Update: Unfortunately due to an unforeseen delay, La Condesa is now scheduled to open on Wednesday September 28. Keep an eye on their Instagram for updates!
“I think Subi’s on the up.”
We’re chatting to Clint Nolan, founder of Lavish Habits and perhaps Perth’s most prolific hospitality operator, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
“I think it’s coming into its own now – it’s going to have its own identity again, I think it’s gonna be a place where people want to want to go out. There are lots of great venues there and it’s a great area to live. ”
Amongst those great venues, we can finally count his latest venture, La Condesa – making its long-anticipated opening tonight. The ninth venue to join the all-star Lavish Habits roster, it’ll be bringing a slice of Mexico to Subiaco – taking over the site that once housed iconic late night café Oriel, and later Rice Baby.
The hospitality group’s venues span from late-night party basement Joe’s Juice Joint to hidden disco den Toots, lush cocktail and wine garden Henry Summer and the OG hidden bar, Sneaky Tony’s. Each manages to occupy a space remarkably suited to its personality.
“You know, I look at a lot of premises and if they don’t have a soul to begin with – if they don’t feel right or, you know, as wanky as it sounds, if the light isn’t right or if it just doesn’t feel right, I just let ’em go.”
“But you walk into a space and you go: ‘Ah! This, this is just could be great!’ And I just know that this is the space I wanna take on. Which is where we are now: the old Oriel is a legendary venue for people who have been around for a while.
Phil Sexton, he’s legend. He’s one of my hospitality idols. Whatever he touches is great – he has a beautiful way with things and he chose this site for a reason. I kind of see where he was at, it’s a good location!”
The space has been transformed (with the help of interior architect Kate Archibald) to reflect the Tulum-via-LA, coastal influences seen in the menu – and at the bar. The addition of another Mexican restaurant feels serendipitous alongside La Cholita’s recently celebrated 10th birthday.
“Everyone needs to go to Mexico!” Nolan laughs, explaining the enduring appeal of the cuisine. “It’s just… The food’s right for our climate. It’s fun, it’s accessible, it’s not expensive. And it comes with margaritas!”
While they both may be Mexican, La Condesa’s inspirations come 1500 kilometres east of its elder sibling: from Tulum, the popular Caribbean coastal resort town that boasts turquoise waters and spectacular clifftop Mayan ruins.
“La Cholita is as traditional as we could make it to the Australian palette. It feels like if you got off the plane in Mexico City, you just walked in somewhere: that would be La Cholita. It’s fun, it’s rowdy and the food style is very similar to what you get in Mexico City – with La Condesa, we’re going a bit broader with what Mexican food is. It’s a modern interpretation is maybe the best way to describe it.”
“I think to me, La Cholita is sexy and cool. It’s grungy, you know, it’s worn. It’s comfy. La Condesa, how do I put it? It’s certainly a more polished version.”
While the La Condesa menu does have some overlaps with La Cholita (like the always-popular baja fish taco, or the mushroom quesadillas), you can also expect to see flavours like the vegan-friendly miso eggplant tacos with sesame tofu crema, coconut and snapper ceviche, 12-hour beef short rib topped with a zingy chimichurri, or a fish collar served with mole amarillo – a yellow mole especially popular in Oaxaca. (Much like its older sister, La Condesa has plenty on offer to suit gluten free, vegan and other dietaries).
Since opening Harvest in North Fremantle back in 2004 (alongside another hospo heavyweight, Miles Hull), Perth has had a coming of age – at least when it comes to dining.
“I think Perth’s grown up in its dining sense and its entertainment sense,” Nolan ruminates. “I think part of that is to do with the changing of the licensing laws, small bars: pretty much every suburb now has a small bar doing something unique and cool.”
“People travelling has also brought more awareness to what they want, what kind of value and experiences. I think social media has also played a huge part of it, and cooking shows – people watch stuff on TV that they get excited about and wanna have.”
If you’d like to get excited about what La Condesa will have on offer, you can check out their Instagram.
La Condesa is located at 483 Hay Street, Subiaco, and is scheduled to open on September 28!