Eastland is still to inspire me and my regular supermarket visits rarely having me venturing into the new and ‘wonderful’ area. The centre is big and bright, but the lack of real shoppers must already be a worrying sign for the vendors. When I visited this week – a Saturday lunch time – the supermarket end of the centre was its usual buzzing self but, having decided to venture to the bright lights of the newest areas, I discovered that the rest of the centre was conspicuous by its absence of shoppers. One of the new eateries had already closed its doors, which is quite sad.
When the centre had its grand opening of the expansion I was really disappointed when I saw the town square/restaurant area. Admittedly, I was there in the morning, around 11.00am, but the area was vast, open and sparse, and cold in atmosphere. It seemed to me that there was nothing that would entice diners to go to the area, especially when not far down the road is Knox Ozone which is a vibrant hub of activity and dining opportunities and is just about always full of happy people munching a huge variety of food.
I ventured to Eastland again today (Sunday lunchtime) and I again say that the lack of shoppers must really have store owners very concerned, but I have changed my mind, on the restaurant area in the town square.
The area is still way too wide open for my liking, but once seated in a dining space that feeling of being in a vast wilderness disappears.
We decided to eat at Paco’s Tacos Taqueria & Bar where, if eating outdoors, you seat yourself before going inside to pick up your menu. Once you have decided on your food, you go back inside, order, pay, and return to your table and wait for your food to be brought to you.
I love Mexican street food, having tasted quite a bit of it in America, but I have rarely found authentic Mexican food in Australia. The Paco’s Tacos menu was tempting and, as the restaurant is part of the Movida restaurant family, I was keeping my fingers crossed that we going to get to taste some great Mexican food.
We kept our ordering simple ordering – an Enchilada and Paco’s Nachos with a Brunswick Bitter beer and a virgin Margharita.
We sipped on our drinks and I was pleasantly surprised by the frozen Margharita which was refreshing and zesty.
Our meals arrived very quickly, one arrived about 5 minutes before the other which I don’t really like, but this is casual dining so I am not going to be too picky about that. The meal most certainly was not ‘served with a smile’ but the food looked delicious anyway.
I have read other reviews which say that the food is overpriced but I don’t think this is the case at all. I was more than happy to pay the prices for the quantity and quality of food that we received. The enchilada was really large and at a pinch could have fed two people. There were no accompaniments, just the delicious enchilada that filled the dish in which it was served. The filling in the enchilada consisted of the tomato sauce, tender chicken, herbs, rice and grains as well as a small amount of cheese. Not at all like our Australianised versions of Mexican food that is dripping in gooey melted cheese – yuk! This version of an enchilada was delicious and very close to what I had eaten in America at ‘real’ Mexican restaurants.
The nachos were like nothing I have seen in Australia before (thank goodness!) To be honest, it didn’t look much like what I had seen in America before, but the proof was in the tasting. The dish was piled high with corn chips interspersed with tomato, charred corn, jalapenos, coriander, spring onion, sour cream and surprisingly, goat’s cheese fetta. It looked delicious but I will admit to raising my eyebrows a bit when I saw all the fetta topping the dish. Fetta on nachos? Well, I’m converted, it was totally divine and I couldn’t eat it quick enough – shame I was sharing it with my dining partner, but at least I got to taste the enchilada as well.
While the restaurant area had a reasonable number of people dining, the area as a whole still did not have the ‘buzz’ of others, only time will help this and I hope that people give it a go before the cooler weather sets in because we all know, Melbourne’s weather can keep diners at home.
Paco’s Tacos serves what I believe to be authentic Mexican food at a very reasonable price. The service at the Eastland store was fast and efficient and while I said that the meals weren’t ‘served with a smile’ maybe that isn’t something a lot of people really worry about.
The food is fresh, delicious and I look forward to returning to sample more on the menu.