So, we all know what a Fonda is, right?
No, not the leotard wearing, aerobics spruiking, political activist and actress Jane kind. I mean the Mexican kind that Melbournians have fallen in love with. In their own words:
A Fonda is a family home, turned local restaurant, open to anyone passing by.
It is a place for the community to congregate and enjoy mamma’s cooking direct from her kitchen. A Fonda embodies the philosophy ‘My house, your house’ or ‘Mi Casa, Su Casa’.
This philosophy, passionately followed by co-owner Tim McDonald, is evident at the both the original site in Richmond and the new outpost on Chapel St. It is at the latter that I met with him to try some of the new things on the menu and talk about all things Fonda. The entrepreneurial Tim is equal measures laid back and excited. It’s hard not to feel relaxed in his company, a living example of mi casa su casa, but at the same time, his energy is always bubbling just below the surface and he is constantly up and down from the table to ensure we have everything we need, be it food, drink or information.
Fonda Windsor is a larger venue than it’s cosy Richmond sister, though still warm welcoming and vibrant it’s interior is quite different, adhering to the belief that a fonda should always be a local experience. According to Tim, they were not specifically looking for a second site, but the building was too good to pass on. And a beautiful one it is. Built in 1923 it still had a lot of the original features which gave architects Techne and creative directors Goldenhen a great base to work with. With its affordable convenient and healthy approach to dining Fonda has fitted easily into the burgeoning food scene in Windsor, an area Tim laughingly describes as “Flinders Lane meets Chadstone Food Court” (an apt observation of the mix of fast food outlets and respected restaurants found in the area).
To start we sample three Agua Frescas. They are a traditional home made Mexican beverage designed to provide some relief to the spiciness of the food. Horchata is rice water, cinnamon, vanilla, evaporated milk. Pineapple has young ginger and mint. Jamaica has hibiscus and fresh basil. Tim calls it the original Ribena, and when you taste it you can understand why. It’s a close call between the three, but I think it is my favourite. These are not juices, but rather flavoured waters (the literal translation of agua fresca is fresh water). In Mexico you’ll find them at street stalls and in restaurants. At Fonda they provide a nod to tradition by serving them in glass jars – smaller versions of the large barrel shaped glass continers that are used to store the agua frescas. They can be flavoured with virtually anything and Tim explains that he would like to dispense with the Jarritos (Mexican sodas) and expand the range of agua fresca. They are also an excellent base for the addition of tequila (in this case Tromba Blanco) – where they turn into Aguas Locos. Hmm – I like this idea.
First taste is of the Aztec Soup from the Antojitos section of the menu. An antojito is a Mexican street snack. Meant to settle a craving it is perfect as a bar snack or whilst you wait. The soup of chicken, fresh lime, parsley and tortilla crisp is light and bursting with flavour.
Moving to the Ensaladas we try the new Roasted Japala Pumpkin salad – with organic chickpeas, green lentils, curds, sprouts and parsley. If ever a dish was going to showcase that there is more to Mexican than tacos, and that good tasting food can also be good for you this would have to be it. A wonderful combination of flavours and textures meant that every mouthful was a delight to eat.
I have but two words to share for the next dish: Pulled Pork. I love pork, and pulled pork done well is a true gastronomical treat. It is popping up all over the place these days, but I challenge you to find an example as rich and tasty as found in this Quesadilla with smoked chipotle, tomato, queso fresco and fresh lime.
The Tacos and Burritos you loved at Fonda Richmond can be found in Windsor too. If you are yet to try their Fish taco – get to it. They are a must. The corn tortillas used for the tacos are pressed fresh every day by Melbourne based tortilleria El Cielo. The dough for the flour tortillas in the burritos is prepared daily at Abbotsford Convent bakery and pressed to order.
To round out a lovely tasting we try the Mexican Flan from the Dulce. Traditionally the flan has more of a brulée topping, but in keeping with their desire to make the food affordable and easy to prepare for a frantic kitchen service, it is sprinkled with a salted pepita praline.
Opening this week in the attic above Fonda Windsor is ÁTICO – a unique and intimate bar, which I look forward to visiting. Great to have another watering hole in the area.
Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Fonda Windsor and would like to thank the team at Fonda and Little Big Marketing and PR for making this possible. Huge thanks to Tim who was so friendly and generous with his time. I will back under my own steam to dine again (and again) and suggest you do the same. Look for the bright green picket fence out the front – you cannot miss it.