The idea to open a Mexican restaurant in Auckland was initially sparked off one evening during a busy night in the now very famous Café Pacifico Amsterdam.
It was 1979 and kitchen manager Bruce Glover was pumping out plate after plate of food to a packed restaurant.
Café Pacifico was considered the first Mexican Restaurant in Europe. With an open kitchen and easy going laid back atmosphere, the crowds came in the hundreds. The queue would start almost an hour before opening time. When the doors were flung open, the crowd would rush in to get the best tables. Once all tables were occupied, the bar would then be swamped.
In a matter of minutes the restaurant and bar would be jammed packed to full capacity. It was then up to the staff to handle it.
It was under these exciting conditions that Bruce Glover’s dream to open a similar operation in hometown Auckland was born.
Sidetracked to Brazil in 1981 Bruce opened a branch Café Pacifico in Buzios with a Dutch business partner.
By July 1983 the Mexican Café Albert StAuckland was open. This 24 seat BYO café was one of the first in NZ with an open kitchen. The casual laid back feel was quickly welcomed and soon the Mexican Café was adopted as one of Auckland’s gems.
In those days some ingredients were difficult to source so coriander, jalapenos & tomatillos were planted. Luckily corn tortillas were available. Guacamole (which one woman continually pronounced Guatemala) was a popular new taste to the kiwi palate.
The Mexican Café was unknowingly setting the standard of Mexican Cuisine in NZ.
By 1985 the Mexican Café had outgrown Albert St and moved to its present location. The BYO remained and the seating capacity increased to 65. By 1987 the capacity had increased to 120 and the restaurant was fully licensed.
In the 1980’s alcohol in licensed restaurants could only be ordered through the waitperson. It was against the law to approach the bar for drinks. When the Mexican Café applied for a liquor license, the council questioned the bar stools on the design plans. It was explained that the stools were for the busy staff to sit during their breaks.
Council accepted this explanation and eventually customers were occupying the stools and ordering drinks.
The Mexican Café also introduced speed wells and free pouring in the bar. This concept had not been seen in NZ before. Now it is used everywhere. Before this, bars of that era had rows of bottles suspended above the bar with nip pourers attached.
In 1997 the outdoor deck was built above the footpath. Being almost directly beneath the Sky tower and with a view above Victoria St, the deck has become the most popular place to dine in the Mexican Café.
The Mexican Café has a very large following of regular customers. Some have been coming for 30 years. They come here to enjoy themselves and know that their experience will be the same on every visit.
In a rapidly changing world, this is an important point.
The Mexican Café, often referred to as an institution, remains the same.