WHAT CAREER PATH DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO THIS STAGE?
I met Andy Rea in Roscoffs in 98/99 and then went on to work in Dublin. I came back and worked at Shu for four years before moving to Montreal where I lived for eight years and where I met my girlfriend, Eliza Vignolle from Monterrey, Mexico. I think we went back and forward 17 times to Mexico and I tried as many foods as I could and fell in love with it. We came home and set up what was originally a pop-up above Andy’s Mourne Seafood Bar and we are making a killing!
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
Because it opened as a pop-up we tried to do it as cost-effectively as we could. It’s not extravagant. We repainted to make it brighter but there’s nothing cheesily Mexican there. You won’t find any plastic cactus. We put up classic Mexican movie posters so it’s quite tasteful.
It’s situated off Castle Street and is a 40-45-seater restaurant and we fill that room three or four times a night.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
Proper authentic Mexican street food in a professional setting. Joe Goudie (front of house) has a lot of experience working in bars and restaurants in Belfast so we have a wide range of tequila and mezcal cocktails on offer. There are around 15-16 types. We also offer Mexican lagers and professionally-led cocktails. What we’re trying to do is provide authentic Mexican food as well as we can and see how Belfast takes it and build on our menu as we go.
WITH THIS THEME, IS THERE MUCH COMPETITION LOCALLY?
Not really. When people think of Mexican food the first thing they say is burritos but they are more Tex Mex, I don’t know really anywhere in Ireland that does what we do.
DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
We have a core menu that hasn’t changed much since we opened. It has classic tacos, carnitas, homemade chorizo, made from scratch here, and we’ll have a couple of specials on there too. We try a few different things here and there and see what takes off. Most of our Mexican tacos are soft corn tortillas and very different to what people expect. We are all about the meat fillings too with 180-200grams meat in each taco.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We try and get meat and dairy here. We use Hannan Meats and get our Mexican supplies from a wholesaler in London. We source our tortillas from Blanco Nino in Tipperary. They have a similar story to ours in that they travelled to Mexico. They couldn’t find soft tortillas here so became an artisan tortilla producer. I don’t know what we would’ve done without them.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
We have a fairly good age range. Most of our customers are young professionals; late 20s to mid 30s, families and it’s good to see the older ones come in and eat their tacos with knives and forks. Anyone can enjoy it. It’s not stuffy and it’s not fine dining. It’s just easy to enjoy. You can stay for a couple of hours or for 20 minutes.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
Keeping up with demand has been our biggest challenge. We’ve really good support with Andy and Stevie (Haller) behind us. It’s been pretty easy.
HOW HAS TRADE BEEN SINCE OPENING?
Busier and busier and we’ve been fortunate to get kind words from the press so it seems to be that everyone’s enjoying it.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING?
There are plans. We are always looking for bigger and better things. Right now we are happy to have a full restaurant and once it’s full regularly we will look at bigger plans to expand.