Northbridge bar baron Clint Nolan opens new modern Mexican cantina La Condesa in Subiaco

Who remembers ordering minimal fries to get around WA’s draconian licensing laws and keep drinking until the wee hours at the institution Subiaco Oriel Cafe and Brasserie?

And who’s been mixing quesadillas, spicy micheladas and tequila shots at Northbridge’s grungy taco joint, La Cholita, since it opened in December 2011?

If you answered yes to both questions, you’ll likely be among the Perth punters headed straight for La Cholita owner Clint Nolan’s new venue, La Condesa.

Spanish for “the countess,” the modern Mexican cantina opens its saloon doors September 23.

Nolan, whose Lavish Habits group runs eight bars in Northbridge, describes La Condesa as La Cholita’s “more polite, a bit more polished” adult sister.

Camera iconSome of the modern Mexican dishes offered at La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/western australia

“La Cholita is more of a gangster girl, you know, a ‘cholo,'” the bar baron said during a first look at the Subiaco bar and restaurant last week.

“She’s a hot woman in Mexico who’s a bit of a gangster.

“La Condesa is named after the suburb of Mexico City, which is a very trendy suburb. This is the area you and I would go to if we were visiting Mexico City and wanted to hang out – great bars, great restaurants.

Fresh in appearance with a terracotta, cream and bluish gray color scheme, La Condesa will initially open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, before considering starting lunch service.

Nolan said the cautious opening hours were due to uncertainty surrounding staffing levels.

The La Condesa team will be led by Site Manager Steph Webster, who also looks after La Cholita, and Chef Brian Grunewald, overseen by Executive Chef Zac Stanning.

The cuisine is a fusion of Mexican and Californian flavors, with contributions from Japan, Korea and the Middle East.

Dishes range from corn ribs with jalapeno yogurt, coconut snapper ceviche, crispy twice-cooked pork knuckle with agave and ancho tamarind caramel, and chocolate hazelnut mousse. with chilli.

Like La Chol’, La Condesa is said to boast one of the most extensive tequila ranges in Perth with around 160 bottles of agave behind the bar. Webster said the most expensive shot costs around $130.

Ramba Samba, one of the cocktails at Subiaco's newest venue, La Condesa.
Camera iconRamba Samba, one of the cocktails at Subiaco’s newest venue, La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/western australia

There are eight taps pouring local beer, wine and signature cocktails such as the Smoky Pina, Ramba Samba and Gringo Flamingo, with Mexican beers packed in the fridges for those spicy micheladas.

“There’s definitely La Cholita DNA in this place,” Nolan said.

“Amazingly, La Cholita has been working for a very long time. It just turned 10 and there are more people now than when we opened the doors, which is quite unusual for a venue.

La Condesa, he added, is “me growing up and my version of La Cholita 10 years later”.

The Mex-Cali restaurant is located at 483 Hay Street, which previously housed the modern Asian restaurant Rice Baby, which closed due to the pandemic in March 2020 before officially closing in November of that year.

But for many local diners, the location will always be associated with Oriel.

Although Nolan was not in Perth when hospitality god Phil Sexton opened the 24-hour cafe, he is aware of the story.

“It’s a legendary site,” he laughed. “Talk to anyone over 30 and they know about this place and its fame, or had a huge night here.

“Or having ended a huge night here.”

Clint Nolan at La Condesa, a modern Mexican cantina in the Subiaco spot that previously housed Rice Baby and Oriel.
Camera iconClint Nolan at La Condesa, a modern Mexican cantina in the Subiaco spot that previously housed Rice Baby and Oriel. Credit: Jackson Flindell/western australia

Nolan has built his formidable reputation in Perth hospitality since opening Harvest in North Fremantle, followed by the port city’s first small bar, Who’s Your Mumma, on South Terrace.

In addition to La Cholita, Lavish Habits’ Northbridge stable includes Alabama Song and Joe’s Juice Joint dive bars, Johnny Fox’s Irish Pub and its neighboring live entertainment venue, Lynott’s Lounge.

Then there’s the so-called speakeasy Sneaky Tony’s and its hidden disco bar Toots.

Nolan hinted that La Condesa could also have a second underground room in the room, if the local council gives the green light.

“There’s a second part to this,” he laughed.

The dining room of La Condesa in Subiaco.
Camera iconThe dining room of La Condesa in Subiaco. Credit: Jackson Flindell/western australia

Nolan isn’t the only hospitality guru looking to the suburbs after carving out a niche in the city or in Northbridge.

Owner of The Royal and The Standard in the city, John Parker finds success with Dandelion at Karrinyup Mall.

Sneakers and Jeans boss Andy Freeman also said he was working on projects outside the city after finally completing the Pirate Life Perth neighborhood on Murray Street.

It is a mythical site.

Nolan says that while the city is recovering, many diners and drinkers have made a habit of supporting local bars, cafes and restaurants during the pandemic.

Twice-cooked crispy pork knuckle, agave and ancho tamarind caramel, lettuce cups, minced fennel salad are on the menu at La Condesa.
Camera iconTwice-cooked crispy pork knuckle, agave and ancho tamarind caramel, lettuce cups, minced fennel salad are on the menu at La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/western australia

“There’s definitely room in the suburbs,” he said, predicting that Subiaco, in particular, is “on the verge of exploding.”

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Nolan says of the past two years. “It’s a time when we’ve had to move and change quickly with changing rules and regulations.

“We had to become the executor of a lot of health issues which was quite difficult for the teams.

“At the same time, we had excellent exchanges. It is in motion, constantly evolving. “Now with people going overseas or visiting family, it’s quite difficult to predict what this summer will be like, but I think it’s going to be good.”

So, when it comes to the hospo game at the end of 2022, Nolan is el toro?

“I’m always optimistic,” he laughs. “Or mad.”


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