Just when you thought Melbourne had enough Mexican restaurants, Queen of the South has thrown a spanner in the mix, offering modern fusion cuisine just 100m from Chapel Street.
The restaurant and bar is headed up by Chef Malcolm Williams, previously of Melbourne institutions Senorita’s, Rice Paper Scissors, and Touché Hombre Melbourne and Bangkok. At Queen of the South, he aims to elevate Mexican from fast food to fabulous fare, combining traditional dishes and flavours with modern techniques to create fresh and flavoursome options.
Plates are designed to share. An obvious start is the guacamole with pico de gallo and corn chips, followed by market fresh ceviche, served with cucumber, habanero, red onion radish and fresh lime.
Larger plates include slow-braised lamb shoulder with cucumber, pomegranate salad and salsa macha, and crispy fried cauliflower florets with baby kale, radish and cucumber salad, tequila and raisin dressing and salsa verde.
Vegans need not be deterred by the meaty fare with a rotating vegan-friendly menu. Options include the ‘nopales toastada’ with cactus salad, peanut de arbol salsa, cashew nut cheese and chilli pequin, and enchiladas with black beans, corn, zucchini, cauliflower, salsa roja and cashew cheese.
Dessert offers the likes of Tromba Blanco vanilla-poached peaches with guava sorbet, hazelnut and pepita crumble, and a Pueblan mole’ mousse with pistachio praline and Pedro Ximenez crema. If you’re not quite done with drinks, all can be paired with an appropriate tequila for a touch extra.
Mexican isn’t Mexican without tequila and mezcal, so don’t forget to try one of their original cocktails. The Sugar Skull is a mix of 666 vodka, elderflower liqueur, agave, bitters and sparkling wine. A craft beer and wine list supports local producers, with tipples from Victorian and South Australian makers such as Boatrocker and Crittenden Estate.
The dimly lit venue has a moody underground vibe, with icons such as Freida Kahlo hidden in the wall art. The bar glows with blue light and tequila and mezcal are of course in the spotlight. Bright yellow booths are great for groups, but if you’re dining in a pair, grab a spot at the bar – you’ll have a front-row seat to watch the cocktail artists at work.
Queen of the South is mixing up Melbourne’s perception of Mexican. With innovative dishes, traditional drinks and a slick design, it’s sure to cause a stir.