Finally the Arts Precinct has a decent place to eat, in the form of My Mexican Cousin.

The all-day restaurant is part of the Melbourne Recital Centre and is a joint project between Savatore Malatesta (St Ali, Plantation)  and Jerome Borazio (The Resurrection, Ponyfish Island). It’s named after St Ali‘s most famous breakfast dish ‘My Mexican Cousin’, so don’t be confused into thinking that there’ll be Mexican food involved in the neo-Creole menu.

I was attending the MusicPlay concerts at the Melbourne Recital Centre for a couple of days in a row so took the opportunity to try most of the typewritten one page lunch menu with Gourmet Chick. It is mostly shared food and comes in different portion sizes, so pre-show you can go easy on the servings and post-show you can satisfy your growling stomach.

I found the food to be a bit hit-and-miss. I can’t vouch for the menu’s authenticity as I’ve never eaten much Creole, so I’m going purely by flavour and texture.  Sometimes things that sounded great on paper didn’t emerge from the kitchen as expected and sometimes blandly described dishes were interesting, original and delicious.

Case in point – Praline bacon ($6) sounded good in theory but not so good in practice. It was like really over-dried beef jerky and we left most of the plate untouched.

The scallop ceviche ($5.50) was not the expected slices of scallop but whole medallions partially pickled. Not sure how it’s possible to ‘cook’ a thick scallop in lime juice, so consider it more of a scallop sashimi with some spicy gazpacho dressing. Worth a repeat visit.

The dirty rice was a Creole-style fried rice ($12), a tasty but oily mixture of rice, ground pork and Creole seasoning which with a bit of research apparently consists of cayenne, paprika, oregano, onion, garlic and thyme.

Make sure you don’t miss the po’boy, a classic New Orleans sandwich. It comes in two sizes ($7 and $14) and half is enough if you want to try other things. It’s a small sub spread with mayonnaise and a seafood stock reduction and piled with juicy fried king prawns and lettuce leaves. A quick and filling meal if the curtain is being raised soon and not something that’s going to make you burp during interval.

For dessert the beignets looked like appetising balls of fried dough but on taking a bite Gourmet Chick suspected that they had been reheated rather than freshly fried. She used to work at a servo cooking doughnuts so she should know! They lacked the tongue-searing just-fried sizzle and the crunchy exterior of a fresh doughnut. I personally didn’t care much for the accompanying sauces either.

On a second visit I had the gumbo and crab egg roll. Again, one hit, one miss. Like the scallop ceviche, the crab egg roll ($12) was a delicate dish, beautifully presented on a narrow platter, served cold, and contained big shreds of crab meat mixed with aioli, Creole seasoning and wrapped in an omelette. Really delicious, especially in hot weather.

On the other hand, the gumbo had the slightly gluey mouthfeel of a lot of cornflour or potato thickener in its base. A cheap stomach-filler nevertheless, as a half serve of gumbo ($7) is all you need for one person.

My coffee-drinking friend who lives nearby assures me the coffee is excellent (as you’d expect from the St Ali stable) and the staff are super-friendly.

My advice for dining at My Mexican Cousin is to select from  the menu carefully (if you are inclined, read the menu’s Creole-pedia for an explanation of the abbreviated codes next to the dishes). If you end up with more misses than hits at least the prices will be reasonable and there’s really no better option for pre or post-theatre dining close by.

My Mexican Cousin, Corner Sturt St and Southbank Boulevard, Southbank +61 3 9686 3389
Mon 7am – 4pm
Tues – Fri 7 till late
Weekends 8am till late

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