Pablo Honey – Not another Mexican

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by Mantis Kane

It’s a cold wintery Tuesday night, the kind of non starter that’s normally reserved for licking the weekend’s wounds. But I have a date with Pablo Honey. That’s Pablo Honey the Acland St restaurant/cocktail bar, not the early Radiohead album of the same name, which I ironically spend most Tuesday nights listening to.

Luna Park is eerily quiet; empty trams squeaked up and down like bored working-girls and the adult shop’s neon light flickered half heartedly. August is probably St Kilda’s quietest month; part ghost-town in semi hibernation, ticking over in its lowest gear. Which probably means an empty restaurant.

Yet, Pablo Honey proved immune to this obligatory downtime – a perennial partygoer, rammed to the hilt with St Kilda’s glitterati. You know the types: retro ball gowns, artisan gravitas, bejewelled eclectically, handbags made from Hemingway quotes – and that’s just the men. These people are the lifeblood of St Kilda, without whom would make it a homogenised hub of McDonalds, cookie cut cafes and spotty backpackers.

Positioned in the enclave of restaurants on the Acland St junction, Pablo Honey is just off the beaten track. Cosmetically it balances the desired level of quirk and comfort. Hand crafted skulls (designed by local artists) overlook the classy dining room of dark timber and pop art paraphernalia. There’s a sensibility beyond the food and drink; nuances of art, ethnicity and cocktail bar savviness all twinkle away.

The skulls are a recurring theme, which I mistakenly identified as Day Of The Dead inspired. Easy oversight when considering the upsurge in Mexican cuisine over the last few years. But a Mexican restaurant this is not. Part owner Brad set us straight. Pablo Honey is a South American restaurant (quite distinct) – and was a conscious decision to sidestep the Mexican infatuation, especially with some big hitters around the corner (Radio Mexico). And the move has paid off. Saturation point is heading into the red, and the fallout favours a variation on the theme, a bit like Melburnian’s recent move from US burgers to US deli sandwiches.

But we’re here to talk about the food right? It was great…. Can I elaborate? Certainly. I’ll pick some standouts from the tapas menu. The spicy chicken wings were so good that all conversation was immediately extinguished – in fact, I was temporary unaware that I had dinner company. The Prawn and Crab Moqueca was gooey and perfectly zingy, and made a nice accompaniment to the silky fondu that preceded it. The Grass Fed Beef Tartar and lavosh are worth the trip alone – the kind of dish where eyes glaze over and food envy bubbles up. Once again I ignored my dinner companion.

The dessert menu houses Pablo Honey’s secret weapon. The Dulce de Leche Mousse combines food pottery (an ornate skull shaped sugar mould), a sensational mousse, violence (you have to crack the skull to reach the mousse) an Instagram opportunity and those tiny sweets that crackle and pop in your mouth. It’s an audio, visual and taste sensation – a Heston Blumenthal wet dream, on a plate.

The cocktail menu is suitably eclectic and probably deserves a whole other article. There’s special attention to the Tequila menu, with a level of connoisseurship that peaks a the Chase Azul Anejo Ultra Tequila at $200 per shot (which isn’t representative of their pricing).

Pablo Honey is a hidden gem, shined with much love and attention. Highly recommended


68A Acland St, St Kilda VIC 3182, Australia

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