It’s no secret that there’s plenty of places to get your Mexican fix in Sydney. From chain restaurants to independent eateries, you have a vast array of options depending on where you are, how much you’ve got in your pocket, and whether you want to spend the entire night with a tacky plastic sombrero on your head or not. However, despite the number of choices, the moody Calaveras Mexican Cantina and Tequila Bar should certainly be near the top of your list.
Boasting an authentic and varied menu of Mexican cuisine, a refreshingly creative selection of cocktails and a rather impressive collection of tequilas and mezcals, Calaveras seriously sets itself apart from the rest, particularly for it’s area.
When you climb the stairs up to the Newtown restaurant, the local street art adorning the walls, fairy lights and the general buzz of music and excited voices set the tone for your evening. The restaurant has been decorated really tastefully and features artwork by local artists, reminding you that you’re in the heart of Newtown but if you’re happy to be taken away, the food, atmosphere, a bit of imagination and a few tequilas will certainly transport you to Mexico City.
The menu is deliciously versatile and could easily suit single, couple or large groups dining. It’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the food and the flavours and while they’ve played around with ingredients to bring customers something new, they’ve also gone for a lot of authentic, classic Mexican dishes.
We started with Queso Fundido, chorizo with chipotle jam and mozzarella baked in a traditional clay pot and served with tortillas for dipping. The flavours were incredible with the smokiness of the chorizo counterbalancing the sweetness of the jam but the winner was the cheese which just kept on stretching! It was a great starter dish and perfect to share between 2-3 people over a beer.
For mains we ordered both the Gringa quesadilla and the D.I.Y Fajita de Pollo to share. The quesadillas were stuffed with cheese, salsa, pineapple and some seriously tasty marinated pulled pork. While I usually find quesadillas to be slightly lacking in ingredients and therefore disappointing, these were pleasantly packed and satisfying. The Fajitas are also a great dish to share and let you build your own to suit your taste.
You couldn’t properly talk about Calaveras without talking about the drinks and, more importantly, their impressive Tequila and Mezcal collection. Founder and owner, Gerardo Macip, has been collecting weird and wonderful bottles since his days at Agave, his first Mexican restaurant in Surry Hills and since opening Calaveras, his collection has grown even more. At their recommendation, we sampled a range of their Blanco, Reposado and Añejo tequilas and mezcals, something which the staff are seriously knowledgable about. If you’re up for a tasting, be sure to ask for chilli and orange as opposed to the classic salt and lime. Once you try it, you’ll never turn back!
I’d also highly recommend giving their cocktail menu a whirl. As well as three different Margarita’s (yeah, three!) and beautiful looking Mojitos, there’s plenty of original tequila and mezcal based concoctions. We sampled their Oaxaca Old Fashioned, a combination of tequila, mezcal, agave nectar and bitters and it was a great take on the classic cocktail. They’ve got some fruity numbers such as the Paloma – tequila muddled together with pink grapefruit and fresh limes as well as something a bit more hard-hitting like the fantastically named Big Cojones with mezcal, tequila, St Germain elderflower, fresh lime, Martini Rosso & bitters.
Address: 1, 324 King St, Newtown
Contact: 0451 541 712
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday from 6pm; Thursday-Sunday from 5pm.