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.
K will vow to anyone that the best burritos he’s ever had are from the Australian Tex-Mex chain Guzman & Gomez. In his eyes, they find the right balance between fast convenient food, and fresh food made to order. They’re great value, the ingredients are always fresh, and you’re guaranteed a good feed. Smaller Mexican burrito bars never seem to measure up in his eyes.
To put some more burritos to the test in England, we visited Wahaca Mexican Market Eating in Manchester one evening for dinner. Like Guzman & Gomez in Australia, they’re a Mexican chain restaurant with locations around the UK – unlike Guzman though, they’re slightly more formal and do a stronger sit-down date-night dinner than work lunch burrito to-go.
We started off with a drink each – a fresh Green and Lean Juice for me, and a house-made Citrus Fizz soft drink for K. The Citrus Fizz was supposed to have a hint of sweetness, but if it did, it was certainly a lot more subtle than I expected as it tasted generally just of lime and mint fizzed up in a Sodastream. My juice was much sweeter, but still found a good balance between the sweet apple juice and the healthier cucumber juice.
K chose the Slow-Cooked Pork Burrito, which is served with corn chips on the side. Burrito aside, these were some of the best corn chips I’d ever tasted in my life – crispy and freshly fried, they had a great corn flavour to them and needed no additional embellishment.
According to K, the burrito itself was satisfying but didn’t quite measure up to Guzman & Gomez. For one, it just simply wasn’t as large at only about three-quarters the size – which honestly, just reflects the fact that we’ve enlarged our stomachs so much through over-eating on this trip through Europe! Secondly though, he thought it just lacked an overall ‘punchy’ flavour – the pork hadn’t been as heavily marinated and cooked as thoroughly as meat mixes are at Guzman’s. While still an enjoyable burrito, it didn’t quite tick all his boxes.
I chose a slightly healthier option – the Sonora Salad with Grilled Chicken. To be honest, I could have chosen an even healthier option by having the salad served in a plain ceramic bowl rather than a taco bowl – but of course, I chose the taco bowl, which meant that I finished off my meal by eating deep-fried carbs. Mea culpa.
At least eating the salad itself made me feel virtuous. As a bonus, it was an incredibly tasty salad with delicious marinated and grilled chicken (a tad on the dry side, but that worked in the salad with the dressing), and a great mix of seeds, beans, and spelt to make it filling. The fresh herbs, creamy avocado and crisp lettuce rounded it off nicely.
To build up our greens intake, we shared one more side salad between us – a Corn and Bean Salad. A nice and light salad to share between two, with a nice tang thanks to the salsa, and a crunch thanks to the pumpkin seeds. Simple but effective.
Wahaca does fairly decent Mexican food in a nice setting. It’s more expensive than Australian prices – but what isn’t more expensive in the UK? The mains are well priced though, and large enough to satisfy one person. It’s only when you start to order multiple tapas-style smaller dishes that it starts to become a bit more expensive. Order according to your budget and your dietary choices, and you’ll be guaranteed a tasty and even semi-healthy meal.
Wahaca is located in the Corn Exchange Building in Exchange Square, Manchester. They also have other locations around the United Kingdom.
Just as an addendum, a quick recap of the three days we spent in Manchester, with a day trip to Liverpool! We did free walking tours in both cities – Manchester with an independent guide, and Liverpool with a Sandeman’s New Europe guide. The independent tour was far superior…I’d highly suggest checking it out!
We also ate out a little bit in Manchester as our Airbnb wasn’t particularly conducive to cooking too much at home. Federal Cafe and Bar was a highlight, but unfortunately the Rice Bowl can’t be recommended. K also loved our discovery of the Greggs bakery chain which serves up a pretty tasty sausage roll – and I won’t lie, we had one almost every day!
I also enjoyed the lunch we had in Liverpool at Wagamama, but it was definitely helped by the fact that we had some fantastic company in the form of my friend Tanya, her husband Mark and their daughter Samantha. All through lunch, I couldn’t get over the fact that the last time I was in England, Samantha hadn’t even been conceived yet…and now she’s in primary school! Mind-blowing.
