Many Melbourne restaurants are welcoming back small groups of diners, but it’s not service-as-usual just yet.
The team behind iconic Mexican restaurant Mamasita and its relaxed Collingwood sibling Hotel Jesus (which reopened June 3) plan on keeping its shared takeaway and delivery menu, at least as long as dine-in customers are limited.
Every second Wednesday, expect a one-off comfort dish chosen by international staff from Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Italy, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
“It’s not about restaurant food, and we don’t care about the plating. It’s about the flavour and serving food from your home that you love and you know will blow people away,” says co-owner Matt Lane. “‘Ugly-delicious’ is the brief we’re going for with these.”
“We want to raise awareness about how important these staff members are in this city, because without them hospo would be on its knees.”
So far, you may have spotted (or ordered) Colombian frijoles paisas o antioqueños by Hotel Jesus’s sous chef, Miguel Guerrero. The popular peasant-style pinto bean dish is usually served over rice.
On Wednesday June 17, you’ll be able to try Argentinian empanadas filled with spicy beef or sweet corn and pumpkin, topped chimichurri. The other upcoming specials aren't yet confirmed, according to Hotel Jesus head chef Luke Hammond.
Almost half the 80 staff across Mamasita and Hotel Jesus are from overseas and those without permanent residency in Australia have been locked out of the national Jobseeker scheme.
“We were paying a few out of our own pocket to keep them, and it’s been emotional to say goodbye to those who had to return home,” says Lane.
Since both restaurants closed on March 21, they’ve adapted to a drive-through takeaway and delivery model to keep as many staff on as possible.
Aside from the fortnightly “temporary visa holder" specials, you can order dishes by Hammond and his Mamasita counterpart Martin Zozaya from the Wednesday to Saturday.
Their joint menu includes Mamasita’s popular esquites (chargrilled corn with cotija cheese, chipotle mayo and lime), Hotel Jesus’s grilled lamb ribs with pistachios and spicy salsa, and tweaked versions of things such as Ensenada fried-fish tacos.
“[We’d] always been adamant we’d be [dine-in-only], as the premise for both restaurants is as much about the environment and ambience as it is about the food and the service,” says Lane. “It’s like a whole new business model.”
The team has even created a Spotify playlist, so you can get the full experience in your living room.
The next “temporary visa special” will be available in limited numbers on June 17. Place your order on the day via Mr Yum. Hotel Jesus and Mamasita takeaway and delivery is available Wednesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 9.30pm.