Friday, 7 September 2012

Mad Mex and Melbourne Central

Finding decent food at the old food court at Melbourne Central Shopping Centre wasn't easy.  The revamped food court that opened there late last year, is an improvement. I have recently discovered Mad Mex is one of the bright stars in cheap and cheerful meals.  (Yeah, I know! I am not the first.)  It seems like a good opportunity to share some Melbourne Central photos and reflections,  But first let me tell you about Mad Mex.

A franchise that started in Sydney, Mad Mex is an impressive offering compared to the usual food court fare.  It serves fast, decent Mexican food that is full of vegetables.  Even the space is unusually charming for a food court.  They not only have plants but an eye-catching chandelier made of corona beer bottles.

There are also queues.  Not surprisingly.  What is unexpected is the speed at which the queue moves.  And you need a little wait to choose your order.  Because once you arrive at the counter you speed by three or four staff all giving you options and piling your meal high.

There are three sections of the menu 1. The base - tacos, nachos, burritos quesadilla etc.  This also includes basics like black beans, lettuce and sour cream.  2. The filling.  For me that is vegetariano - a mix of zucchini, eggplant and mushroom.  It comes with free guacamole (which costs extra with meat fillings).  3. Lastly you choose the salsa.  Tomato, tomatillo, corn etc.  That's a lot of food.

On my first trip I chose the soft tacos (above).  The photo does not do them justice.  They were fantastic, satisfying and very very filling.  Initially I had thought I might eat them with my hands but that was too challenging.

On my second visit I wanted something different.  I chose nachos (top photo).  After my initial experience this was disappointing.  Yet understandable.  This is fast food.  Instead of the nachos being baked or grilled to create a delicious marriage of melty cheese and crisp corn chips, these corn chips have some thin melty cheese sauce poured over them.  (Perhaps the grated cheese would have been better than the melted cheese sauce.)  However, with all the vegetables, these weren't as heavy as usual. In fact they were rather good.

The new incarnation of the Melbourne Central Food Hall has more sunlight and more decoration than the previous grim dark space.  It makes for a far more pleasant place to eat.  That is, if you don't mind the stern stare of this giant owl that looms over the dining tables.

Far more cheerful are the elephants.  Well I only spied one inside Melbourne Central near the food court.  There is another outside near the corner of Swanston and LaTrobe Streets.  This is part of the Mali exhibition of 150 decorated elephant statues to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Zoo.  (They are in the city until 21 September when they move to the Zoo.)  Bringing art into public spaces is one of the changes of which I heartily approve.

I took this above picture of a decorated wall by the food court back in December.  I am not sure if it is still there.  Even then, there was some graffiti on the wall.  I also took the below photo of the red heads below at the same time.  This is a very striking sales display, though I am never sure what they are selling.  (A quick web search suggests it is a Pioneer shop called Volume.)

I am less familiar with stores in Melbourne Central than I used to be.  I remember the Shopping Centre being opened in 1991.  What I remember clearly is the fascination at the historic shot tower (below) being encased in an industrial-style glass cone.  Since then I have seen stores come and go.  I used to enjoy wandering through the Japanese department store, Daimaru, browsing the cookbooks in Borders and eating cinnamon scrolls from Saint Cinnamon.  All gone.

In fact I used to love taking visitors through the city from Melbourne Central, through Myer, along Royal Arcade, The Block Arcade and then through Centre Place and Degraves Street into Flinders Street.  Sadly these days, not only is Melbourne Central much changed (though they still have the silly giant fob watch with the tinny version of Waltzing Matilda on the hour) but you can't walk through Myer any more.

Above is what used to be the walkway between Melbourne Central and Myer Department Store.  I miss being able to bypass Lonsdale Street in this way.  Now it is called a Community Kitchen Garden and you can gaze out the window at the remaining facade of the Myer's Lonsdale Street building and the building works going on around it.  It has even gained some recent notoriety as the site of the most recent clash between unions and big business. 

Melbourne Central has come a long way.  It has even taken over the name of the railway station in its bowels, formerly known as Museum.  Outside on Swanston Street, the mega tram stops have appeared (with new barriers since I took the above photo in December) and the renovated State Library has taken over the part of the building that used to be the Museum.  It makes me feel old to look back over the change I have seen.  Yet I am also pleased that Melbourne continues to interest and fascinate.

Meanwhile Mad Mex is continuing to contribute to better fast food options in Melbourne's CBD.  It now has outlets in Southern Cross Lane, Southern Cross Station and the Queen Victoria Shopping Centre. 

Mad Mex
Level 2, Dining Hall, Melbourne Central
Corner Swanston and La Trobe Streets
Melbourne 3000
Open for lunch and dinner
(03) 9663 7010
www.madmex.com.au

19 comments:

  1. Stunning photos, Johanna! I'm hoping that by the time I return to Australia, Canberra will have some fine Mexican to speak of too.

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    1. Thanks Hannah - You never know - Mad Mex seem to be expanding so maybe they will open up in your hood!

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  2. I like Mad Mex (and also Guzman y Gomez which is same same). I tend to get the vego option too these days (or the fish option if there is one). I do love that Shot Tower in Melb Central.

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    1. Thanks Mel - the shot tower is such a surprise - the sort of think I would expect in europe rather than Melbourne - I am glad they saved it

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  3. Mad Mex sounds wonderful, and the Melbourne foodhall looks far fancier than most! This is a great post to highlight Melbourne's loveliness.

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    1. Thanks Kari - it is a rather fancy food hall - and yes melbourne is rather lovely

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  4. I find that good mexican takeout is often REALLY hard to find! It's always so greasy, but it looks like this was a winner!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - I find that mexican takeaway is often less greasy than other takeaway meals but if you just have nachos that is mostly grease and carbs which is why I liked the Mad Mex one

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  5. I have such fond memories of many shopping trips to Melbourne Central - how dare they revamp it without my prior consent lol. Mad mex looks amazing, I have such a thing for Mexican food these days, if only Hubby would share this I might be able to itch the scratch and move on again!

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    1. Thanks Chele - Am sure they looked everywhere to get your consent but didn't realise you had fled the country :-) Mexican is something that E and I agree on - though he is rather liberal with the tabasco

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  6. I'm a massive fan of Mexican food - at least the sort I've had in the UK and USA. I sadly haven't made it to Mexico yet!

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    1. Thanks Rachel - I would love to go to mexico to taste the food there - or even south in USA. At least the mexican food here is getting better

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  7. I will have to add Mad Mex to my "must try" list - it sounds great. I ate Chipotle (a US Mexican chain) a number of times on my recent trip.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - it is a great quick bite if you are in the city - not sure how it compares to chipotle but Louise by Degrees (one of the links in para 1) said it compares favourably to some she has had in the US

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    2. Thanks for the tip - I have bene here now, and love it - very similar to Chipotle.

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  8. Such a visual place to visit. I think I would like to try the nachos with melted cheese poured over them. Mmmmmmm!

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    1. Thanks Jac - I wasn't keen on the melted cheese sauce but will have to try them with grated cheese - they were still a cut above the place next door that gave me a half frozen schnitzel in a sandwich on another trip to the food hall :-)

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  9. Mad Mex opened in the food court below where I work in the Melbourne CBD. It started to a fanfare of men dressed in Mexican costumes playing guitars and singing songs in Spanish. Everyone was so taken aback that very few people went there - but that was day 1. Now there are queues but they seem to move so fast. Finally there is good fast lunch food. I love it!!

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    1. Thanks Paola - I wish I had a mad mex just below where I work - they could dress up as they wish if they served me good fast food

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