In my younger and sprightlier days, I collected more than my fair share of sombreros from Taco Bill. As any Melbournian with a penchant for icy cocktails will know, you’ll be rewarded with a sombrero if you order and finish a large fishbowl margarita (approx $30-40) from Taco Bill. Alas, those days are over. If I was to try to finish a fishbowl margarita now, you’ll find me passed out in the gutter rather than celebrating with a sombrero on my head and tacos in hand.
These days, my meals at Taco Bill is a lot more sedate. My most recent visit was after a plasma donation appointment, so drinking was definitely off the cards. Located just up the road from the Blood Donor Centre on Collins Street, Taco Bill is a basement level restaurant that seems pretty non-descript from street level but then explodes into a riot of colour, noise and laughter as you descend down the stairs.
K ordered a glass of Mexican Punch out of curiosity, as the menu gave no further explanation of what ‘Mexican Punch’ actually is. I think he was hoping for something not dissimilar to sangria, but this was more like plain red cordial. Coloured sugar water, and nothing more.
We ordered dishes to share – the first a Seafood Quesadilla. I was quite pleasantly surprised with this quesadilla – the prawns and scallops used were plump, juicy, and plentiful. While there was probably too much creamy sauce in the quesadilla for my liking, that definitely comes down to personal preference. My only criticism is that the guacamole had started to change colour, indicating that it wasn’t made fresh as it should have been.
Our second main was the Beef and Chicken Fajitas, served with warm tortillas and rice on the side. The guacamole included in the meal suffered from the same issue as the other dish, having been pre-made hours earlier. The chicken and the beef weren’t particularly remarkable, but I loved how the onions had caramelised, as well as the smoky flavours throughout the dish.
We also ordered the Charred Corn to share, simple buttery grilled corn. Nothing out of the ordinary, though the chopped coriander on top was a nice touch.
The two mains, side, and a drink came to a final bill of $52 – however, we had a Daily Deal that entitled us to $50 of value for only $25, so paid $27 at the end of the meal. A bargain for two people!
Taco Bill will never be a renowned Mexican restaurant, drawing in fans from all over Melbourne and food pilgrims from further afield. However if you’re after some decent comfort Tex-Mex food, and a restaurant that welcomes boisterous catchups with friends over fishbowl margaritas, Taco Bill is the place to go.
Taco Bill is located at 412 Collins St in Melbourne, Australia.
In a continuation of my birthday celebrations, K booked seats for us to dine at Belle’s Hot Chicken in Richmond for their special ‘All the Chickens Afterparty’ event held during Good Food Month. Now don’t be too impressed by his initiative – he only booked the tickets after I sent him a link to an article about the event in a spectacularly unsubtle manner!
The reason we were particularly keen to go to this event is because a series of random events have conspired over time to prevent us from going to Belle’s. We’ve tried to make plans for dinner at Belle’s numerous times, yet something always seems to pop up at the last minute to prevent us going. Not this time though!
This sold-out fried chicken five course degustation event was designed by head chef Morgan McGlone as a tribute to some of his favourite fried chicken dishes from around the world. Naturally, the majority of them are inspired by various American joints.
For the reader’s information, I’ve included Morgan’s descriptions from the menu in this blog entry in all italics after the photo of each course. I found the descriptions and explanations particularly useful in understanding his motivation for including particular dishes – whether it was motivated by personal nostalgia or pure reverence for the dish.
We started with a drink each – eating five courses of fried chicken is thirsty work! I went for a refreshing House Made Sweet Mint Tea with a squeeze of lemon for a slight tangy twist, and K opted for their Country Time Lemonade with Melbourne Moonshine. I found the Melbourne Moonshine mix a bit too strong for my liking, but K enjoyed it with the strong lemonade.
Batters Box is my favourite dive bar in the world. It was the bar that was closest to Husk in Nashville where we (line cooks and I) would go after service and talk about how much we hate our jobs and how tomorrow we are going to go right back to work. They serve the most insane buffalo wings there with a store bought blue cheese dressing. Tonight we are giving you the same style Buffalo Wings but we make the dressing here.
The first course was made of one of my favourite combinations – Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese. Honestly, blue cheese with spicy fried chicken is one of the best combinations in the food world. However in this case, I would almost say that the standout element wasn’t the chicken or the blue cheese dressing, but instead the celery salad. With a vinaigrette dressing and punctured with random bursts of red onion, it was a lovely refreshing little salad side that acted well as a palate cleanser.
Chicken and Waffles has been on the Belle’s menu since day one…though it might sound like a strange combination when you put them together they really do work; just ask Snoop Dogg! I like to eat this once every 2 months especially with Hot Tenders.
I’m a Chicken & Waffles fiend – as evidenced by visits to places like Mr Big Stuff. This was just perfect with a lightly battered chicken tender, a warm and fresh waffle, and oodles of sweet maple syrup. Note to self – this is available as a regular dish on weekends at Belle’s!
