It’s been more than seven years since good-time Mexican eatery Touché Hombre landed on Lonsdale Street, with owner Davis Yu opening sister restaurant Touché Hombre Eléctrica in South Yarra not long after.
But Electrica has since closed, and the original was getting tired. So Yu’s father, property developer David Yu, took over and got chatting to prolific operator Jerome Borazio (Ponyfish Island, Back Alley Sally’s, Reunion Island Pool Club, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival).
“I wasn’t looking to do [another bar], but I think this is such a cornerstone of Mexican food in the CBD,” says Borazio, who is now co-owner along with Yu and his father. “I love Mexico and Mexican food – I couldn’t help myself.”
The renovation has added more light and comfy seating, and plant life has replaced the empty bottles lining the windows to Tattersalls Lane. Gone are the arcade machines, neon Ghostbusters lights and black-and-white paste-ups. Instead there’s canvas art and a mural by Melbourne artist Abbey Rich depicting palm trees and bright blue waters. The exterior has a fresh coat of pastel-pink paint, too.
“Mexico City is one of the most intense but amazing places, but doing some regional stuff out there is also interesting,” Borazio says. “You go down to Puerto Escandido [in Oaxaca] and the difference between the beach lifestyle and city lifestyle is huge. Culturally, it’s just incredible.”
One soft taco (made with La Tortilleria tortillas) comes filled with fried squid, chorizo, habanero mayo and tajin, a spice mix made from dried chillies and dehydrated lime. Another comes with grilled chicken, fresh queso (white cheese) and a tart pineapple salsa. A vegan option uses tempura cauliflower, a smoky salsa macha (a condiment made with dried chipotle chillies) and some fried kale. The Taco Secreto changes weekly; this week it’s lamb shoulder with crispy pork crackling and fresh pineapple.
Aside from tacos, there’s Tasmanian salmon ceviche cured in passionfruit and lime; raw yellowfin tuna with avocado cream and pickled chilli on mini purple tortillas; and twice-cooked lamb ribs that recently sparked a rib heist.
“The dishes are a lot more colourful and a lot more vibrant,” Borazio says. “We've refined them. It's not fine dining, but it’s Mexican food that’s good and accessible.”
Sommelier Greg Lightfoot (Vue de Monde, Union Dining) has developed an all-new wine list of mostly Victorian and biodynamic drops, while Shaun Byrne (founder of vermouth company Maidenii) developed the cocktails.
The Pablo Discobar goes down easy. It’s a mix of white rum, mango shrub, passionfruit cordial and amargo-vallet (a bitter liqueur). There’s also the fruity Los Kahlo, which uses house-infused orange liqueur, lime juice and passionfruit; and the Poco Loco, a take on an Espresso Martini with Patrón, vodka, crème de cacao and a little pineapple.
“We primarily use tequila and mezcal, but you can also bring out [Mexican] flavours with agave nectar and lime juice, and something like white rum will always evoke feelings of being coastal,” Borazio says.
The drinks menu features an agave map: 32 tequilas and mezcals plotted on a graph based on whether they’re light and floral, intense and smoky, rich and caramelised, vegetal and earthy, or somewhere in between.
233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
03 9663 0811
Mon to Thu 12pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm