“It’s the Mexican equivalent of an Aussie fish-and-chip shop,” says Matt Lane about Hotel Jesus. “It’s casual, it’s fast-paced. It’s a place to drop in, have a couple of tostadas or tacos and a beer, and move on.”
Hotel Jesus opened in the old Collingwood post office on Friday night. It’s the second venue for Lane and co-owner Nick Peters, who also owns Mamasita. Joining them as a partner in this new venture is James Brown (his company MASH Design also did the fit-out and branding). Mexican-born Yasser Garcia is heading up the kitchen.
It’s inspired by the traditional ’70s-style taquerias and tostaderias of Mexico. It has blue banquettes, red stools, flimsy tables, slow ceiling fans and tiles in various shades of pastel. There’s a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico) on the wall, and other Catholic iconography. There’s also a quote from Lane’s favourite film, The Big Lebowski: “Nobody fucks with the Jesus”.
Like Mexican taquerias the focus is on tostadas (toasted tortillas with toppings). At Hotel Jesus they’re made in-house from scratch with a traditional method that involves dehydrating the tortillas for 24 hours to make them crispy. “We’re the only ones making them properly, as far as I know,” says Lane. “All the other venues in town who serve tostadas, including Mamasita, fry tortillas in oil instead.”
The tostadas are topped with ingredients such as prawns with ginger oil and chilli; tuna, ponzu and wasabi; mushrooms, corn and smoked avocado; or beef with leek and cotija (a dry Mexican cheese). Beyond tostadas there are tacos, tortas, ceviches, and snacks such as corn with black mayonnaise, and pickled jalapenos.
Peters is Australia’s only master mezcalier, so there’s a strong tequila and mezcal list. There are also imported Mexican beers, served chelada-style (with a rim of salt, lime and ice) from a custom-built ice trough behind the bar. Six cocktails are on tap, including a Mexican Espresso Martini; sangria; and Jesus Maria (like a Bloody Mary, topped with a chicken chicharrón – a popular snack made from fried skin and fat).
Hotel Jesus doesn’t take bookings, but not because it’s trying to be a no-bookings restaurant. It just “doesn’t fit into our psyche” as a casual, Mexican-style taqueria, says Lane. But fortunately, the adjoining “Tacoway” section (serving a condensed version of the Hotel Jesus menu, including a few additions such as burritos) is there if you miss out on a table.
174 Smith Street, Collingwood
(03) 9419 3111 (Tacoway)
Wed & Thu 5pm–late
Fri to Sun 11.30am–late
Wed to Sun 11.30am–late