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Go to Mexico in Takapuna for a snack or a full-on sharing meal and you’ll experience fresh zingy flavours delivered with equally fresh ingredients. Executive chef Peter Jackson works hard to ensure the restaurant delivers nothing less. He designs the four seasonal menus for Mexico restaurants nationwide, and is proud of the depth, balance and subtlety of flavours each of the dishes delivers.
“Everything on the menu is made in-house with fresh ingredients. We buy in very little,” he says. The notable exceptions are specialist Mexican items, and the tacos and tortilla shells – but even those are specially made to his recipe. The same goes for the Mexico Sodas – an imaginative take on the Mexican love of jarritos; the syrups (all natural flavours, colours and sugars) were all developed after much taste-testing by Peter.
“I’m aiming to balance the textures and to create layers of flavour,” he says. “We only buy in fresh, clean, seasonal and sustainable New Zealand items,” he adds. “And we don’t do Tex-Mex.” Forget burritos and nachos; Mexico is all about contemporary twists on Mexican street food adjusted for New Zealand tastes, and with a helpful chilli rating on the menu.
In addition to the seasonal menus, Peter also creates two weekly specials – and a regular item on the menu, a $20 degustation lunch which started as a special for Taste Takapuna last year, is now a served not just in Takapuna, but in all seven Mexicos around the country.
Peter’s quick to emphasise that he might design the menu and the recipes – but it’s “the guys in the restaurant who bring it to life”. To that end, he holds a two-day head chefs’ seminar ahead of each menu change, to introduce the recipes to the head chefs, and to ensure that dishes are delivered consistently across the Mexico chain.
Santhosh Antony, head chef at Mexico in Takapuna, says local preferences include spicy snacks and bite-sized options, to suit beachgoers who call in for a beer and a bite to eat. He believes Mexico stands alone not just in the food, but in also offering a atmosphere that has a real Mexican vibe.
“People get the energy straight away, because of the music and the colour. They want to party here. It’s a friendly environment where they can come and relax, eat a whole meal, or share.”
And share they do, in droves. Friday and Saturday evenings are hectic as people call in after work or going to the beach. Sunday lunch is “crazy”, with families joining groups of all ages. The kids’ menu offers light-on-chilli versions of the adult options on the menu, rather than the usual fall-backs of chicken nuggets and chips, and includes the sodas which range from lemonade to citrus and ginger fresca.
Despite the variety of options on offer, the go-to dish for many patrons remains the fried chicken – juicy boned chicken thighs dipped in buttermilk and spiced flour, deep-fried, finished with a spice/citric mix and served with chipotle mayo and jalapeno mayo. It’s one dish that never comes off the menu.
Whether it’s the complex flavours of the fried chicken, or the subtle allure of the guajillo chicken picadillo or crumbed cauliflower tacos, it’s easy to see why Peter says “A lot goes into the menu. Street food is the inspiration I use to give the food an x-factor.”
Mexico, 4 The Strand, Takapuna 09 489 6781 www.mexico.net.nz #lovemexico FB /MexicoNZ
Open 12pm – 10pm daily.
Channel Magazine: Issue 75 April 2017