By complete coincidence I was invited by friends (BC, JuC and JoC) to dine at El Mundo Tapas Bar in Edge Hill on the same day that they made the front page of The Cairns Post and voted by Trip Advisor to be the number 1 restaurant to dine out in Cairns out of a whopping 177 restaurants. Do we really have that many restaurants in Cairns? Sheesh! I was certainly in luck to be going to El Mundo and also lucky that my friends had booked a few days prior because the place was absolutely packed out. I have noticed that when El Mundo first opened mid last year there was a couple of tables inside and a couple of tables outside. Since then that number has grown and now they simply cannot fit anymore tables outside. The entire sidewalk is now taken up by tables and chairs full of happy diners enjoying their tapas. I have dined at El Mundo previously and even attempted to review it but the pictures I took were so damn dodgy (even more so than usual) due to the poor lighting where I was seated that I decided it wasn’t worth doing a post. On this occasion however I had ample lighting to take pictures of the delicious plates of tapas that were arriving at our table. Now for those that haven’t been to El Mundo Tapas Bar before every month they feature a different type of cuisine. This month (December) is Turkish Month, while a few months ago when I last dined there it was Sri Lankan month. Along with their regular menu of mouth watering tapas they feature a selection of dishes from that particular country and instead of having waiters coming around and taking your order (they do take your drink order in a very timely fashion and regularly replace your water bottles) each table gets a little blackboard and some chalk to write down a selection of tapas of their choice from the tantalising menu. The waiter then comes and retrieves the blackboard from your table and ‘VOILA’! Your order has been placed. The blackboard ordering system is a fun and unique way of ordering your dishes.
Now the restaurant was packed this particular Thursday night (I even saw them turning people away) but the food still arrived in ample time and we weren’t waiting long for our first batch of blackboard choices to arrive. First up we went with a mix of both Turkish themed tapas and some of the usual thoroughfare that they have every month. Ever the chilli lovers BC and I both gushed about the ‘Chilli Rellenos’ on the menu, having tried them previously and I have to say they are my favourite item on the menu. First to come out was the C & L Garlic Beef, Soy marinated tender chunks of bite sized beef served with zesty lime and peanut dipping sauce (AU$7.50). The beef was tender and juicy and although JoC had a bit of trouble getting the pieces onto her fork she certainly enjoyed this dish. JuC announced that having previously tried this dish it was in fact one of her favourites.
Next came the Chilli Rellenos, Jalapeno Chillies stuffed with Cheddar and Bacon and lightly fried in Tempura Batter (AU$6.90). These are a little bit spicy but OMG they are amazing and I could eat them, as my mum would say ’till the cows come home’. Apparently they are one of the favourites on the menu with customers. These were so good that we just had to order another plate because one chilli was not enough! I could have even gone a third plate! YUM just doesn’t cut it!
The vegetarian Gozleme, Crispy Turkish Style Pastries stuffed with a Fresh Spinach, Herb and Fetta Centre (AU$7.90), was the next item brought to our table. These were simply delicious and everyone at the table commented on how tasty they were. You could taste the fresh herbs that were enveloped in the crispy pastry and they tasted authentically homemade.
After round one of our tasty tapas we were ready to order some more. Our resident scribe JuC neatly wrote down some more dishes that we collectively chose and sent the blackboard off with the next available waiter. Soon after the first dish of our second round of tapas arrived, The Turkish Dips, described as a Trio of flavoursome Turkish inspired dips: Roasted Red Pepper and Fetta Hummus, Eggplant and Black Olive and Spinach and Yogurt served with Grilled Flatbread (AU$7.90). There was eight pieces of flatbread all up, enough for two each which was handy because I’m not the best sharer. The dips were delicious but the spinach and yogurt one was definitely my favourite.
Following closely after this dish was the Pistachio Crusted Trout described on the menu as ‘Fresh trout pieces coated with a crispy pistachio and thyme crust, served with spicy herbed yogurt (AU$8.90). One of my pet hates is overcooked seafood , whether it be at a friends place or out at a restaurant some people just can’t get it right (not me of course because I AM a fantastic cook) but here at El Mundo they certainly got it right. The trout was cooked perfectly, not overcooked, not undercooked but just right. It literally melted in my mouth and my dinner buddies who sometimes aren’t too fond of seafood ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ about how yummy the bite sized morsels of trout were.
Keeping with the seafood theme we continued on with the Calamari (AU$7.90) and the Coconut Prawns served with Mango and Lime Salsa (AU$9.90). The Calamari was cut into strips and lightly fried with a salt and pepper coating. A very simple dish but again so many places stuff it up. Not El Mundo though, their Calamari was superb and a really generous serving (still I was glad we chose to order two plates).
The Coconut Prawns were nice and big with crunchy coconut on the outside and juicy and tender prawn on the inside, accompanied perfectly with the zesty Mango and Lime Salsa. These little babies were snapped up pretty damn quickly and even after the prawns were long gone I was eating the salsa on its own because it was so yummy and I just couldn’t let it go to waste!
Our last savoury dish of the night was the Camembert, bite sized pieces crumbed and lightly fried, served with Roasted Pepper Sauce (AU$7.90). Well, what more can I say because who doesn’t love cheese and even better… melted cheese? Perfect melt in your mouth morsels of cheese! BC even finished off the Roasted Pepper Sauce after the cheese was gone so that didn’t make me feel so bad for finishing off the Mango and Lime Salsa.
Having finished our tapas selection for the evening (I still could have eaten some more of those Chillis) we looked towards the dessert menu which was personally brought out by the man of the moment co-owner of El Mundo Tapas Bar Mark. He had a bit of a joke and a laugh with us and thanked us for coming along before introducing us to the dessert menu and giving us a bit of a rundown of what was what. There was five options to choose from on the menu including Pavlova, Creme Brûlée, Sticky Date Pudding and Affogato. While BC opted for the ‘I will have a taste of everyone else’s and not order my own’ approach, the remaining three at the tabe including myself ordered two Plum Pudding Ice Creams and a Chocolate Brownie (that was me).
It didn’t take our desserts long to arrive and when they did our mouths all watered at the size of the warm Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream that was placed in front of me. I did have this Brownie on my previous visit to El Mundo and it was mouthwatering. This time was no different except this time I am sure the serving was much bigger. The Brownie literally melted in my mouth and it was light and fluffy and not too rich. Everyone else at the table had a taste and agreed it was delectable. Needless to say despite the portion size I finished the entire dish spurred on by the huge effort I had put in at the gym earlier that day (hey I deserved it!).
JuC and JoC both tucked into their Plum Pudding Ice Cream, which again was a nice big serve and they most certainly enjoyed it. I’m not the biggest fan of currants and the like so I had a small taste but it wasn’t for me (probably because I was way too distracted by the giant Brownie). Since its so close to Christmas it was nice to have a little bit of festivity on the menu along with the other yummy but classic dessert options.
While eating my dining companions and I discussed our current Mayoral situation, BC’s new stereo system and T-Box and the risks associated with opening a new restaurant in Cairns particularly in a residential area. Owners of El Mundo Tapas Bar Mark and Carlie have obviously overcome any hurdles that may have stood in their way by creating a fantastic owner run establishment with a homely, friendly and laidback feel to it. Mark chatting with us while he took our dessert orders gave our dining experience that nice personal touch and its easy to see that although he is a very busy man he still takes time out to show appreciation to his diners. The food is delicious, the service is personal and the prices are reasonable as are the serving sizes. The people have spoken and if the packed tables of happy customers are anything to go by El Mundo is soon to become a Cairns institution. Well done to Mark and Carlie on your little gem of a restaurant in the heart of Edge Hill!
El Mundo Tapas Bar
3/124 Collins Ave, Edge Hill
Ph: (07) 4032 0550
Opening Hours: Wed – Sun 5.30pm till late