El Columpio, Fitzroy

MELBOURNE | The diversity of Melbourne’s food scene is driven by its vast immigrant population. One cuisine that’s always been under-represented in the city is Mexican, which isn’t surprising when you consider that (per the 2021 ABS Census), there were only 1,861 Melburnians recorded as being born in Mexico.

One of these individuals is chef Ricardo Garcia Flores. Moving through the ranks from a dishwasher at Paco’s Tacos, to a kitchenhand at Movida Aqui, Ricardo grew frustrated by the lack of “real” Mexican food in Melbourne, and decided to do something about it. He opened El Columpino a few months ago on Johnston Street in Fitzroy, with the aim of bringing a taste of Mexico to Australia, with zero compromises or modifications to local tastes.

It’s a small, simple space, with Mexican music in the background and an assortment of Mexican decorations and trinkets. The menu is small, and it’s easy to try everything on there if there’s more than one of you. In the morning, you’ll find tamales and chilaquiles on the menu. From midday, it’s chilaquiles, a few different tacos, pozole, and flan Napolitano. Specials include things like tacos de barbacoa estilo Hidalgo on the weekend, and corn slices topped with lime, chilli, salt, and Takis fuego.

Recipes are family recipes, and, in the case of the taco fillings, recipes from a friend who runs taquerias in Mexico City. Tortillas and masa are sourced from Mexico, and over 20 different kinds of chillies are used in the kitchen to ensure that each dish has the exact right flavour profile.

Pozole is the signature dish on the menu, and what everyone who has visited can’t stop talking about. It lives up to expectations and El Columpino is the only place in Melbourne where you can find it. It’s a chicken, pork, and corn soup garnished with lettuce, red radish, white onion, lime, oregano, and optional hot sauce. It’s served with two tostadas and sour cream, and is comforting like a warm hug. El Columpino is worth the visit for the pozole alone.

Tacos are all excellent, in particular be sure to try the Mixiote Estilo Hidalgo. It’s a complex blend of pork cooked with maguey leaves, guajillo chilli, and spices, garnished with pineapple, red onion, fresh habanero, and green tomatillo sauce. Also save room for dessert, the thick, crème caramel-like flan with a caramelised, slightly burnt top, is a delight.

Bottles of tequila hint towards the future drinks menu once El Columpino’s liquor license comes through, but for now it’s a rotating selection of aguas frescas, and sodas like Mexican Coke, Sidral, and Boing.


El Columpino

52 Johnston Street
Fitzroy
Victoria 3065
Australia

Telephone: n/a
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Tue – Thu: 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Fri: 12:00pm to 9:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am to 9:00pm

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