I am known for my obsession with planning. Before going on a holiday I will spend weeks researching the best accommodation, the absolute “must eat” restaurants and other things to see and do which usually are predominately food orientated. This strong need for mapping out the future doesn’t necessarily come from a desire to control but more a fear of missing out. Yes, I suffer from FOMO. Although I am what some may consider an organisation freak, I can still have moments of spontaneity and when those care free moments involve food I am happy to throw all planning out the window. The Boy can be hard to convince to dine out during the week but when I mentioned the key words “Mexican” and “beer” he became very agreeable. Unbelievably we still hadn’t visited el PÚBLICO despite being regulars at their other popular joints Greenhouse and Cantina 663.
El Publico is one of the first “real” Mexican places to open up in Perth after a plague of El Paso-styled greasy spoons tarnished our streets for years. Their vision is to serve Mexican street food and both the owners and the chefs have travelled through Mexico to submerge themselves in its authenticity. They accept walk-ins and only take bookings for groups over six thus they fitted the bill perfectly to be the venue for our spur of the moment outing. They offer a number of vegetarian and gluten free options which are both cleared marked on the ever-changing seasonal menu. We started with the fried chickpeas with burnt tortilla salt and the crispy street prawns.
The street prawns were reminiscent of the fried insect stalls at the night markets in Thailand and are surprisingly moreish. They are a little prickly in the mouth so I do not recommend downing too many at one time or their teeny legs poke into the inside of your cheeks. I washed the salty critters down with a glass of 2011 Ventisquero Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley, Chile whilst the Boy drank a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
We ordered a bunch of share plates to be brought out staggered in a very sociable Mexican style of tapas dining. This proved to be conducive to meandering chatter between the Boy and me taking us both far away from our working week and into a relaxed and happy place. I wish the Boy would be keen on mid-week outings more often! Our cuttlefish was served on crisp tostada with a jalapeño and corn salsa. Fresh summer flavours tossed with soft pieces of cuttlefish left a refreshing spritz on the palate.
The salmon ceviche was similarly uplifting with cubes of raw salmon cured by the lime juice dressing buried in among chunks of tomato, avocado and coriander. A touch similar in its profile to the cuttlefish, it made me dream of the long summer months soon to come.
After two rounds of seemingly healthy and light dishes, it was time to get down and dirty with some tacos. Now I’m not talking about refried beans, avocado and tomato salsa. I’m talking about REAL tacos! There were a few to choose from that were suitable for me so we agreed to share the vegetarian option; the potato tacos.
Deep fried cubes of potato and cheese topped with the skinniest slivers of potato made a picture perfect handful. We were very tempted to order another round of these tacos and I recommend that if you see them on the menu again … DO IT!
By this point in the meal, my planning brain had already scanned the dessert menu and selected my choice so I would have been more than happy to move onto sweets. The Boy thought differently and with room in his belly for more he knew ordering another round would be easy. When it comes to having seconds, I suffer from a serious case of rubber arm.
One of the last vegetarian options left on the menu were the black bean quesadillas. Our waitress warned us that they were very filling which prompted the Boy to order them immediately. Four soft pillows of corn quesadillas filled with cheesy black bean goodness were topped with punchy green sauce. Yes, she was right, they were quite filling but despite my smaller size I can fit a large amount of food into me and we finished them without discomfort leaving room for dessert.
And what a dessert it was. Let’s hope THIS one never comes off the menu. Peanut butter parfait topped with rocks of dulce de leche that literally collapse in your mouth on contact with your tongue. It really was a killer.
Like as if we hadn’t eaten enough, to finish off our last drinks we nibbled on a couple of chocolate chilli truffles. The Boy wasn’t mad on these as they were quite bitter but he wouldn’t’ let me eat his for him so I guess they weren’t so bad. After our socks being knocked off by our dessert, it was really pointless eating anything else.
It may have taken us a while to get ourselves to el PÚBLICO but our visit has left me repeatedly wondering how soon we can head back. It has a heart and soul that is packed with spunk and effortless cool. And it has a neon donkey on the bar. Now everyone who knows me KNOWS how much I love donkeys!el PÚBLICO 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au Price: $$ (Entrees $9-18, Mains $24-28) Food: 4.5/5 (captures our seasonal produce and injects a little Mexico into it!) Service: 4/5 (funny, efficient and helpful with suggestions) Ambience: 4/5 (vibrant, happening and noisy) Drinks: 4/5 (small well thought out wine list….over 100 Tequilas behind the bar!) Total: 15.5/20