Old Mexican theme in a modern era
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.