Note: This blog entry is the first of many in my attempt to discover and share dishes in the Sydney CBD that are suitable for a quick, cheap and cheerful lunch. The most I will pay for a meal is $20, while the average meal will be below $10, and the condition is that the lunch can fit into the 1 hour lunch break most of us have. This means that the trip from Town Hall to the restaurant and back, including the time to feed, is equal to or less than 1 hour. The focus is on just one dish which can provide a quality lunch within a restricted time and budget, in a city where lunch time can be a treacherous affair.
With locations in Newtown, Bondi Junction, the Cross and Australia Square, Guzman y Gomez (GYG) is hardly a well kept secret. But the MLC Centre branch is right across the road from the office, so this one is a quick win. Housed in a food court that is otherwise devoid of any culinary merit – think expensive sambos, bain marie mock-Chinese, overcooked pasta and a Muffin Break – GYG’s successful formula (Tasty, Unique, Affordable and Fast) brings salvation to the working masses. Its popularity is apparent, as is evident by the huge number of staff servicing the hordes of office workers queuing up for their daily dose of anything with pico de gallo, the omnipresent condiment of fresh tomatoes, onions and coriander that is served with, well, everything.
Staff members this nice are hardly found working in a fast food joint. Big welcoming smiles, cute accents and helpful suggestions make you forget that this place makes its money from being a churn machine (keep an eye out for Superwoman who can wrap a burrito in under 15 seconds), and with food this good, any comparison with the likes of MacDonald’s goes out the window. Which is a good thing. The menu is packed with what we perceive as typical Mexican food: tacos (soft and hard shell), burritos and quesadillas. The idea is that you choose a filling – chicken (not bad), steak & onion (good), pork (good), beef (great), barramundi (avoid) or veg (boring, get a life) – and your carbohydrate wrapping of choice, take a ticket and wait till your number is called (screamed). Burritos are tasty but slightly stodgy, and combine two diametrically opposed ingredients: rice and bread (the tortilla wrapping). Unlike blue and green, which might be seen together if there’s something in between, rice and bread should never be friends even in the company of cheese. As we no longer live in times of extreme poverty where we have to bulk up our food with excess starch, ask them to hold the rice, and enjoy a much better burrito. I know this might go against all manner of convention and tradition, but the black beans will provide you with sufficient carbs, I promise
I can safely say that I’ve tried mostly everything on the menu, and though the burritos are great and the hard tacos are not bad at all, my hands-down favourite has to be the beef nachos. The nachos themselves are pure corn chip crunchy pleasure, but add to that full-flavoured, slow cooked shredded beef along with cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo, top it all up with any of the complimentary chilli sauces, more freshly diced onions and chopped coriander, and what you have is something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Absolutely delicious, and for $9.90, lunch at the MLC Centre has never looked more attractive. Now if only they churned out those frozen margaritas they serve in Newtown, I’d be set for a proper day’s work at the office.
Guzman y Gomez MLC Centre
Level 6 (shop 14) MLC Centre Food Court
Martin Place (Cnr Castlereagh Street)
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 9221 1777