Saturday, March 4, 2017

Queen of the South, Prahran by Benny

Malcolm Williams, owner and head chef of Queen of the South, reckons Melbournians are ready to embrace Modern Mexican cuisine, and he should know, given a resume that includes several notable restaurants, including Senoritas, Rice Paper Scissors, and Touché Hombre.

So what is “Modern Mexican”? According to Malcolm it is “a more mature style of Mexican dining”. He wants to show us refined Mexican dining options, accompanied by quality tequilas, mescals and Mexican-style cocktails.

Queen of the South, Prahran, oceano trucha
Oceano Trucha

Queen of the South had a soft opening only a couple of months ago. Bilby Blue and I had been invited to a blogger evening as part of a more substantial launch.

Queen of the South, Prahran
On first impression Queen of the South is a stylish cocktail bar, although with skulls and skeletal torsos as rather startling denizens of its top shelf. On closer inspection, these turned out to be bottles of the aforementioned quality tequilas – the ornate designs referencing the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Queen of the South, Prahran
Wandering in just a bit further revealed a few different dining spaces, giving customers the option of dining at elegantly laid tables, the informality of bar tables, the friendly surrounds of sunshine yellow dining booths, or ultra-casual grazing at sofas around coffee tables.

Queen of the South, Prahran, agua fresca
First off for the evening, drinks – the Mexican cocktails looked very interesting with extravagant decoration of spiky vegetation, but Bilby and I wanted to keep our heads clear, and opted for the Agua Fresca, a simple and refreshing house-made soda based on pink grapefruit.

Our group was then presented with a multitude of dishes selected from the menu.

Queen of the South, Prahran, vasito de elotes
Vasito de Elotes (street corn cup with chipotle mayo and queso fresco – a Mexican fresh cheese made in a similar way to ricotta). There was a generous serve of corn kernels with a bit of pep in this paper cup full of freshness and flavour. Very moreish, although I still prefer my corn on the cob such as that served at Black Toro.

Queen of the South, Prahran, nopales tostadita
Nopales Tostadita (pickled cactus salad with peanut de arbol salsa, queso fresco and pequin). “Nopales” is the prickly pear – although I’m not sure if it is the same variety that is a declared invasive weed in Queensland. The pickled cactus was served with pequin chilli peppers on a tostadita (a flat, crisp tortilla) that was smeared with a peanut and chilli salsa. It was a generous serve with a tasty sourness. Definitely to share between two (or more).

Oceano Trucha (tromba blanco and ancho cured ocean trout with corn puree, avocado creama and soused fennel) (see first pic). The trout is cured in white tequila (tromba blanco) and ancho chillis. It tasted fine with the fennel, corn and avocado, but the delicate fish was a bit overwhelmed by the dots of chipotle mayo.

Queen of the South, Prahran, chuleta de cordero
Chuleta de Cordero (lamb cutlet, pasilla glaze and sweet corn with a spring onion and radish salsa) was the highlight of the night for Bilby. The pasilla chilli glaze was very mild. The lamb was perfectly grilled and amazingly tender, well matched with a smooth sweet corn puree. However, I am not a fan of raw onion and thought that the salsa was a bit strong for the lamb.

Queen of the South, Prahran, cordero barbacoa
Cordero Barbacoa (slow braised lamb shoulder, cucumber pomegranate salad and salsa matcha) was my highlight of the night. The tasty and tender pulled lamb was very good, and the pomegranate salad was even better, with tiny sweet/sour explosions from the fresh pomegranate seeds. The accompanying salsa matcha was a mild chilli dipping sauce that is a specialty of the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Queen of the South, Prahran, mole amarillo
Mole Amarillo (yellow mole with pumpkin, lentils and a coconut and almond salsa – see Malcolm’s recipe). A great vegan dish showing strong Indian influences, with the almonds providing a good texture contrast.

Queen of the South, Prahran, pollo pibil
Pollo Pibil (anchiote marinated chicken, pineapple and lime salsa and micro slaw). This was the last and mildest of the savoury dishes despite the flavour hit you might expect from anchiote paste (incorporating garlic, cumin, oregano, allspice, and annatto seeds) – I thought it was a bit too mild after all of the punchy flavours that preceded it. It was also just a little bit dry.

Queen of the South, Prahran, pina y calvo de olor
Moving onto the desserts, we started with Pina y calvo de olor (upside down pineapple pudding with pineapple sorbet, ruby grapefruit and clove meringue). A very tasty steamed pudding served with a refreshing sorbet and lightly spiced, crisp meringues.

Queen of the South, Prahran, espuma de luna
Espuma de Luna (Mexican mole mousse with pistachio praline and Pedro Ximenez cream). A very smooth mousse suffused with bits of crunch from the pistachio praline. Note that it might look like a chocolate mousse, but it is very different and not sweet at all.

Queen of the South, Prahran, guayaba y duranzo
Guayaba y Duranzo (tromba blanco poached peaches with guava sorbet, hazelnut and pepita crumble). The tastiest of the desserts, the peaches perfectly poached with white tequila (tromba blanco), the guava sorbet providing a fruity tang, and the crumble adding texture.
Any of these desserts would make a fine conclusion to a meal.

Queen of the South, Prahran

Queen of the South, Prahran

Verdict

We loved it
We loved it.
Mid value
Mid value.

Overall

Great modern Mexican dining accompanied by quality Mexican drinks. There is a vegan menu available. Go there with friends, but maybe not for an intimate dinner à deux Рit gets a bit noisy when crowded.

Look out for regular special menus where for a limited period certain ingredients are highlighted across a range of dishes.

The Eat and Be Merry Crew were guests of Queen of the South.

Find it at

Queen of the South
201-209 High Street
Prahran Vic 3181
Phone (03) 9005 2308

Queen of the South Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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