Acland St Cantina Room
Acclaimed Melbourne chef Paul Wilson’s latest venture is Mexican restaurant Acland St Cantina in St Kilda. Photography Mark Roper
Acland St Cantina wall mural
This skull wall mural, lit below by a small alter of candles, pays homage to the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead. Photography Mark Roper
Chia-crusted fish with heirloom tomato salad and tomatillo verde
Paul Wilson shows the lighter side to Mexican food, offering regional dishes such as chia-crusted fish with heirloom tomato salad and tomatillo verde. Photography Mark Roper

St Kilda spices things up with new Mexican restaurant Acland St Cantina

Melbourne’s love affair with all things Mexican shows no signs of slowing down, with the latest addition, the fresh and casual Acland St Cantina, taking the city by storm. “Mexican food has a great synergy with Melbourne’s bar culture,” says Acland St chef Paul Wilson. “We like eating and drinking in one event and share-style food. This style of cuisine is perfect for that.”

As chef director of the Melbourne Pub Group, Paul has turned establishments such as the Albert Park Hotel and Newmarket Hotel into foodie destinations. Since acquiring St Kilda’s Prince of Wales last year, Paul and his team have been busy creating a new food identity for the iconic hotel, from a more approachable take on the flagship restaurant, Circa, to the transformation of the old Mink nightclub into Acland St Cantina, a restaurant/takeaway/cafe/specialist food shop all in one.

After the success of the Mex-influenced Newmarket Hotel, Paul wanted to offer a more authentic experience. He travelled to Mexico last July and discovered a diverse and regional cuisine. “It’s so much more than tacos and burritos,” says Paul. “When I landed in Wahaca, the taxi driver said, ‘Welcome to the state of seven moles [a traditional Mexican sauce].’ They use about 50 ingredients in a good mole – it blows your mind!” The result of this trip is a menu that takes you from the street food of Mexico City to the Mediterranean-style seafood dishes of the Baha Coast, without leaving the Melbourne seaside.

Acland St Cantina room
Exposed brick, bentwood chairs and decorative rugs gives the dining room a Mex-meets-den feel. Photography Mark Roper
Salted caramel ice cream tacos
For a wicked finish, tacos can even be a dessert. One of Acland St Cantina’s most popular dishes is the salted caramel ice cream taco. Photography Mark Roper

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