Fried chicken is thirsty work! Two courses in, I’d already drained my sweet tea, so I ordered myself the House Made Cardamom Lemonade (no moonshine!) to get me through the final three courses. This wasn’t quite as refreshing as the tea as the tangy cardamom lingers on the palate, but was enjoyable in its own right.
No one makes the Chicken in a Biscuit like Chick-Fil-A, you might not agree with their policies but there is no doubt that their spicy Chicken biscuit is the BOMB.COM! We are serving them tonight with buttermilk biscuits and a spicy thigh fillet, cheese and pickles.
I’ve never tried Chick-Fil-A before and to be honest, I probably never will given that I would still make a point of boycotting them the next time I visit America. Variations of their meals made by other people though? Fair game when it’s Chicken in a Biscuit made by Belle’s. While I still can’t get over the fact that an American ‘biscuit’ doesn’t have chocolate chips in it, one can’t deny that their biscuit/scones go great with a juicy fried chicken thigh fillet! Too bad it doesn’t have structural integrity, with the bottom half of the biscuit crumbling to pieces in my hand with every bite I took.
Danny Bowien and I met whilst I was working at Husk Charleston, we have kept in touch and have caught up all over the world recently in Copenhagen at the MAD Food Camp 2016. This year in February Danny did a dinner at Attica with my buddy Ben Shewry and we hosted the after party at Belles Fitzroy. These wings are the go to dish when you eat at Mission Street Chinese restaurant I hope tonight we do them justice.
Oh man. These Mission Chinese Chongqing Wings had my lips burning with every bite. There’s a crazy good amount of spice on this fried chicken, with the type of spice that really lingers on the palate and brings tears to your eyes. This is where the pickled cucumber salad comes in handy as it helps to cool your palate, especially with the fresh coriander and spring onion in the mix as well.
Hot Quail is a dish we put on at the start of the year. Chef Scott and I wanted to try frying other types of birds and this was the one we loved the most. It is served with a red eye mayonnaise which is a play on Red Eye Gravy…the pickles in this dish extinguishes the heat of the Quail.’
We finished our degustation on the Belle’s Hot Quail, but unfortunately, I was so stuffed by that point I couldn’t manage much more beyond the quail breast. I have to say that I definitely prefer chicken over quail – I find that quail is still a bit too ‘game-y’ for my liking. That cauliflower salad was beautiful though!
Having a five course fried chicken degustation brings to mind the crazy Fried Chicken Crawl I did through Sydney a few years ago. It’s not something you would want to do every week, or even every month. As it is, I think this one single night of fried chicken bliss probably increased my rate of heart disease threefold! As an occasional treat, or as a fitting end to an ongoing 30th birthday celebration though, it’s a pretty mind-blowing and button-popping experience.
I’d love to return to Belle’s to try some of their more standard dishes. Their fried chicken expertise is evident and as much as I enjoyed their degustation, I’d like to try some of their standard dishes like Chicken Ribs in Peach BBQ sauce…mmmm yum…
Belle’s Hot Chicken is located at 107 Swan St in Richmond (and other locations too – Fitzroy, Windsor, Barangaroo, Tramsheds).
When my friend Beth asked to take me out to dinner for my birthday, I said “Actually why don’t you take me out to brunch instead, and we can try that healthy cafe in Edithvale?” Most people would have said thanks for dinner, but I had to just take it that one step further. It all worked out in the end anyway. Beth had been wanting to try the same cafe, and we went to Costco Moorabbin afterwards which we had been talking about for a while (because clearly, neither of us have a life).
The cafe in question was Soul Press in Edithvale, a second branch of the original Soul Press in Brighton. Like all ‘healthy eating’ cafes, they offer a range of super smoothies, acai bowls, pressed juices, and in this case – sushi burritos as well. To fit in with the other diners, I recommend wearing your tightest activewear to the cafe with your hair in a jaunty ponytail and a yoga mat under your arm.
I had wanted a matcha latte but they were unfortunately out of matcha on that Sunday morning – strange for a health food cafe! I had to settle for a Skim Chai Latte (too milky without enough spice) instead, whereas Beth tried a Beetroot Latte with coconut milk for the first time. I don’t think she’ll be rushing back to trying beetroot lattes any time soon, finding the beetroot a bit too sweet.
As a smashed avocado lover (it’s okay Bernard Salt, she’s already a property owner with a hefty mortgage), Beth immediately gravitated to the Avo Smash with chilli, edamame, pepitas and goats cheese. This was a great mix of textures and flavours – soft avocado, tangy goats cheese, crunchy pepitas, fresh edamame and crusty bread. A great blend.
I chose my first ever acai bowl – a Snickers Superfood Bowl featuring banana, coconut water, muesli, strawberries, vegan Snickers slice, and more. It’s the type of naughty sweet treat you feel virtuous ordering and eating, even if the fats contained in the vegan Snickers probably has more kilojoules than an actual Snickers bar. I quite enjoyed my first acai bowl experience and can see how people get addicted to them! Next time around though, I think I’d choose one that’s less of a mock dessert and has more fresh fruit toppings.