You won't need a fistful of dollars to eat out at Two Mules at the Prince of Wales Hotel.
The South American inspired menu, which they call ‘Mex-Americana’, is a fun and inexpensive twist on the standard schnitty-and-chips pub feed. More Tex than Mex, chef Brendhan Bennison combines the southern stylings of Texas barbecue and burgers with Mexican burritos, tacos and tortillas loaded with freshness and flavour. They run ‘especials’ Monday to Thursday, but the food is just as special on weekends too, especially the ‘Chings’, which we'll get to later...
The dining room looks halfway between a stylised saloon and cantina with the Prince’s Aussie pub roots just a few footsteps away. Exposed brick, white-washed walls, potted cacti, whisky barrels, and warm glowing pendant lights illuminate posters of old Western movies, Frida Kahlo, and lucha libre action figures that are plastered along one wall. Cartoon images of mean-looking banditos stare out from the other side and watch over a roomful of diners seated at a mix of high tables and stools, converted barrels, and more regular wooden tables and chairs that will comfortably fit a family or group of friends for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The bar, which snakes around the space and divides the restaurant from the front, is where you order drinks and food.
Order a drink, maybe a bottle of wine, soft drink, or beer, then find a table and take your time to peruse the menu. There are a lot of dishes to choose from and they all sound delicious. Bar snacks and smaller share plates come in the form of house made tortilla chips and salsa, chorizo quesadilla, and fried chicken wings; either BBQ or buffalo served with carrot, celery, and ranch dipping sauce. The chilli con queso is gluten free and features the Two Mules special melted cheese sauce, which oozes over a bowl full of soft chilli con carne that’s scooped up using the super crunchy and freshly baked tortilla chips; excellent for sharing, as are the wings.
Most of the Tex elements in the Tex-Mex menu are found on the burgers page, where there’s many reasons to justify a return to Two Mules so that you can explore the South American twist that chef Bennison gives to burgers with names like The Gringo, The Bad Hombre, and the suitably named, Sister Sara - a vegetarian's delight, featuring a mixed grain, bean and mushroom patty topped with fresh salad, including sprouts and ole-oli.
This time, however, my dining associates concentrated our main meal efforts on the fish tacos, the slow-cooked pork burrito bowl, and these things called Chings.
The fish tacos come out as two, consisting of a few pieces of white fish, fried, then tossed together with some shredded red cabbage and brightly coloured pico de gallo, and some creamy Baja sauce. The dish is vibrant, lively and the type of morish that only Mexican cuisine can achieve.
Who doesn't love a deconstructed burrito? That is, a bowl of ingredients that would otherwise be wrapped up snug in a tortilla. Each bright bowl comes with rice, black beans, a blend of three cheeses, a dollop of sour cream and guacamole. Mix in your choice of protein, marinated chicken, seasoned steak, or slow-cooked pork; more tender than Hogan's love for dynamite, machetes and Sara (played by Shirley MacLaine). The 'Veggie' features roasted corn, sweet potato, capsicum, and more.
Now … Chings is a plate full of moist, shredded chipotle chicken that’s been wrapped in a tortilla, deep fried, and cut into bite-size pieces before being covered with oozy, melty cheese. It’s accompanied by rice and beans and sour cream salsa verde. I suggest adding guacamole.
Tip: wash down your meal with a few tins of Rio Bravo cerveza; a simple, refreshing beer that can be served with salt and lime for added punch, verve and zip.
- What: Two Mules (Prince of Wales Hotel)
- Where: 1 Morgan St, Merewether
- Owner: Julianne and Ty Burford
- Drinks: Beer, cider, wine, cocktails, etc.
- Hours: Lunch & Dinner, 7 Days
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $60 for two (incl. drinks)
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Chili con queso dip, fish taco, Chings