¡Guzman y Gomez! ¿Bueno o Loco?
by The Editor
To indulge in lazy stereotypes (an indulgence we like to use sparingly) there are two types of people on this earth who wear moustaches: hipsters and Mexicans. Fortunately, the sprawling chain Guzman y Gomez -which appears to be sprouting outlets faster than Crust Pizza – is the perfect home for Fernando and his fixie.
What is it?
Guzman y Gomez sprang onto the Canberra scene a few months ago offering a few hours of free burritos that had the gringos lining up down the street. It was all a bit ‘Krispy Kreme’ in its marketing strategy, but let’s face it – this was a quick way to get people talking about the newest cantina in town.
We popped in last week to give it a whirl, having to push aside a large amount of disloyalty to Sam Prince and his locally built empire of Zambreros. On a warm Thursday afternoon we wandered into the streetside shops and took in what the new kid in town had to offer.
The first thing that strikes you is the bright colouring of the interior. It’s all very busy with multiple surfaces from wood to exposed brick to smooth laminates providing a decor that pulls up mercifully short of overwhelming. Put on top the strong, graphic yellow and black branding and you have the feeling you might be in for an exciting experience – reminiscent of a culture drenched in hot sun and tequila, a world away from a grim reality of abject poverty, drug cartels and pissed Americans.
It’s an ‘order at the counter’ affair like any other fast food joint. Remaining a few steps back in order to decipher the menu displayed above the counter, we were impressed by the ability to be so confusing with so few options available. At least we weren’t the only ones – there were a couple of other diners waiting to order who appeared similarly confused. Eventually the counter attendant – who had no doubt witnessed this scene on more than one occasion that day – leaped to our assistance and told us how to order.
With an order placed we retired to the long bench at the front of the restaurant, one that provides a great view out on to Bunda Street waiting for delivery of a couple of soft shelled tacos, two quesadillas and a bag of corn chips with guacamole.
Around us was a mixed crowd of business suits and students, all of which are in for a quick and relatively cheap snack. The service is very attentive, with staff constantly monitoring the room for empty wrappers or itinerant blobs of salsa. Eventually our meal arrived and we took some time to examine its delivery: a table filled with cardboard, paper and various flatbreads stuffed full of colour.
The pulled pork quesadilla was everything we expected – subtle in it’s flavour despite the presence of chipotle sauce that doesn’t overpower. Its companion, a Spicy Chicken Guerrero version, was actually very good, filling the mouth with a tingling feeling that makes us wish we’d ordered two (or two more!). Darting between these we snacked on the corn chips which appear to be as Los Dios intended – that is, actually made from corn. The flavours were not manufactured or industrial like a Dorito; rather there is a solid ‘crunch’ to bring your attention to the subtle corn flavour. We’d love to take a bag to the movies, but would probably be be booed out the door due to noise.
By the time we got to the soft shelled tacos it was evident we had completely erred in our order of service. The tacos were soft, succulent and filled with moist sauce and salsa – which by then formed a swimming pool in the bottom of the cardboard box. We almost needed a straw to get through these, so a word of warning to the wise.
So? The verdict. This is a very polished version of the current wave of Mexican outlets. Apparently a Newcastle version opens this weekend, so the expansion continues unabated. We hate to admit it, but Guzman y Gomez is every bit as good as Zambrero. It will be interesting to see how both outlets exist within the market. One gets the impression GyG is suited to expansive sites such as this, while Zambreros has a great niche in, well… niches. Where Guzman has been particularly clever is by also aligning itself with a charity (a fact writ large across one of the larger walls of the restaurant], eliminating what could be the key point of difference between the venues for the socially conscious enchilada eater.
Guzman y Gomez
Sun-Thurs: 11am – 10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am – 11pm
Canberra City 2601