Mexican is now an established part of the Melbourne dining scene, and Old El Paso is teaming up with chef Paul Wilson (formerly executive chef at the Acland Street Cantina) to introduce a new generation of gourmands to the flavours of Central America. At the Stand ‘N Stuff Tortilla Bar in the Strand Melbourne arcade, you can pick up a freshly made tortilla by Wilson for just $2.50. “The menu I created is centred around families and people who haven’t had Mexican food before,” he explains. “It’s a light version of what you find in Mexico itself.”
On the menu will be barbacoa-style pulled pork that’s charred, spiced and slow cooked for 12 hours, served with a fennel-and-lime coleslaw. Vegetarians can try a braised-bean tortilla, and traditionalists can dig into a chilli con carne. “A tortilla’s a blank canvas, and what you put on it is what makes it exciting,” muses Wilson.
The pop-up was designed by Moth Design, and developed by Old El Paso to support the launch of their new Stand ’N Stuff Tortilla. The space blends traditional Mexican stylings with a fairground atmosphere. Tortilla eaters arrive, ask for their tortilla, then walk through a series of conveyor belts and ferris wheels as it’s created. “There are elements of Willy Wonka mixed with the street of Mexico City,” explains Kate Hannaford of Moth Design. “We started with a more Japanese vibe; a Mexico-meets-Tokyo feeling. As we went through the process, we realised Old El Paso is moving in a more authentic direction.”
Wilson hopes the Stand ’N Stuff pop-up will be the first step in a culinary odyssey for young diners. “We all started with our mother’s spaghetti bolognaise, and once you get into Italian gastronomy, there’s so much more to see. Mexican food is exactly the same,” he says. “If you’re going to get a little five year old eating chilli con carne, one day that’s going to get him interested in going to Mexico to learn all about its food culture. That’s going to enrich that person’s life.”
The Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff pop-up is at Shop 16, The Strand Melbourne, Elizabeth Street. It runs between Friday June 27 To Thursday July 24, Mon to Wed 12pm–7pm, Thurs & Fri 12pm–9pm Sat & Sun 12pm–8pm. And, a tortilla’s just $2.50.