El Mercado, Cheltenham

MELBOURNE | I’ll travel all over the world for good food, but when it comes to places on my Melbourne list that are southside, it tends to take me far longer to get there than it should. El Mercado is a spot that I first learned about a year ago, when owner Marcela Diaz asked if I’d like to pop in and see what she and her husband Felipe were doing. Last weekend, the stars aligned, and I finally made a long overdue visit.

Marcela and Felipe, who were born and raised in Santiago, Chile, opened El Mercado in Cheltenham in 2021, realising a dream that the former interior designer and environmental advisor, respectively, had held for many years. Channelling her passion for food, Marcela trained as a chef in Melbourne, allowing her to finesse and refine family recipes and the food that she loves to cook and eat.

El Mercado is a welcoming space, small and bright, with a coffee station and cabinet filled with baked goods on one side, and a wall filled with local and imported artisan pantry ingredients. Where possible, they source their ingredients from local, independent suppliers. Dairy comes from Gippsland Jersey, coffee from Ottimo Roasters, and tea from Tea Culture.

Marcela and Felipe’s heritage, and inspiration drawn from their travels throughout South America’s markets and panaderías form the basis of the menu at El Mercado. Everything is made on site from scratch, including the excellent dulce de leche and chimichurri, which you can buy jars of for home. You can also buy mixed boxes of empanadas for your freezer.

There’s around 12 different Chilean-style empanadas on the menu at any given time. They’re all very good (yes I tried all of them), but at a pinch I’d say my favourites are the corn and Manchego, chipotle pulled pork, and slow cooked beef. They all look quite similar, with initials baked into the crust to help you know which one you’re going for if you order a few.

For sweets, it’s things like alfajores, Spanish orange cake, and medialunas. The latter, a type of mini brioche croissant, is a must try. There’s a few flavours, but you can’t go past the one filled with dulce de leche. Another must try sweet is the milhojas, or ‘thousand layers cake’. It’s a traditional multi pastry and dulce de leche layered Chilean cake. The version here is made using Marcela’s family recipe that’s been passed down generations.


El Mercado

13 Follett Road
Cheltenham
Victoria 3192
Australia

Telephone: (03) 9585 1738
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Tue – Fri: 8:30am to 3:00pm
Sat: 8:30am to 1:30pm
Sun: 8:00am to 1:00pm

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