A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published May 2nd 2016
Day of the Dead Delights
Tequila anyone? You may or may not have grown an unsettling association with the Mexican agave drink in your party days, but I can assure you that the extensive range of gourmet tequila cocktails at Calaveras will surprise you with just how good it can taste. Especially with tasty Mexican tapas by your side.
Your staircase to heaven, aka this new establishment, is next to Newtown station. I found it deceiving. Thinking I was being led to a quiet lounge full of fine flavours, I was surprised upon seeing the contemporary, and highly cultural cantina. Dead set. Like really, a Day of the Dead theme floods the venue, which may I say, is also bigger than I thought from street level.
Calaveras is far from dead and dingy though. You'll know what I mean when you see the array of intricate and colourful pieces plastered across the room. From hanging decorations that scream fiesta, to colourful tiles coating the bar in Aztec patterns, to artworks by local Newtowners incorporating the infamous Day of the Dead skull, complete with flowers and other entangled details.
It was also far from dead on the atmosphere front last Saturday night. A catchy variety of music (Spanish and English favourites), and a fun crowd full of laughter livened the space. Booking is recommended particularly on weekends. We, however walked in without anticipation of this and were fortunately welcomed by smiley, upbeat staff to sip on cocktails at the bar until a table came up.
So, this King Street Cantina was nothing like I'd imagined. I wasn't wrong about the fine flavours however. Head chef Karen Darinka Fernandez infuses genuine Mexican aromas from seasonal local produce. Whether you are looking for something like chorizo tacos to nibble on over an evening of cocktails and chit-chat, or a traditional 'platos grande' for a decadent dinner, his menu has you sorted.
To kick off food we munched on guacamole dip accompanied by not tortilla but another traditional corn product, totopos. These homemade chips looked as though they were straight from the Mexican countryside. They went perfectly with the guac that had hints of citrus throughout it from the pico de gallo salsa and lime juice.
We also got the prawn fajitas - fresh prawns, tangy salsa, and a generous portion of authentic rice. Lastly, we could not resist the mouth-watering sound of pulled pork quesadillas. We hadn't tasted anything quite like this famous Mexican flavour, 'Pastor'. The delicious combination consisted of melted cheese, sweet pineapple pieces and of course, juicy marinated meat. We didn't have room for dessert, but do note, sugar-coated churros with chocolatey dipping sauce are an option.
The tequila-based drinks are just as funky as the decor and dishes. With ingredients such as pineapple, chilli, lime, and salt, all tastebuds will be intrigued. I ordered a Margarita style drink with, wait for it, jalapenos in it! It packed a fun tangy punch, as did my friend's tequila cocktail with chilli and pineapple juice. Not to fear if you don't fancy the spice; many other options await you on the changing menu that are sure to make tequila a delight.