A revival has landed at the right place in Sydney's Surry Hills. Newly opened Mexico Food & Liquor is a breath of fresh air, literally. The old space that used to occupy District Dining in Randle Street has been revived from the dead. For starters, expect cheap, quality Mexican food where all expectations were exceeded.
Social food is what Sydney wants right now, and no one is in the mood to pay a heavy price tag for great food and great times. Fresh from Auckland in New Zealand, quality Mexican tapas is here to stay, judging from the turn out at the opening launch of Mexico Food & Liquor, which opened its doors to Sydney on Wednesday the 5th of December 2012.
An awesome space that has been well decorated under tight timeframes. This is where retro meets modern. The bar staff in particular were getting into the festive spirit with face paintings reminiscent of Halloween, but rest assured, nothing spooky is going on. Again, this is exactly what Sydney needs right now, we need to soften our sharp edges from the fast paced space that we live in, and you will understand why Mexico Food & Liquor is the answer to our prayers. Give yourself permission to let loose with some serious cocktails and some tapas like food that will guarantee to fill you up.
There are restaurants in Sydney that appear to be too dark, while there are others that are too white and clinical looking. The beauty about Mexico Food & Liquor is that they have made a match in heaven with retro meeting contemporary trends in a dimly lit space without being too dark. The decorations are quirky, and street art meets and falls in love with super energetic bar staff and quality Mexican tapas style food. All of this in a space where you feel like you have earnt a free flight to Mexico. Escape the outdoors, park your frustrations and problems at the door, this is what this space is all about.
The beef brisket soft shell taco as it arrived on my table
Now to the serious stuff. The opening night celebrations at Mexico Food & Liquor in Surry Hills began with a glass of Black Plum Margarita ($14) with el jimador reopsado, agave nectar, lime juice and black doris plum with some sugar and cinnamon rim on top. This is one sweet drink, yet one cool, refreshing drink that has set the scene for a fantastic night. Their bar manager has worked in eight different bars prior, and the positive energy of the bar staff is just stunning - I have never seen anything like it. All of the booze (Tequila) is visible in the bar area in a cool way. Additionally, drinks served at room temperature are also fantastic here. For the life of me, I cannot recall the name of this other drink I had. That was testament to the fun here, forgetting for a moment that I am a food writer here to write about this experience.
On the snacks menu, the pumpkin filled flour tortillas ($6) with white bean and agave dip was so filling and surprisingly good. Additionally, I also tried the tostaditas ($8 for four) of crab, almond and green onion mojo with cucumbers, lime and tangy grapes. Upon taking a bite of the crab, you will feel like you have just brought some crab from the fish markets. That pleasant oyster like taste is prevalent with a crunchy, flavoursome corn chip that looks like a wave. It is official: fast food has left the building. Great variety here and social food is so awesome.
Moving on, an experience at Mexico Food & Liquor would not be complete if it wasn't for tasting a Soft Shell Taco at the opening night celebrations. The beef brisket soft taco ($6) braised in coconut and ancho with green onions, chilli and papaya was surprisingly good. This is one complete meal in itself. You would be an idiot for buying this at some fast food takeaway establishment, where you would be paying a similar price without the awesome, upbeat environment thrown in. Have a couple of napkins handy just in case, otherwise all of these flavours blend in beautifully.
One of my cocktails being prepared in front of my very eyes
With the specialties, I was fortunate to try Mexico Food & Liquor's most popular dish - a pleasant warning: the sauce is super spicy with chilli and guacamole at its best with a bit of papaya off hand. Bite size pieces of fried Mexican chicken ($12) exceeded all expectations of fried chicken. No grease - I am serious. Your hands will not be greasy after taking a bite of the fried chicken. Verdict: the best fried chicken in Sydney.
The surprisingly great salad with glimpses of the pumpkin tortilla
The quinoa, wild rice, green brean and grilled zucchini salad ($10) with mustard greens and pomegrante pieces was fantastic. One of the best salads I have enjoyed eating out. The salad compliments all of the dishes, including the tostaditas with grace and finesse.
As the fun continues in this upbeat space of positive energy, the night ended with a glass of some Mexico City Margarita ($12) with el jimador respoado, agave nectar, lime juice, sugar and flake salt rim and a perfect experience ended this time from there. A beautiful drink with a tangy flavour. While you're there, check out the blackboards inside the restaurant for Mexico Food & Liquor's 'Margarita of the Week'.
As owner Nick rightly purports, Mexico Food & Liquor in Surry Hills is clearly an "assault of the senses." Yours truly agrees. All of this food, and I shared this with someone else. Then again "sharing is caring" after all, and Sydney is embracing this mantra full throttle.
Upon leaving the opening night celebrations around two hours later, other guests stood outside commenting on how awesome the experience was. I wasn't the only one. It is helpful that Central train station is only a short stroll away. Come to Mexico Food & Liquor ready, open and willing to have an amazing night to remember.
The view of Mexico Food & Liquor from connecting Chalmers Street