Home / World News / Northbridge bar baron Clint Nolan opens new modern Mexican cantina La Condesa in Subiaco

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

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

And who has mixed quesadillas, spicy micheladas and tequila shots at grungy Northbridge taco joint La Cholita since it opened in December 2011?

If you’ve answered yes to both those questions, then you’re likely to be among the Perth punters making a beeline for La Cholita owner Clint Nolan’s new venue, La Condesa.

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

Nolan, whose Lavish Habits group runs eight bars in Northbridge, describes La Condesa as the “more polished, a little more refined” grown-up sister of La Cholita.

Some of the modern Mexican dishes on offer at La Condesa.
Camera IconSome of the modern Mexican dishes on offer at La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“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.

“It’s a sexy lady in Mexico that’s a bit gangster.

“La Condesa is named after the suburb in Mexico City, which is a very hip suburb. It’s the area you and I would go to if we were to visit Mexico City and wanted to go out — great bars, great restaurants.”

Looking fresh with an earthy colour scheme of terracotta, cream and bluey greys, La Condesa will initially open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday, before looking at starting a lunch service.

Nolan said the cautious opening hours were because of the uncertainty surrounding staffing levels.

The team at La Condesa will be led by venue manager Steph Webster, who also looks after La Cholita, and chef Brian Grunewald, overseen by executive chef Zac Stanning.

The food is a fusion of Mexican and Californian flavours, with input from Japan, Korea and the Middle East.

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

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

Ramba Samba, one of the cocktails at new Subiaco venue La Condesa.
Camera IconRamba Samba, one of the cocktails at new Subiaco venue La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

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

“There is certainly La Cholita’s DNA in this venue,” Nolan said.

“Surprisingly, La Cholita has worked for a very long time. It’s just had its 10th birthday and it’s busier now than when we opened the doors, which is pretty unusual for a venue.”

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

The Mex-Cali diner is located at 483 Hay Street, previously home to modern Asian restaurant Rice Baby, which closed because of the pandemic in March, 2020 before officially shutting down in November the same year.

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

While Nolan was not in Perth when hospitality god Phil Sexton opened the 24-hour cafe, he’s aware of the history.

“This is a legendary site,” he laughed. “Talk to anybody over 30 and they know of this venue and its fame, or have had a huge night here.

“Or have finished a huge night here.”

Clint Nolan at La Condesa, a modern Mexican cantina in the Subiaco spot previously home to Rice Baby and Oriel.
Camera IconClint Nolan at La Condesa, a modern Mexican cantina in the Subiaco spot previously home to Rice Baby and Oriel. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Nolan has forged his own 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 dive bars Alabama Song and Joe’s Juice Joint, Irish pub Johnny Fox’s and its neighbouring live entertainment venue, Lynott’s Lounge.

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

Nolan hinted that La Condesa could also have a clandestine second venue within the venue, if the local council give the go-ahead.

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

The dining area at La Condesa in Subiaco.
Camera IconThe dining area at La Condesa in Subiaco. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

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

Owner of The Royal and The Standard in the city, John Parker is enjoying success with Dandelion at Karrinyup Shopping Centre.

Sneakers and Jeans boss Andy Freeman has also declared he’s working on projects outside the city after finally finishing the Pirate Life Perth precinct on Murray Street.

This is a legendary site.

Nolan says that while the city is picking up again, many diners and drinkers have got into the habit of supporting local bars, cafes and restaurants during the pandemic.

Sticky twice-cooked crispy pork hock, agave and ancho tamarind caramel, lettuce cups, shaved fennel salad is on the menu at La Condesa.
Camera IconSticky twice-cooked crispy pork hock, agave and ancho tamarind caramel, lettuce cups, shaved fennel salad is on the menu at La Condesa. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“There’s definitely room in the suburbs,” he states, predicting that Subiaco, in particular, is “about to go bang”.

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

“We had to become the enforcer of a lot of the health things, which was pretty hard for the teams.

“At the same time we’ve had some great trade. It’s in flux, constantly changing. “Now with people going overseas or visiting family, it’s pretty hard to predict what this summer is going to be like, but I think it’s going to be good.”

So, when it comes to the hospo game in late 2022, Nolan is el toro?

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

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