Old Mex­i­can theme in a mod­ern era

Central Otago Mirror - - TV TIMES -

Af­ter 33 years in busi­ness Som­breros is a bit of a Queen­stown in­sti­tu­tion, but feels like its caught in a time warp that’s been loop­ing since 1980, the year it opened. I will em­pha­sise now that there’s noth­ing wrong with that as long as the for­mula works, and a restau­rant isn’t aim­ing for any­thing higher than the av­er­age. Mex­i­can cui­sine has taken the world by storm in the last decade, of­fer­ing in­no­va­tion amongst a rich pal­ette of his­tory, tastes, tra­di­tions and spices. So if you’re af­ter some­thing in that vein, best go some­where else, as Som­breros ig­nores this wave of in­no­va­tion in favour of stick­ing to the kind of Mex­i­can vibe and dishes that might have seemed new and in­ter­est­ing in small town New Zealand circa 1980. The good news is that even if Som­breros seems a bit dated, they do what they do ex­tremely well. The serves are enor­mous. We had the feast for two ($33 each), which was so big we needed a doggie bag, and I had a great lunch the next day. It con­sisted of corn chips and salsa to start, chicken, beef and vege fa­ji­tas, and the tor­tillas and other fill­ings needed to make the fa­ji­tas. The par­ents-in-law, who were down from Christchurch had que­sadil­las and bur­ri­tos (both $26) which went down a treat. They both man­aged to fin­ish off their serves, just. Prob­a­bly the high­light was a few jugs of frozen ma­gar­i­tas, which we shared be­tween us. Cold, salty and tangy, they were done just right and to­tally hit the spot, as op­posed to the food. The place was buzzing on a Tues­day night, with groups large and small. Our ser­vice switched be­tween a lovely, at­ten­tive Scot­tish lass, and a fairly jaded Amer­i­can girl, who looked and acted like she would have much rather been some­where else. The two can­celled each other out re­ally, and, like many restau­rants in Queen­stown that rely on ser­vice staff who are trav­el­ling and work­ing, it’s luck of the draw. The buzz on a week night lead­ing into Queen­stown’s dreaded shoul­der sea­son was pretty im­pres­sive. One group of around 20 din­ers seemed to be on some kind of work func­tion, and were let­ting the good times roll. Like the menu and gen­eral vibe, the decor didn’t look much changed from the 80s. If you’re the type that likes to don a colour­ful Chi­nese-made som­brero while you’re eat­ing your, erm, Som­breros, then this is the joint for you. Per­son­ally, I’m not that into cheesy theme hats of any kind, but do like tequila, of which the bar looks well stocked. It just doesn’t seem like the sort of place where I’d slam a few shots and feel like hang­ing out at the bar. I don’t want to be too crit­i­cal of Som­breros. They do what they do,fill their long-carved niche in Queen­stown’s mar­ket and are get­ting peo­ple vir­tu­ally stam­ped­ing through the door, so all power to them. I’m a fan of in­no­va­tion, flair and think­ing out­side the box, on that ba­sis Som­breros gets no points, but earns heaps for great big plates of yummy food. Ev­ery­one’s tastes on vibe and at­mos­phere varies, but good food is ap­pre­ci­ated, and this is Som­breros strength.

Big meals: Mex­i­can feast at Som­breros.

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