly after the starters arrived, the rest of the team turned up and we had our main orders under way, which after a relatively short wait, were delivered.  It has to be said straight up that the sizes of the mains at The Mexican Kitchen are huge, massive in fact.  CN opted for the quesadillas and was amazed when a huge plate full of quesadillas and a salad.  The quesadillas looked quite a bit different from what I was expecting and had a spicy sauce slathered over the top.  The flavours of the quesadillas were authentic and were extremely messy to eat, so 'chalk one up' to authentic Mexican.

NC and FA both chose the burritos which contained the usual assortment of spices, cheese, rice and black beans, the only difference being the choice of meats with FA opting for the beef and NC the chicken.  Again the burritos were huge servings with a salad on the side and that spicy sauce on top as well, which I thought was weird - why not put the sauce inside the burrito?  Unfortunately both FA and NC didn't really enjoy the burritos, they didn't hate them, but overall thought they were missing something.

Not knowing how big the servings were when I ordered, I had made the mistake of ordering a double serving of the tacos, which ended up being four tacos.  The tacos that were presented were soft shell, open and huge.  There were three fillings with the tacos, meat, chicken and pulled pork, so I asked to be surprised and ended up with two beef, a chicken and a pulled pork.  I have to say that my first two tacos of beef were not too bad but were really spicy and before too long I had a numb mouth.  However, the pulled pork and chicken tacos were quite unpleasant, with the meat tasting funny.  After taking a bite out of each to try, I couldn't really eat any more.

One of the interesting things about The Mexican Kitchen at the Orient Hotel was the wait staff who were working on the day.  They were clearly Mexican and leant an authentic feel to the space and for a while, when ordering, you could almost picture yourself in a quaint little restaurant in Mexico, there were cacti at each of the tables and a really old spaghetti western showing on the TV.  Almost that is, as long as you weren't looking over at the main bar area that was the quintessential Aussie pub.

I was surprised by how busy it was at lunchtime, with every table in the hotel completely filled with people coming in for a taste of Mexico for lunch.   I found that service was a little slow originally, but once we began to be served the food came out pretty quickly.

Mexican is without doubt one of the hot cuisines around town at the moment, there's Gusman Y Gomez, Tex Mex, the Burrito Bar, Mad Mex and heaps of others to contend with.  The bold claim that the Mexican Kitchen is the best new Mexican in Brisbane is a bit of an overstatement, in fact its pretty far from the best in Brisbane.  What I will say though it that it's pretty good value, with a lot of food available for such a cheap price.  It's not a place that I am going to rush back to but it was an interesting way to spend a Friday afternoon.


We arrived early but by the time we left it was packed
Colours of Mexico
OK, so you could order sangria, we didn't order any, it was Friday lunch meeting afterall
There is almost a pleading to the sign out the front
Hotel Orient - Mexican Kitchen on UrbanspoonMexican Kitchen

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