“In Mexico, a family will open its home as an unofficial restaurant,” says Fonda co-founder Tim McDonald. “It’s about hospitality. The idea of sharing a meal is at the core.”
The experience of sharing a meal at home is what McDonald and co-founder Dave Youl have been recreating over the past six years. The eatery’s roots are in Melbourne (there are seven locations), and a Bondi Beach spot opens this Saturday.
Executive chef Mark Tagnipez believes success is about capturing the essence of Mexican cuisine without being too exacting. The kingfish ceviche tostada is served with avocado, an Asian-style slaw, fried shallots, chilli and coriander. The thinly sliced fish is seasoned with patis, or fish sauce, which is a testament to Tagnipez’s Filipino heritage.
The taco sharing board is a good interpretation of a family meal. It’s served on a lazy Susan and diners build their own tacos from a smorgasbord of fillings. There’s a 300-gram braised pork belly done with a pineapple glaze served with salsas, pickles and wheat tortillas.
If much of Fonda’s menu loosely riffs on traditional Mexican street food, it’s practically evangelical about using authentic tortillas. Wheat tortillas are made in-house, pressed and cooked to order. Corn tortillas come from La Tortilleria in Melbourne.
“They do a nixtamal process, where they take the dried corn and mill it with water,” says Tagnipez. “The difference between that and the more common practice of using corn flour is all about the flavour.” Cocktails are unsurprisingly tequila-focused and the Margarita menu is long. The lychee and elderflower is the standout.
Fonda occupies a Hall Street space that once housed Nando’s. It was chosen for its distance from the main tourist drag, for the light and the way the air circulates through the garage-style door at the front. The dominant wall colour is a pale rockmelon that hints at terracotta. Woven light fixtures hang over a high communal table, and banquette seats line the walls. The space is refined, but warm and casual with the occasional potted cactus stretching up its crooked limbs in a salute to Fonda’s motto, mi casa, su casa.
Fonda opens on Saturday October 28 at 5pm.
85 Hall Street, Bondi