‘There is no success without hardship’, the Greek playwright Sophocles once said, and for HolyJala’s owner, Andrea Muhlemann, that is certainly the case.
Having migrated from Barcelona to Australia five years ago to gain a Master’s in Marketing and Business, Andrea worked in hospitality saving money to open her own business. All was going well until Covid hit. Andrea lost her job and, never one to give up, she began driving Uber to make ends meet.
All was not lost. With a philosophy of ‘Trust me, you can dance’, Andrea decided to begin work.
“I used the time when I wasn’t driving to write a business plan, to refine my ideas and to find a location for my restaurant,” Andrea tells us as we dine.
Stepping into a venue which had been vacant for six months, Andrea’s friends and flatmates helped her with the design, the end result a cheerful, approachable space, its walls clad with Mexican souvenirs, hanging plants, colourful sombreros and the inimitable Frida Kahlo.
Andrea opened her little taqueria HolyJala (pronounced Holy-ha-la, short for jalapeño) early in November 2020, its two colourfully decorated dining spaces on a front verandah and back atrium joined by a narrow hallway with a small bar, kitchen and bathroom in between.
“There are a couple of other Mexican restaurants already in the area, so I wanted my restaurant to be different to them,” Andrea says, pointing out the Mediterranean influences in her food, with Spanish Patatas Rancheras and sangria sitting alongside Greek Taramasalata, Mexican-inspired dishes and margaritas and a wider selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
We begin our meal with a trio of three dips: Queso Face (three cheeses heated and served with diced jalapeños), Guac Off (a chunky lemony guacamole dip made in house) and Cod’s Roe Dip (taramasalata) served with deliciously crisp fried ribbons of tortilla for dipping, a great accompaniment for my Holy Jalapeno margarita with its hit of chilli.
The trio of dips would be a delicious starter for several people, but we valiantly continue with tacos. Haloumi, beef, fish, prawn or vegan with salad or slaw and toppings of pico de gallo and Mexican salsa are on offer, two tacos per serve presented in a colourful glazed stand.
Finish with dessert if you can fit it in, such as a sweet Chimichanga filled with a melted Mars bar, served with vanilla ice cream.
Difficulties can lead to success. Hardship can make us strong, our struggles developing our strengths.
“Hopefully I can be an inspiration to others,” Andrea says. “Put in a lot of thought to what you do, work hard, save your money, get things clear in your head and go for it,” she adds.
‘Everyone has a tequila glory…’, the wall quote espouses. Then surely HolyJala is Andrea’s ‘tequila glory’.
Affordable enough for a weekday lunch yet sexy enough for a date, the colourful HolyJala has a flavour all its own.
HolyJala 140 Griffith St., Coolangatta Ph: 07 5650 0518
Open: Thurs, Fri 5pm – late; Sat-Sun Midday – late; Happy hour 4pm – 6pm
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of HolyJala.