Originating in Queensland, Hombre Mexican Cantina was recently snapped up by Franchise Retail Brands (FRB). They’re in the process of rolling out these fast casual Mexican restaurants across NSW, starting with stores in Stanhope Gardens and Clemton Park.
At the same time they’ve let vivacious Group Chef Emeleen Khalaf loose on the menu. This Canadian chef has Syrian-Lebanese heritage and a keen interest in making healthy, delicious food.
Emeleen has pared back the menu into a shorter, more easily reproducible list of Tex-Mex inspired dishes, and brought many of the processes (like shredding chicken breast, and cooking rice) in-house.
In the new Clemton Park store, you'll be consuming her dishes in a modern setting made into a colourful streetscape using painted white bricks, trompe l'oeil (trick the eye) doorways, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography and hanging Edison light bulbs.
While the scattered Mexican sombreros are a bit gimmicky, I’ve got no complaints about the tequila collection. They’re offering up a decent range of the big brands – Jose Cuervo, Herradura, 1800, Padron – that goes all the way up to family reserve.
We tried some out blanco tequila in a straight-up, classic, salt-rimmed Margarita ($9.90) that drank well. Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila worked well in a Paloma ($9.90) though I found the grapefruit soda that’s blended with grape juice a bit oversweet. An extra squeeze of lime from the garnish helped created it into something more to my taste.
In terms of eats, you can tuck into soft tacos that get cheaper in happy hour from 4pm-6pm each day. Fish Taco ($11/2) presents a lightly beer-battered flathead fillet on mild chipotle aioli with mango avocado salsa. It’s fresh and good eating but light on chilli so I’d suggest making the two-buck tomatillo verde sauce add-on if you enjoy some zing.
In addition to the house-made sauces, you can delve into their dining room chilli sauce collection to dress up your Burrito Jose Style ($14). The twelve-inch soft tortilla is filled with a blend of chipotle chicken, refried beans, Spanish rice and cheese, as well as shredded iceberg lettuce, roasted tomato salsa and guacamole. It’s lightly toasted and holds together nicely. Once again it has please-all levels of chilli, so we availed ourselves of something labelled mild and full of vinegar called Frank's RedHot and a more aggressive bottle of Venom that really kicked our arses!
Over a trio of Churros ($8) dusted with icing sugar and served with warm salted caramel and chocolate sauces, I muse that for a fast casual style restaurant, Hombre Mexican Cantina does a reasonable job. The food here is fresh, filling and not too expensive, and the setting is a pleasant place to dine.
NOTE: See another review in Clemton Park Shopping Village HERE and HERE.
Hombre Mexican Cantina
Shop 6, Clemton Park Shopping Village
5 Mackinder Street, Campsie