Esteban is the second restaurant from Atticus Hospitality Group—the same crew that gave Sydney Tequila Mockingbird.
The basement restaurant, taqueria, tequila, and mezcal bar is hidden in the heart of the CBD. Once upon a time, the building was a printing shop. Architects Humphrey & Edwards have taken cues from the building’s Art Deco bones—sandstone walls, timber beams, and towering archways—and layered over influences from the boozy, heady basement bars of Mexico City.
The two-storey space features a 65-seater basement bar that’s low-lit and moody, lined with custom tequila cabinets and warm booths and banquettes in golden brown leather (the colour of a proper reposado, naturally).
Upstairs, there’s a more intimate dining room, an open kitchen with counter seating, and a floor-to-ceiling mural by Sydney artist Nanomi Cowdry, which has been inspired by the frescoes of Mexico’s original muralist, the legendary Diego Rivera. As you move into the restaurant, take note of the front door too—an enormous 400kg piece of acid-aged steel forged by Byron-based artist Daniel Heapy.
On the menu, executive chef John Frid has woven in the rich melting pot of Mexico—expect Mayan, Aztec, Spanish, Portuguese, and Afro Caribbean influences to hit your plate. Charcoal is the heart of it all—in the centre of the restaurant is a fiery custom Parilla grill and vertical charcoal rotisserie, which is where Frid will be doing traditional Tacos Al Pastor using hot coals of Aussie ironbark. Also, Esteban's soft corn tortillas are handmade daily with a bespoke tortilla machine imported from Guadalajara.
Other menu highlights include a wagyu beef tartare taco, Hiramasa Kingfish ceviche with watermelon sorbet and sea banana, ironbark grilled chicken, and a super special sweet potato dessert called “Tres Camotes” that's made up of a sweet potato tart, sweet potato ice cream, and sweet potato meringue.
As for the all-important tequila and mezcal collection, Estaban now houses one of the largest assortments in the country. The focus here is on mezcal and agave, and the idea is to indulge and test and try varietals—Estaban has a roaming trolley stacked with tequila and mezcal for you to pick and choose from; you can order tequila flights, or do a tasting and pair your spirits with cheese or chocolate.
Esteban has a little al fresco set up too. You’ll be able to perch on Temperance Lane from Tuesday through Saturday for lunch, dinner, and late-night street food-style snacks all the way until 1am. Make sure you order the margarita flight (of course you will), which is a combo of three mini margs, and three signature tacos.
Esteban Bar and streetfood menu is available Tuesday through Saturday from 11.30am - 1am. The restaurant is open for lunch from Wednesday to Friday 12pm - 2.30pm, and dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm - 10pm.
Image credit: Steven Woodburn