Touche Hombre Melbourne is one of the established members of the Melbourne Mexican food scene, having survived the passing of the wave of Mexican food that passed through Melbourne to recently celebrate its 3rd birthday. To coincide with the anniversary, the menu was relaunced, with a number of favourties remaining, some old favourites returning and some new options making their first appearance.
The City Lane was invited by Touche Hombre to sample some highlights from the new menu and, seing as it was Cinco de Mayo, to have a few drinks. Despite having been in Melbourne for as long as we have, Touche Hombre is actually one of those places that’s always been on our list but we’ve never tried so we were happy to visit and see what the venue was all about.
The interior is fitting for the CBD, laneway corner location of Touche Hombre. Exposed brick and concrete, Mexican inspired street art, and a very decent old school hip-hop playlist combine to make for a funky venue. With all of the exposed brick and concrete and quite loud music you’d think having a conversation would be a problem but surprisingly Lauren and I were able to speak to each other quite easily from across the table.
We noticed some quite thick layers of foam beneath the table and asked restaurant manager Rich Hands if this was for soundproofing. He told us that indeed it was, as when he first took over as restaurant manager the place was far too noisy – between the tables, roof insulation and a few other improvements they were able to get things to the stage where the music could be played loud but people could still hold conversations.
Drinks wise things are as you would expect. A range of Mexican beers, tequilas and mezcals along with the usual range of spirits and wines for those so inclined. While the range of tequilas and mezcals isn’t as extensive as that of the other main Mexican restaurant in the CBD, Mamasita, there’s still a lot to satisfy those who fancy a drink.
There are a variety of Mexican cocktails on offer – I went for the Tommy’s Margarita and also tried the horchata cocktail. Both were nice, but the Margarita was my favourite.
I also tried a tequila, the Cabo Wabo which, as the waitress (who had a good knowledge of the tequilas on offer for someone who had just started working at Touche Hombre) explained to me, was actually owned by Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar.
It was nice and light and not too boozy tasting, a long way away from the cheap tequila that many drink in their teens and then forever associate with the spirit.
Attention has also been given to those who don’t want to drink on the night, with a range of mocktails on offer. Lauren tried and thoroughly enjoyed the Tropical Punch Mocktail – Pineapple, Grapefruit, Citrus, Cranberry & Passion Fruit.
The menu contains a range of favourites – the tacos and tostadas that you’d expect for example plus some interesting not strictly Mexican dishes but rather Mexican inspired dishes. As long as it’s tasty, we say experimentation is all good.
Spicy Lamb Ribs With Merquin, Coriander & Honey
The lamb ribs were one of our favourite dishes of the night. They were spicy, but not overly so and the honey was really apparent but not to the extent that it overpowered any of the other ingredients. The lamb was really tender and the fat melted in our mouths. A must try.
Fried Chicken With Habanero Cream & Lime
The fried chicken was another winner. This was actually gluten free, as the coating made use of maize flour instead of wheat flour. What this meant was that the super crispy coating had a noticeable corn flavour to it, almost popcorn like. The habanero cream added a subtle kick to each bite and the lime finished things off nicely. A great take on a simple dish.
The first of the tacos, the Chimichurri chicken with Egmont cheese, toasted pepitas, coriander aioli was our favourite of the two. The chicken was nice and tender and the flavours combined well together. The toasted pepitas added a nice textural element to the taco. There were quite mild however there was a nice range of hot sauces on the table for those so inclined.
The second taco was called Mejilla, which literally translates as “cheek”. Accordingly, it was comprised of slow cooked pork cheek, habanero cream and BBQ corn salsa. We were told that this is one of the favourites on the menu. While the flavours were spot on, the pork cheek was quite fatty and, unlike the lamb ribs it wasn’t the melt in your mouth kind of fat. I’d have to go back and try again to confirm if it was just the ones we ate – I’m thinking that the pork that we got wasn’t cooked as slowly as it might usually be.
We were given one of each of the tostaditos on the menu to try:
- Blue crab / pickled chilli, lime, basil aioli
- Chicken tinga / mango jam, coriander, chipotle mayo
- Tuna / candied peanuts, soy, black sesame
- Pumpkin / cashews, pepitas, jalapeño
We were 50/50 on these. The blue crab and the pumpkin were outstanding however the tuna and chicken tinga didn’t really do anything for us. Probably just a matter of personal taste where the tuna is concerned as neither of us are big fans of cooked tuns however where the chicken is concerned, I think some tweaking is still required to get it right.
Strawberry Parfait Sandwich
The dessert featured on the sample menu was the next one however because of Lauren’s nut allergy she was served the strawberry parfait sandwich with dulce de leche. Usually I give her a little “sucks to be you” and proceed to enjoy my superior nut based dessert but in this case, and to my surprise, I actually preferred her dessert.
The strawberry parfait was a kind of light and airy ice cream that somehow didn’t melt at all for the entire time it was on the plate. It wasn’t overly sweet and it was evident that real strawberries had been used. The biscuit was soft, almost cake like and the whole thing really came together nicely.
Chocolate, Chilli & Peanut Butter Parfait
While very nice, I was not as impressed by this one. The chilli was not noticeable in the slightest and the biscuit, while tasty, was very crunchy which made it a difficult dessert to eat. There was also something not quite right about the texture of the parfait. Given I’ve just made 3 criticisms of the dessert you might jump to the conclusion that I didn’t like this dessert. Actually, it tasted quite nice it was just the textures that we off. A softer biscuit and a denser parfait would be what’s required for this dessert to hit all the high notes.
On a whole I was glad that I finally made it to Touche Hombre. The space is brilliant and fun, and the service was great (for the first 15 minutes our waitress wasn’t aware that we were there as invited guests so we had the chance to judge service as if we had just walked in). The food contained both hits and missed but the hits were excellent and the misses, apart from the pork cheek, weren’t fatal. I’d be keen to go in again and try a few more of the things on the menu, which says all that needs to be said really.
233 Lonsdale Street
Telephone: (03) 9663 0811
Email: [email protected]
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to late