Lucy in the Larder

Lunch at El Loco (Foveaux Street, Surry Hills)

For a late-lunch on Friday we’re sampling the latest offering from the Merivale food portfolio – El Loco at The Excelsior Hotel in Surry Hills. I’m a fan of what chef, Dan Hong, has done at Ms. G’s and looking forward to tasting the Asian fusion he brings to this Mexican Cantina inspired hot spot.

It’s a lovely sunny winters day and we score the last table outside. There’s enough chairs for all but one of us, who ends up with a colourful cushioned milk crate… these look great – not sure how comfortable they are, but El Loco isn’t designed for hours spent labouring over a meal – it’s fast, easy and fun.

After driving around the block a few times (parking is a nightmare), we’re starving and order some ’ Guacamole and Corn Chips’ ($5) to share – demolished in a matter of minutes. I love the smooth and tangy guacamole but the salsa doesn’t have that rich tomato punch. There’s too much onion and something else diluting its taste and colour.

 The $5 tacos are obviously the most popular dish on the menu with the funky staff queuing at the fast-food-style grill inside to load up their woven delivery trays with them – we’re told that the beef, ‘Carne Asad’ (lemongrass beef and salsa verde), is the best. 

Food arrives fast – all served on a variety of paper and plastic plates/baskets. I’ve ordered the ‘Al Pastor’ taco (spit roasted pork, pineapple salsa, cabbage, coriander, spring onions, salsa verde and pico de gallo). Normally I’m anti any savoury dish with pineapple – but I’m pleased to have made an exception to my rule in this case. The pineapple has zing and isn’t too sweet. I struggle to find the little bit of pork under the mountain of salad (most of this ends up falling off as my mouth attempts to tackle it). The chicken, beef. tofu and prawn tacos are all sampled and enjoyed around the table.

My friend on the colourful milk crate (that she tells me is actually quite comfortable) next to me, discovered the special ‘lamb shank’ taco and is raving about it.

This is a working lunch, and as we tuck in; hands, fingers, napkins and all – we agree this is not the type of food you want to be eating on a date – there’s nothing polite about it.

My ‘El Loco Salad’ (chili spiced tofu, shaved fennel and radish, cabbage, coriander, spring onions, avocado, queso fresca, tortilla chips & El Loco dressing – $12) appears over my shoulder – it’s enormous – like the Matterhorn that’s just been heavily dusted with fresh cheesy-snow. The salad is light, crisp and refreshing – the perfect combination of thinly sliced vegetables, tangy dressing, crunchy tortilla and fluffy salty cheese. I love the tofu (never thought I’d ‘love’ anything tofu). The soft and silky cubes are lightly fried and coated in sticky, spicy sweetness. I can’t finish all of it (this is rare), it’s delicious, but just too much!

One of my colleagues has ordered the ‘Minute Steak’ (180g scotch fillet, shaved radish, cabbage and coriander salad, served with pico de gallo – $15). He’s not really impressed by it – but then again, he did say he felt like nachos!

Across the table, the ‘Al Pastor Torta Sandwich’ (grilled marinated pork from the spit served on a soft bun with cabbage, coriander, spring onion, mayonnaise and pico de gallo salsa – $10) is delivered to for another dining companion – I was contemplating ordering this myself and it does looks good, but I would have needed two of them. Sadly I don’t know her well enough to ask for a bite…

This is a working lunch, so the frozen margarita’s don’t get a run with us today – just a bottle of white from The Excelsior’s (it’s just beers and margarita’s on offer at El Loco).

My sweet tooth is a little disappointed there’s only ice cream on the menu to curb its craving. Our waiter tells us it will “change your life” – so with that kind of endorsement, we give the ‘Soft Serve Sundae’ (soft serve ice cream with chocolate fudge, honeycomb and struesel – $5) a try. After the first plastic spoonful, the table is a chorus – “it just tastes like McDonalds”.

I’ll definitely be back – El Loco is a buzz with fun and colourful decor and diners alike, and the food is fresh, fast and cheap.

Score: 7 Plates (out of 10)

El Loco – 46 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills – 02 9211 4945

This entry was published on September 1, 2011 at 5:42 am. It’s filed under Lucy's plate, Restaurant reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
%d bloggers like this: