Sunday, 16 June 2013

Taco Bill South Melbourne - The Voucher King

I knew that Taco Bill was a franchise but I was rather shocked to learn there are roughly thirty of them. When I was recently in Warrnambool, I was looking forward to some "good times" as the result of imbibing in classic margarita punchbowls and some attempt at food with flavour but recently that franchise reverted to the "Cactus Jack" banner (which turned out to be a decent enough meal in the end) so it was with some consternation really that I presented myself at Taco Bill on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne before going to the Albert Park Driving Range with the intent to test out my new club.

Fortunately I was able to drag one other person with me mainly because I had a 25% voucher that always seems to be lurking on the back of a Coles docket if you can be bothered to pay attention. I suspect that the promise of hitting some golf balls excited this bloke more than the promise of food and drink though.

There is always some gimmick at Taco Bill's. Whether it is a free sombrero if you purchase a $30 margarita in a fishbowl glass which ironically only has three nips of tequila because of the licensing laws, pencils and forms on the table for you to provide the restaurant with your birthday so they can get in contact you with freebees or as I would learn upon paying the bill, sealed envelopes that you can bring back in the month of July that would be opened by the restaurant that contained a voucher. The only thing I really wanted was some decent food and alcoholic beverages before smashing some golf balls so my requirements and expectations were quite low. I didn't want all of the distractions, just some food and drink.

The menu listed Corona beer as being the only listed Mexican beer available and that you should ask your server for other beer that may be on offer from Mexico. I opted for the Dos Equis Lager ($7.50) which fortunately they had in stock after I quizzed the server as I just can't stomach Corona. We laugh in Australia that Fosters beer tastes like cat piss. Well, in Mexico the same joke and observation is made about Corona.

The board of specials listed a Carne Asada Taco ($5.50) which appeared impressive along with other items I was not interested in, like a beer battered fish taco which proclaimed to be "Authentic Baja" style. Whilst travelling Baja California I never witnessed anywhere sell beer battered fish tacos. This is a haven for resorts and street food, especially on the 1000km drive between the California/Mexico border and Cabo San Lucas and I do not think anyone could possibly be bothered to beer batter anything let alone destroy the delicate taste of the fish that the pescadores haul in from the sea. I really don't know why some "Mexican" restaurants beer batter the fish before putting it in a simple tortilla - it is really confusing. The taco proved to be quite average and bland. The meat was tender however the tortilla was mass produced. There was nothing special about the produce and I needed to add spicy green sauce to the taco to give it some kick. Was I surprised to see that both the red and green sauces supplied on each table have Taco Bill's own label on them? Yes, for a small price you can buy their brand of hot sauce too. Speaking of which, whilst you wait for your first order of drinks, you are provided a handful of tortilla chips and salsa to set the mood. This salsa is also mass produced and in generally it is not nice. It is the same salsa that I have seen in other Taco Bill's which is disappointing as it doesn't take much effort to make a decent salsa with fresh (or canned) tomatoes, onion, garlic, white vinegar, chillis and a blender as a baseline. I really don't like it when I find restaurants being lazy and substituting something that would only take a few minutes to prepare and substitute it for something very inferior.

I would soon learn that the Chicken Quesadilla Suprema ($21.50) that I ordered would inherit the generic products that I just lamented about. This time the mass produced and supplied flour tortilla contained a fair amount of chicken but once again, it was bland. The salsa claimed to be "house made" but it was the same type that was served previously with the tortilla chips. A smattering of cheese, rice, beans and guacamole, which also was not seasoned rounded out the experience. Fortunately I was able to enjoy another Dos Equis lager before departing to hit some golf balls very hard.

Sometimes I get really angry after allowing myself to fall in the trap of the Taco Bill's of this world. With all of the other dining options on Clarendon Street, including pubs at my disposal, I decided to visit this place simply because I had a voucher and really because it was close to the driving range. It proves that marketing techniques work and the ability to save $16.50 on the bill I suppose made it taste better in the end however this is not Mexican food. I proved to be just as lazy in securing a more suitable dining option, much like Taco Bill is guilty of mediocrity.

Taco Bill, Clarendon Street, South Melbourne

Taco Bill - South Melbourne
375 Clarendon St., South Melbourne VIC 3205
(03) 9690 2077
My Rating: 11.25/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 2.75/5
Quality: 2.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of this post, 71% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Taco Bill South Melbourne.

Taco Bill Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon