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Cantina – Street Food at the Hotel Tivoli

21 March 2012 5,007 views One Comment

Shane Berketa ate at the Hotel Tivoli in Adelaide recently and writes about it here:

Dear Adelaide,

It seems you and I have a little bit of a problem. I’ve been living in this town for about three years now and I’m struggling to find a good fish and chip shop anywhere. I was also having trouble finding a place that sells great tasting Mexican food, but I managed to solve that little dilemma when my wife and I stumbled onto the Hotel Tivoli.

Hotel Tivoli Cantina PosterWhy Adelaide? Why did you keep the Hotel Tivoli’s Cantina a secret from me for so long? Why I have I been making do with Old El Paso packets at home when I could of been kicking back in a comfortable booth lazily going through the whole Cantina – Street Food Eatery menu? Much like I did last week.

The Place

At the quieter end of Pirie St. (close to East Terrace, across the road from City Holden), the Hotel Tivoli has been part of Adelaide for 155 years and was last given a major face lift in 2008.

The front bar is where we dined and is where the Cantina – Street Food Eatery is situated. Also given a facelift, in December, the front bar has a really roomy relaxed vibe. White antler chandeliers, European oak flooring and extremely comfy black leather booths set the mood in the interior of the bar. Black and white pictures adorn the walls ranging from 1950’s sunbaking ladies to John Lennon to Native Americans, all seemingly out of place but fitting perfectly in. Lounge music playing in the background as well as some as some Jackson 5 caused my 18 month old to get up and have a bit of a dance, giving the other lunch time patrons a bit of a laugh.

The Food

My wife put it best when she mentioned that we could sit in the front bar for a whole day and slowly pick away at EVERYTHING on the menu. The soft shell tacos were first on our must have list ($5 each) and seeing that we couldn’t pick just one we ordered one of each. Just read these tasty descriptions:

Food at the Cantina, Hotel TivoliPescado – Crumbed NT Barramundi, guacamole, pico de gallo, coriander and lime – FINALLY we’d found an good fish taco. We never knew what the hype was with fish tacos until we tasted this.

Carnitas – Crispy braised duck, red cabbage, pistachio mango and coriander salsa – I found the duck a bit too crispy (my wife loved it) but the flavours were awesome.

Pollo – Chicken al Pastor (grilled), pineapple, red onion & Queso fresco (white cheese) – if you have brought little kids with you they will devour this taco. Not spicy and probably the best taco on the menu, we ordered a second one after my boy devoured the first. Tasting this one is a must, the chicken is to die for.

Puerco de Yucatan – Slow braised pork, black beans, cactus (yes cactus!) and jalapeno salsa – a very slow burner, definitely not for the kids. Loved every bite of that perfectly cooked juicy pork… my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We also went for the Puerco Tostaditos ($8) – 4 crispy corn tortillas topped with pulled pork, pickled zucchini, apple and salsa verde – sweeter than the tacos these were a nice change up that gave us a little zing. Other Tosaditos on the menu included the refried beans, grilled chicken and prawns.

The menu also includes Quesadillas ($10) a corn tortilla filled with various unusual combinations (such as grilled pumpkin, ricotta, chipotle, salsa verde and pepitas) as well as snacks (ranging from $4.50 – $9) which include grilled corn cob, chilli fries and the old fan favourite – nachos.

As previously mentioned, if we had nothing to do all day we could have picked our way through the whole menu.

Tequila bottles of all varieties decorate the back of the bar; if you have a favourite they are sure to have it. I settled on a cold bottle of Sol ($5.50) perfect for a hot day whilst eating hot food.

The Service

For a quiet weekday afternoon we found the staff very engaging and very knowledgeable. Tom, our barman, knew the menu and the history of the place and was happy to talk to us about it. Service was quick and efficient, which helped when a table of ten rocked up, but the problem was that the food was SO GOOD we ordered seconds and had to wait a while the table of ten got ALL their orders
first…grrr!…damn you tasty chicken and fish tacos! Being there on a quiet weekday afternoon it was
also helpful to have the 18 month old with us as the staff was happy to let him run around, dance and cause mischief without upsetting other patrons, and they also have high-chairs if needed.

So Adelaide, it seems I have found out about one of your hidden secrets. Hotel Tivoli’s Cantina, a comfortable place that has a chilled out vibe, where the Mexican food is more than just meat, cheese and sour cream – it actually tastes fresh and combines fantastic flavours, and the service is knowledgeable and friendly.

I hope there will be no more secrets between us Adelaide, I hope you can reveal to me those other hidden restaurant gems… with that in mind… do you know where I can find a good fish and chip shop?

HOTEL TIVOLI
265 Pirie Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Telephone: 8223 4790

Find @Hotel_Tivoli on Twitter and at hoteltivoli.com.au

Cantina – Street Food Eatery
Monday until 10pm
Tuesday + Wednesday until 11pm
Thursday until 12am
Friday to Saturday until 3am

Read more reviews by Shane Berketa here:

One Comment »

  • Luis  Williams said:

    “Wow” really was the first word that I uttered. A vast, open space is out the back and with it’s huge vaulted ceiling and ‘mood’ lighting, it really does have quite the special ambiance.

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