Monday, 23 July 2012

El Público (Mt Lawley, Perth WA)

511 Beaufort St
Highgate Western Australia 6003
0418 187 708
Website
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Hours   
  Wed - Fri: 17:00 - 00:00
  Sat:12:00 - 00:00
  Sun: 12:00 - 22:00

 
el PÚBLICO on Urbanspoon I had passed many times by El Público without realising that this was a restaurant, as the store-front is very sleek and the signs are flat banners on the wall and windows. The place is quite small, but very comfortable and luminous during the day, and has a nice background music. The cocktail bar is right at the entrance, but nicely separated from the eating area and very trendy.

El Público offers simple tasty street-food and home-style Mexican cooking, a small selection of traditional sweets, a great selection of soft drinks, Mexican alcoholic drinks (beer, mezcal and tequila) and cocktails. I love their rustic tin crockery and serving pots. Very cute - they convey well the sort of food they prepare.

THE FOOD - I have tried some of their antojitos (snacks) primeros (entrees), and postres (desserts) and most of them were good. The Esquites are yummy and the serving size was great. The Beef Mogo Mogo fried balls were crunchy outside and very tender and soft inside, and a very nice dipped in the sauce. My fav thing so far have been the lamb watercress mini-tacos, which were great - I felt like shouting Cloudy with a Chance of Lamb Taquitos! On the contrary, the frijoles and onion tacos were terrible, tasteless, with chewy fibrous spring onion difficult to masticate. 

Most sweets are home-made style. The almond cake with chipotle sauce is ugly looking, but very nice - more a sort of almond panna cotta than a proper cake. The chocolate pan dulce was also very nice - a bare tiny strip of sweet bread and a tiny bowl of hot chocolate. 

The home-made sodas are really tasty, refreshing and thirst quenching, and the perfect companion if you do not like very sugary drinks with your food.  I have not tried any of their alcoholic beverages. 

They change their menu often, so any of the dishes mentioned here might not be there when you visit, but they have a great variety of foods, which is always great. 


THE SERVICE - The staff are terrific and extremely nice. The Mexican waitress is delightful and helpful, and one of the other girls, Aussie I think, even let me browse her own magazine when I asked if the restaurant had one. That is what I call customer service! The other guys were also wonderful. All of them work hard to make your stay enjoyable and their enthusiasm is contagious.

THE PRICING AND THE SIZING - The servings sizes for primeros, antojitos and postres are Lilliputian, especially the sweets, which seem to be designed for toddlers. Street food is by definition delicious, unsophisticated and very cheap. I understand that having street food in a Perth restaurant is not only a culinary oxymoron, but also impossible to have at the prices you find them in the country of origin. However,  If you want to tame your hunger, be prepared to pay a little fortune: paying +40$ for two snacks, a minuscule sweet and a soda is unaffordable, especially if I leave the place hungry and with the feeling that this is average Mexican food not the real thing.
 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT 
1- I find the bilingual menu really cute and funny. However, I have heard too many complaints about it to ignore them. Most people are not bilingual, so an English one would make things easier for everybody. Besides, explaining customers what is exactly what you are ordering is time-consuming.
2- Most of Mexican food is very spicy and hot. The food in El Público is obviously adjusted to Australian tastes. I am OK with that. Still it tastes a bit bland. A bit of more spice and hotness would be just being faithful to the original and would make the dishes yummier.
3 - El Público does not serve Haute Cuisine but simple Mexican Food, so it would be better having the description of what it is on the plate written down instead of mentioned when the plate is put on your table.  
4 - Get a coffee machine and serve coffee, pleazzz!
5 - Have more Coriander at hand, so when a customer requests an extra pinch of it, you can say no problem, instead of "we are running short of it in the kitchen". Little details make a great difference.

***

There is a lot of hype about El Público. There is no doubt that is a nice place, has nice food and terrific service. It offers much better Mexican food than other Mexican restaurants in Perth, that is for sure. Still, as the Spanish proverb says, "En el Reino de los ciegos el tuerto es el rey" (in the kingdom of the blind, a one-eyed is the King) Honestly, how many Mexicans have you seen eating there?

Location: 7.5/10
Layout: 6.5
Ambience (day): 7.5/10
Service: 9/10
Food: 7/10
Pricing: 6/10
Drinks (non alcoholic): 8/10

TIP
Ask for the bandejas (mains) for lunch as they are more expensive, but also considerably bigger, better value for money, and better filling for your stomach if you are hungry. 

TIP 2
The primeros and antojitos are perfect for night slight snacking with your drinks!

UPDATE 21/10/13/
There was half a page in the Sunday newspaper a few weeks ago, after this review was written, with an interview with the cook. What he says helps once more to confirm that we do not have real Mexican food in Perth, as many of the ingredients basic for cooking are not available here and their food is Mexican inspired. But it is not only the ingredients. It is the flavours and spiciness of what we get in Perth, which is in the best case Tex-Mex. There you have it.

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