Cartel is the latest addition to Chippendale's Kensington Street dining precinct—and to Sydney's growing list of mezcal-focused bars and taquerias dishing out fresh margaritas and authentic-style tacos. Tipping its hat to the big-attitude flavours of Mexico and South America with a modern Aztec and Latin-inspired menu and some knockout cocktails—this is a new spot to hit for a good time.
You'll find Cartel on the ground floor of The Old Rum Store, in the spot A1 Canteen once called home. Backed by the same crew who brought us genius gin concoctions at Gin Lane and boasting over 50 tequilas and 60 imported mezcals, Cartel’s booze selection means business.
Head mixologist Grant Collins (Gin Lane, Blossom Bar, W Bali & Ku De Ta) fuses modern flavour combinations with traditional Aztec ingredients (grasshoppers, anyone?) for a creative twist on cocktail classics, including a list of six totally wild signature margaritas.
Like the pretty-in-pink Cactus Margarita with its rim of spiced worm salt (Sal De Gasano), or the playful "Chips & Dip" marg (pictured below) that's made with cactus infused tequila, Triple Sec, house-made guacamole, and a taco salted smoked corn chip. It definitely plucks at our guac-loving heartstrings.
Wanna try them all? Order the margarita tasting platter, where you'll get three mini serves to sip and sample. If you're keen to max out on margs, or you're with your crew, order the margarita "tree" a stand craftily holding up to 10 tasty classic margaritas.
If you're into your mezcal, try the "Smoked Beets"—a mix of smoked Rojo Gusano mezcal, grilled beetroot, coconut syrup, turbinado, grilled lime, and smoked salt. This one is sure to fire up Sydney’s mezcal addiction in the best way possible.
As for the menu, at Cartel you’ll find all the bold and exciting flavours you’d expect in any taqueria and cocktail bar, but with an edge of sophistication and foundation of simplicity that takes Cartel to a whole other level.
They don’t do things by halves here; Chef Arnolfo Raimondi (of Kensington Street neighbours Gavroche and Olio, plus Eastside Bar & Grill) uses only the freshest ingredients, on show in the tapas and ceviche selection (the kingfish with aguachile and plantain chips is a standout), and makes everything from scratch. We’re talking in-house milled tacos (to the tune of succulent pulled brisket, frijoles charro, and pickled cabbage) and empanadas (filled with maiz, frijoles negros, long rice, and aji criollo sauce), landing Cartel on the map of standout Sydney venues nailing authentic Mexican flavours right now.
While the food and the cocktails are formidable, the vibe at Cartel stays chill with a grounding colour palette and natural seagrass textures accentuated with pops of warm terracotta and indoor plants, designed by Emma Foster of Bond Theory. A cheeky message printed behind a cosy booth seat reads, “Life Is Better With Tequila”—and don’t we know it!
For Cartel's opening hours and contact information, head over here.
Image credit: Cartel