Melbourne’s iconic Happy Mexican Lands at the Lansdowne Hotel, Broadway

We haven’t been at the Lansdowne in ages. You know what? We should do it more often. Its a bustling tonight and with ticketed gig’s going on upstairs. The crowd is a microcosm of world fashion and cultures. There are amazing afros, 70’s style dudes, skirts so short they make tshirts look like oversize jumpers, a couple in their late 60’s sporting and gravity defying gelled mohawk to groups of uni students celebrating something with balloons. You can just grab a beer and people watch.

Inside all this wonderment is The Happy Mexican. It is loved by Melbournians and welcomes us with a fairy light ceiling, neon purple signs shouting Tacos, Tequilla and Cerveza.

Colombian born Julian Romero is the owner and at the age of 16 moved to Los Angeles boomeranging back and forth to Mexico City to see friends and relatives. This is the food of his memories and adventures.

We are here for tacos. Tonight the menu is pretty limited, however the month of ‘May’ brings on additional items. We kick off with a Mexican beer and of course a marg-arhhh-rita!! We go classic which is pretty good, followed by a chilli marg (a bit punchier) but our pesos are on the tequila focused Palomas with a kick of grapefruit as the winner of the night. Sorry Pina Coladas, we will try you next time.

Like all good Mexican feasts, we kick off with the nachos. It’s a small but deep bowl topped with sliced avo, tangy pickled red onion strips, stuffed with corn chips, chicken (we added that) drizzled with melted cheese, black beans, corn, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños & coriander. Nothing gluggy or boring – just a lucky dip of flavours.

The ‘Birra’ is their signature. All three corn tortillas are stuffed with Jalisco (a state of Mexico) style slow cooked beefy-stewey meat. Which bursts with warm spices like cinnamon and ginger. It is accompanied by melted Oaxaca cheese served with a savoury consommé. My dining partner Mr G has downed each one in seconds.

Onwards into the taco menu. A moody roasted chicken breast also represents its state of origin – ‘Zacatecas’ with a Guajillo and Achiote sauce. It’s got a kick but there is no fire. My favourite is the fish taco. A sizable beer battered fillet has a wingspan far bigger than the taco with fresh zingy cabbage slaw, onion, coriander & The Happy Mexican chipotle mayo. Mr G gets none of them as we commence the battle of who can eat the taco first. Grilled zucchini never won any competitions, but add smokey corn, sauted onions, sour cream and it’s a veggie delight. The most interesting is ‘Nopales’. Not sure what that is? Its the inside of the cactus plant (not sure where you shop for that in Sydney?), Mexican corn & softened potatoes (yeah really) with smooshed schmear of refried beans.

If you are shopping at Broadway then hop accross the road for some music, food, fun and expect a whole lot more than tacos on the menu from May!

The Happy Mexican @ The Lansdowne Hotel, 2-6 City Road,
Chippendale NSW 2008

Hours: Wednesday and Thursday: 12pm – 9pm, Friday and Saturday: 12pm – 10pm 

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).