Manchester and Liverpool aren’t the usual destinations for most people when they go to the UK. They’re a little more working class, a little more Northern, and tend to dull a little in the shine of the southern cities. However, as our guide in Manchester said, the city is coming into a new and vibrant period – bars, clubs, cafes are opening up regularly, there’s a strong live music scene again, creative types are opening up their own stores…there’s a lot to see and do now, and I’d recommend a quick visit for anyone!
This is a small photo recap of some of my meals from the last three months.
A massive seafood paella, in a pan measuring approximately 60cm in diameter! K’s dad is a foodie as well, and takes a lot of pride in his cooking tools and gadgets, a special paella gas cooker and pan being one of them. He made a tasty seafood paella for a family dinner celebrating K’s birthday in April – this was a real hit! Made with the best and freshest ingredients, this paella really hit the spot.
One of my favourite restaurants in Sydney is Erciyes – a Turkish restaurant on Cleveland St in Surry Hills. I particularly like to take out-of-town visitors to this restaurant, and took my younger brother here when he visited over Easter. We enjoyed the walnut dessert pizza, or the walnut pide, with a simple filling of chopped walnuts, butter, and sugar. It’s a real sugar hit, and so very very indulgent.
K and I visited Jackie M‘s restaurant in Concord in the week before it closed down – I had the pleasure of attending one of Jackie’s cooking classes last year, and dining at one of the most authentic Malaysian restaurants in town before it closed was simply a must. This is the Nasi Lemak, but we also ordered a variety of other dishes – all of which were absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to see what new restaurant or venture Jackie comes up with!
While I was spending time in Melbourne after my mother’s passing, K’s father and mother also came down to Melbourne for a few days. Our two families met for the first time for lunch, an experience that I faced with trepidation but which went surprisingly well! K and I took his parents out afterwards with a brief walk up Chapel Street, before stopping in at Ganache Chocolate for an afternoon pick-me-up. I had the chilli hot chocolate which came with a little half raspberry macaron on the side. Their range of artisan chocolates and individual cakes and tarts are simply wicked as well – it’s well worth a visit!
I love banh mi – it’s such a perfect balance of veggies, protein and carbs! Unfortunately I currently live and work in areas with low to non-existing Vietnamese populations, so it’s only on rare occasions that I get to indulge. I was so pleased to find out that a sandwich shop up the road from work had started making banh mi – I understand that it was taken over by a Vietnamese family, and they added it to their repertoire. Simply Sandwiches on Willoughby Road makes a great banh mi – not completely traditional in style, but very tasty nevertheless.
Froyo, or frozen yoghurt is a craze that’s sweeping Sydney. Every time you turn around, it seems as though a new froyo store is opening up around the corner. They opened the first one in Crows Nest just two months ago, and little spoon is doing a roaring trade just from me and my colleagues alone – I think we must be keeping them in business! They have some amazing froyo flavours – I’ve tried an apple pie flavour and a caramel flavour as well, which were sweet and full of sin.
Keeping with the dessert theme, I bought a whole box of goodies from the 85 degrees cafe in Chatswood after they had a grand reopening 15% off sale, including this gorgeous little “Mango Bubble” dessert. This was a soft sponge cake covered in a mango creme – very soft, very light, and very moreish. It was very much an indulgence for me – because we tend to bake our own bread at home, buying a treat like this from a bakery is unheard of!
K and I recently dined at Mejico with our good friend Carmen. She’s blogged about it here so I won’t repeat her words. Simply said, it was a very delicious dining experience, though on the pricey side. We are scheduled to go back later in July for one of my friend’s birthdays though, so I fully expect to try some other dishes and potentially write a longer entry!
My work’s been generous enough to give me some flexibility in working a few days in the Melbourne office occasionally, in order to spend more time with my father and brother. One downside is that our Melbourne office is in West Footscray, on the other side of the city to my family home which does mean a commute of about an hour and a half each way. One thing that always brightens my mornings though, is seeing this little coffee van parked outside the West Footscray train station – their ‘dine-in’ setup always strikes me as being very optimistic given that Melbourne is averaging early morning temperatures in the single digits!
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into my world of food outside of the fancier meals that I blog about.