Fonda Mexican, CBD

Fonda Mexican is a Mexican restaurant on Flinders Lane close to Spring Street right next to Cumulus Inc., about a ten to fifteen minute walk from Flinders St Station. The first restaurant is actually in Richmond, but we decided to visit this new one in the city as it was easier for everyone to get to. Overall, my experience here was quite good; the place has a great atmosphere and portions of food were decent for the pricing.

The interior design of Fonda Mexican gives a relaxed, casual atmosphere that is very spacious and open. The section to the left of the entrance is filled with colourful booth like seating, and the section to the right is filled with smaller tables for smaller groups of people. The design of the whole restaurant feels modern and at the same time rustic; the wooden shelves, tables and benches contrasting with the old school feel from the brick walls and the large windows that allow for plenty of natural light to come in. The restaurant is big enough that you don't really have to raise your voice to talk, even with the music playing in the background and the chatter from the other groups of people. Fonda Mexican doesn't take reservations unless you have more than 12 people per group, but there's so much space that you can easily get a table. We went on a weekday and there was lots of empty seats available for us to choose from.

There's a range of tacos, quesadillas, burritos and salads to choose from on the menu, as well as a range of Mexican drinks (both alcoholic and non alcoholic). The food can be easily be shared between people; for instance the quesadillas come in fours, and the burritos are cut in half so it's easier to eat. We decided to each order our own, but also got tortilla crisps ($7) to share. Between the five of us, two ordered the chicken quesadillas ($14), one the pulled pork quesadilla ($14), one the grilled chicken burrito ($15) and one the grilled chicken salad ($15). Some of us also ordered the Aguas Frescas ($6 each), though each table does already come with a jug of water.

The Aguas Frescas is a Mexican drink that is made in house with fruits, cereals or flowers and blended with cane sugar and water, and comes in a large jar filled with ice cubes. Two of us ordered the watermelon and strawberry one (which had a hint of basil to it), and my other friend ordered the horchata one, which consists of rice water, cinnamon, vanilla and evaporated milk. The watermelon and strawberry drink was really refreshing and went well to balance out the heavier flavours of the food, especially when it became quite spicy. The use of basil added an extra hit to the fruity drink, which both my friend and I really enjoyed. The horchata drink was also refreshing and not too sweet, despite having both vanilla and cinnamon flavours in it. I'd definitely recommend having an Aguas Frescas if you do visit Fonda Mexican!

The corn tortilla crisps came with guacamole and a smokey salsa which was a little spicy, but went well with the guacamole and the crisps, which were a bit thicker than your average corn chips. They still had a good crunch to them despite being thicker. The guacamole actually went really well with the grilled chicken burrito my friend ordered, even though there was already avocado crema in that dish.

The chicken quesadillas also consisted of cheese, fresh tomato and rocket, and was served with an avocado crema on the side. The portion was good and the flavours worked really well together, with a good serving of chicken in it that wasn't too dry. It would've been good to perhaps have a little more cheese in the quesadillas, as the other elements overpowered it. The avocado crema dip on the side gave the quesadillas the extra subtle flavour and texture to the dish, and went really well with it all.

The pulled pork quesadillas were served with chipotle, orange, cheese and fresh lime. The chipotle made it quite spicy, but this was balanced out by the strong orange citrus and pulled pork flavours, though I would've liked some salad greens of sorts to further balance it out. Also, it did get quite spicy the more I ate, but luckily the refreshing drink helped to cleanse the palette when it got a bit too much. The chargrilled corn tortilla gave the dish a smokey taste for extra flavour, and the crispiness more texture.

The grilled chicken burrito also had pickled cabbage, crunchy roasted corn, baby spinach and avocado crema. All burritos at Fonda Mexican come with organic quinoa and black beans, and like the quesadillas, are pressed to order every day. The pickled cabbage was a refreshing element to contrast the heavier flavours from the black beans and the grilled chicken, which was cooked well and not too dry. The burrito was really packed with the different ingredients, and definitely leaves you feeling quite full by the end. There was a slight spicy flavour in the burrito, though again, the refreshing drink helped to wash down this when it became too much.

The grilled chicken ensalada also consisted of quinoa, black beans, coriander, fresh corn, sweet potato, mint, peas and a lemon vinaigrette. Unfortunately this was quite a disappointing dish, with hardly any grilled chicken in the dish, and for some reason was extremely spicy to eat. Even for my friend, who is really good at handling spicy food, couldn't finish the dish, even with the help of the aguas fresca. The portion was reasonable for the price, but the spiciness overpowered everything else in the dish. The heat was so great that even though there was a good combination of flavours and textures from all the ingredients, it wasn't very enjoyable - even the sweet potato didn't taste very sweet as it was just so spicy! The strange thing was, there was no indication on the menu of the dish being spicy, and it wasn't a chilli spicy either; we couldn't see any chilli seeds in the dish, nor did it look like copious amounts of pepper had being used, so it was actually a bit baffling as to what was causing the spicy flavours.

The service was great, with several members of staff coming to see how our food was during the meal, and taking our plates pretty much once we were finished. They also brought over another jug of water for us to share, just in case the one jug wasn't enough. The food came relatively quickly, and you get your drink when you make your order at the counter.

Mexican food wise, Fonda Mexican probably sits somewhere between Mad Mex/Salsas and Mamasita. It's definitely a lot more generous portions for roughly the same pricing as Mamasita, but you do have to go up and order at the counter yourself. The presentation could be improved, as you can see from my photos above, but flavour wise it is pretty decent. According to my friend who has been to the original Fonda Mexican in Richmond however, it's not as good in terms of quality.

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