I have been keen to try the popular V Burger Bar for absolutely ages, so after creating much hype with the boy all day (including performing a little dance that he calls my Homer dance), we journeyed down to the Albany Highway café strip to give their burgers a shot. To my extreme disappointment I was to find they had run out of gluten-free buns! I was so devastated! I had been conjuring up images of sinking my teeth deep into a juicy burger for much of the day and nearly stamped my feet like a child in the middle of the restaurant due to my exasperation.
Walking out of the restaurant I could see the dismay on the boy’s face too. I know how much he loves nachos, so I made what ended up being a very bad decision and suggested we stroll over to Pancho’s Mexican Villa instead. We walked by all the tried and tested Thai and other Asian joints and walked down the dirty mall corridor into a packed and noisy restaurant.
Service started off a little slow leaving us sitting thirsty and peckish for long enough to notice. As I perused the menu I was pleased to see there were plenty of gluten-free options and figured that all I needed to do was stay well away from any salsas to avoid the onion. We started off with some strawberry daiquiris – this is the boy’s favourite drink when we were in Thailand. Unfortunately none of our memories came flooding back to us when presented with this toxic looking beverage. It came out a strange bright fluorescent red colour and was sickeningly sweet presumably with the A to Z of all things artificial. Not exactly my kind of drink but with a half of a bottle of Cloudy Bay Chardonnay already in me I was willing to compromise and just go with the flow.
For entrées we ordered some dips with corn chips and some potato skins to share. Our dips came out after a short delay without the accompanying potato skins entrée. As we chatted and tapped our feet to the horrific mix of 80’s tunes playing, we ate our first half of our entrée and I began to wish we had stopped at Little Ying Thai instead. The corn chips tasted commercially made and the dips were very oily and bland. The guacamole was basically just mashed avocado with minimal lemon juice, tomato, spices or salt added. The Queso dip tasted like the plastic cheese that you get in little cheese sticks for children’s lunch boxes but melted down into goop a bowl. I avoided most of the chilli con carne dip as I figured it would most likely have some onion in it. I had a very small taste of it which proved to be watery and as tasteless as the rest of the dips.
As we nibbled away and wondered where our skins were, a waiter zoomed past our table with a sizzling plate of hot food. As he walked past us big spats of hot oil came showering over the top of me and left a couple of blisters on my neck. I wasn’t sure if I was being a bit of a sook but it was stinging a fair bit! The boy gave a quick glance at my neck in the dim light and could see little blisters starting to form on my skin! I gestured to the waiter and explained to him what had happened. He said he would talk to his manager however unfortunately that was all we heard from him all night. No apology was forthcoming, nor was any discount or compensation offered.
Slowly but surely we managed to work our way through our fairly dismal entrées. We are normally fairly speedy eaters but these dips were by no means delicious. Finally our mains were brought to our table however we were still without our second entrée. We let the waiter know that we were expecting another entrée and we were informed that it was on the way.
I ordered the Cajun camarons – this was described on the menu as northwest sizzling prawns, dusted in spices, served with rice and vegetables. I figured a meat dish with spices and no sauces would be an easy way to avoid onion as it was already marked on the menu as gluten-free. The prawns came out sizzling in about half a cup of stale oil which drenched through the whole remainder of the dish. The vegetables that accompanied the meal consisted of a soggy slop of cooked grated carrot, zucchini and capsicum with micro-heads of mushy broccoli. It was so overcooked the vegetables had progressed in texture to become more of a stringy mash. The oil from the prawns soaked right through the vegetables to give everything on the plate an unpleasant and nearly rancid aftertaste. The rice was about the only thing edible on the plate and although that was a little overcooked; in my hunger I still ate it.
The boy ordered his beef nachos. They were unmemorable and a bit soggy and he had very little to comment about them at all.
Once we had both finished our main meals our second entrée finally appeared. At this point in time we had to laugh. I was expecting some crisp skins, ones that you could eat with your fingers – a little like wedges but less meaty, with maybe some kind of sauce (we chose beef). Nothing prepared me for the mountain of mush that was put in front of us. We started to eat it but found all the oil, cheese and sour cream piled high on top of a barely existent poor potato skin proved as inedible as the rest of our meals. I gestured to the waiter to take it away before I started to feel ill.
It has been nearly ten years since I have eaten Mexican – we ate it often when we lived in London as there were a couple of favourite places we used to visit. I am reluctant to even eat it again after this experience but we are going to give it another shot and hit up another Mexican place in my next blog …. Stay tuned……Price: $$ ($10-16 Entrée, $17-27 Mains) Food: 0.5/5 (near on revolting) Service: 2/5 (service with a smile and a scar to make sure you never forget) Ambience: 3/5 (a packed restaurant gives good vibe) Drinks: 2/5 (too toxic and artificial for me but cheap) Pancho’s Mexican Villa Restaurant 885 Albany Hwy, East Victoria Park 6101 | (08) 9361 2135 | www.panchos.com.au