Billing itself as a modern Mexican restaurant and bar, La Cabra Mexican does all the things that Melburnians love in a casual eatery. The decor is funky, the mood fun, the drinks large, and the food fresh and zingy.
Location: 207 Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn East, VIC, 3123 Ph: 1300 522 227 Also at 265 Hampton St, Hampton, VIC 3188 & 68 Acland St, St Kilda, VIC 3182 & 74 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, VIC 3141 & 149 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC 3053 & 111 Main St, Morninginton, VIC 3931
There are few things that the good people of Melbourne – and Australia in general – love more than a taco or 3. So it makes perfect sense that La Cabra: Modern Mexican Restaurant & Bar is slowly spreading is delicious tentacles across Melbourne and beyond.
The Hawthorn branch of the colourful chain has been open for a few years now. Fortunately, it has enough of a following that it managed to weather the Covid storm that saw the end of so many food businesses in recent times.
Admittedly, the location is a great one: immediately opposite the much-loved Rivoli Cinema in thriving Camberwell. In fact, La Cabra is one of a number of eateries and bars that attract movie-goers and more for pre-film meal or a post-blockbuster drink.
For more on the Victorian capitals Enchilada scene, see our review of the Best Mexican Restaurants in Melbourne
A long dining room ends with a view of an open kitchen with the legend ‘Goat Kitchen’ emblazoned boldly over the pass.
La Cabra’s decor is simple, but appealing. Tables and banquettes line one white-brick and wooden-slatted wall, whilst the opposite is has a more distressed look. The lighting is a mix of down and pendant lights and warm, mellowed neon tones. Plants add pops of greenery and there’s an intriguing purple-hued corridor to the right of the brightly illuminated kitchen.
If you follow that mysterious violet tunnel, you come out into a covered courtyard furnished with fake grass, a colourful mural and plenty more seating. On a warm summer’s evening, it’s a pleasant spot to kick back with a cold Mexican Beer and a Burrito.
If you find yourself in this area, check out our Best Cafes in Camberwell (and nearby)
We dive into the Entrees with the Stuffed Jalapenos ($14) which are loaded with Marinated Cheese & Kewpie Mayo. For me, they are a little rich and lack a bit of bite, but my dining companions are big fans, so what do I know?
In contrast, the Cauliflower Hot Wings ($15) are an undoubted success. Gnarly florets of Cauliflower, coated in a crunchy, spicy batter and bronzed in a fryer. And then doused in a tangy, Chipotle Mayo. Bliss.
Aside from this, we also devour the ever-pleasing Char-Grilled Corn with Chipotle Mayo, Ricotta Salata & Herbs ($8). The sunshine-yellow kernels burst with sweet juices on every bite. And because I’m a total glutton, we also have a bowl of fabulously seasoned Fries with more Chipotle Mayo ($8). Just in case our Mains aren’t sufficient!
La Cabra Mexican offers a great range of Tacos, including a Chilli Lime Mushroom ($7.5) and a Cactus ($7.5) option for those who prefer to eat plant-based. The latter is particularly interesting, coming as it does with Refried Beans, Pico, Salsa Verde & Feta. However, on this occasion we give those a swerve.
Instead, I decide on the Chilli Grilled Prawn ($8.5) with Lettuce, Mango Salsa, Sour Cream & Pico. When it arrives, I’m rather disappointed as the filling – though tasty – is pretty meagre. Maybe the Cactus Taco would have been a better move after all?
In contrast, my second choice – the Chimichurri Beef – is superb. The vinegary marinade on the Birria Beef melds with the Pickle Cabbage, Cheese & Chimichurri Mayo to dance on the palette. We all vote it our top dish.
Meanwhile, my dining companions wisely avoid the sad-looking Prawn Taco and order the Fried Fried ($8.5) version. This proves to be a smart decision when an ocean-sweet finger of Fish in a golden batter arrives along with Pickle Cabbage, Pico, Jalapeno and the obligatory Chipotle Mayo.
La Cabra also has a venue in Mornington. For more on the where to dine in that part of the world, see here.
Although we only have Starters and Tacos on this visit, on previous trip to La Cabra Mexican Eatability has tucked in both a Quesadilla and a couple of Enchiladas.
For the record, the Chicken Quesadilla was good. Plump with Peri Peri Chook, Pico, Cheese & Smoked Jalapeno Mayo, an additional dollop of Guacamole ($5) the perfect accompaniment.
As for the Enchiladas, that tangy Birria Beef ($26) once again stole the show. This time it came with Rice, Refried Beans, Cheese, Pickled Veg, La Cabra’s Signature Enchilada Sauce and more. Our other choice featured Mushrooms ($25) and also slid down very easily.
For fabulous Spanish tapas and more, see our piece on MoVida Next Door
A quick shout out to the Dessert Menu.
Yes, they have Churros with Dulce De Leche ($12), of course.
But, if you have a sweet-tooth, may we recommend the house-made Biscoff Tres Leches Cake ($14)? Three Milk Cake is a hugely popular Mexican treat for good reason and the ideal sugary hit to finish off a meal.
Beers are well-represented on the Drinks List, including 4 Mexican brands – which we love.
There’s a limited Aussie-dominated Wine List or an array of Tequila Shots – if you fancy the strong stuff.
And there’s Cocktails. On the night that we dine, La Cabra is doing 2-for-1 Pina Coladas, so it seems rude to decline.
Happily, the mix isn’t cloyingly sweet, and both glasses evaporate steadily as Cauliflowers Wings and Taco are consumed.
For a rundown on the Best Cocktail Bars in Melbourne, see here.
With perky, cheerful waiters, a fun vibe and their popular-spin on Mexican cuisine, La Cabra in Hawthorn has found the right balance.
Whether you’re looking for a few Drinks and some Nachos on a sunny arvo or a full meal while you debrief from a movie screening over at the Rivoli, this restaurant has you covered.
No wonder their colourful cantinas are popping up across town.