Text: Thomas Jones
From hole-in-the-wall cantinas serving beef tacos and beers, to massive party venues with margaritas and gourmet chimichangas, everywhere you look in Bali at the moment there’s a Mexican restaurant opening up with the regularity of Montezuma’s Revenge after a big night out in Tijuana. With more than 12 at last count and more on the way and you could be forgiven for thinking that Mexico was Bali’s number one tourist market, not Australia. As it turns out, the two are deeply connected, and it’s all linked to a similar culinary explosion that has taken place over the past few years in eastern Australia, where the high cost of living has created a demand for quality food in quantity and at a good price. Being Bali’s number one source of tourist arrivals, it was just a matter of time before it took off here.
“Mexican is trending globally right now,” says Bob Nicksic, owner and proprietor of Taco Beach Grill, a north-of-the-border tribute to Mexicana on Jalan Kunti. “Mexican food is a late bloomer here, but it’s catching on because of Australia, which makes up a large proportion of the dining population here. Australia is an expensive place to live and as people are downscaling their dining budgets they are discovering by default that Mexican can be produced cheaper for the most part than many other forms of dining,” he explains.Click to view slideshow.
Mexican food is diverse, it can be light, fresh, complex or subtle. There are a lot of delicious creations that people are trying and loving…it’s overdue really.
Others concur. “People now know that Mexican food is not limited to stodgy fast food creations popularised way back when, but that it offers so much more,” says Will Lovejoy, owner of Lacalaca, an upbeat dining and party venue that really gets rocking when the tequila takes hold. “It’s diverse, it can be light, fresh, complex or subtle. There are a lot of delicious Mexican creations that people are trying and loving…it’s overdue really.”
Lacalaca’s funky design is drawn from the vibrancy of colour found throughout Mexico, with art inspired by The Day of the Dead, a bit of surf and anything else that takes their fancy. “It’s an informal, intimate cantina serving our take on classic Mexican dishes and cocktails using only fresh fruits and herbs, and as broad a range of tequilas as we can get in Indonesia…Oh and we do love a party! You have to try our jalapeño-infused Lacalaca Margarita, it’ll blow your socks off!”
Adrian Reed’s Motel Mexicola on Jalan Kayujati, is a big adventure fair dripping with colour, candle wax and Catholic guilt. It’s like living in someone else’s dream; just someone who doesn’t speak your language. The style is Sixties Acapulco interpreted from Adrian’s head by some clever artists who, as he puts it, “cracked it,” and it’s filled with Mexican street art, long communal tables, booths, three bars, lighting from all colours of the spectrum and more rosaries. There’s more Jesus imagery than you can shake a crucifix at! With two Mexican chefs the food is nothing if not authentic, and through Adrian’s travels and influences, is heavily Caribbean-inspired and served in bite sizes or as massive mains designed to share the love. This is a place to arrive early and lose yourself till closing time. As one American visitor was heard to remark at the bar, “It’s just like going to a party at my friend’s Mexican grandmother’s back yard in L.A. I love it!”