21 November 2017

I once shared a room with a woman who used to dab tequila behind her ears for perfume. Her icon was artist Frida Kahlo and she tried (unsuccessfully) to live her life with similar pain and passion.

While Kahlo achieved celebrity status in her brief lifetime that extended far beyond Mexico’s borders, my roommate remains in obscurity and the last I heard was imbibing (in large quantities), rather than dabbing the national drink.

Such was my introduction to Mexican culture and the start of my love affair with the colours, vibrancy and tastes of this amazing country.

Mexicans have been wrapping a tortilla around meat and eating it going back to the days of the ancient Aztecs, it truly is the food of the Gods. Bringing us Heaven on Earth is Mexico, in particular Dan Philippou, Manager of the newest Mexico at Sylvia Park’s dining hub, THE GROVE.

Born in Essex, Dan has a black belt in karate and had a varied career in law, as a care assistant and working for his parents’ events company before getting the travel bug. He arrived in New Zealand three years ago and got a job as a food runner at Mexico in Ponsonby.

“I learned how to be a waiter and found a passion for selling and service as well as discovering how good tequila actually is. My favourite dish on Mexico’s menu would have to be mushroom chimichangas. These little gems are old favourites with Mexico and they have the ability to lift you up from even the darkest of days“.

“I think that is why I can always be so positive. Chimichangas, tequila and tacos. What else do you need in life?” Watching over the buzz is Frida, her portrait as evocative and mesmerising as the Mona Lisa.

She really is the mother of the selfie, her indelible image recognisable everywhere from Acapulco to Auckland.

The unique atmosphere that every Mexico restaurant resonates with, the sounds of laughter and happiness that come from friends and families enjoying a meal together is something that could even bring a smile to Frida’s face.