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The team behind Ghostboy Cantina has ditched the food court tacos for a decidedly more fine dining venture.

The mastermind behind last year's wildly successful taco pop-up Ghostboy Cantina is back in the kitchen and reinventing himself once again. Toby Wilson (ex-Wedge Espresso and Sample Coffee) has joined forces with his hospitality mates to launch their newest pop-up venture, Bad Hombres, which opened quietly in Surry Hills earlier this month. The new restaurant is a distinct departure from the casual 'tacos no los autenticos' ethos of Dixon Food Court and Tio's, with Bad Hombres owning a decidedly fine dining atmosphere.

The dimly lit interior has an artsy, industrial fit-out that suits its location well — think exposed brick and graffiti walls, bright red tables and a bustling kitchen at the back. The venue is well-run and the friendly service gives the space a no pretensions, no-fuss vibe perfect for dinner any night of the week.

The menu itself needs some work. The drinks list focuses on underwhelming wines by the glass ($13-15) from potentially poorly-kept open bottles — one of the glasses our table received better resembled vinegar than wine. Best to go for one of the half bottles for a duo or a full bottle for a larger group, which are more reasonably priced and maintained.

On the food side, the menu is split between small and share plates. The ceviche tostada ($7) is a good first start, with fresh mahi-mahi and a nice tropical touch of coconut. The pig's ear sandwich ($8), on the other hand, was poorly executed on what tasted like Wonder Bread. Happily, the pork shoulder ($28) — which essentially comes as a deconstructed taco — has a bit of that Ghostboy edge that originally showcased Wilson's cooking talent. But, unfortunately, this dish fell short too; the blue corn tortillas taste fresh but are overpowered the taste of the dry, under-seasoned meat. The taco toppings, including pickled red onion, Thai basil and an inventive charred peach, were each a nice touch, but the green sauce needed more spice to bring the dish together. Overall, the portions were small and food not well enough seasoned to warrant the expense.

Clearly the venue has some growing pains to get through before its food is worth the fine dining prices, but that may not worry you if you're just dropping in for a drink and a snack. While part of us wants to shout out "bring back Ghostboy!", we do trust in Wilson's skills in the kitchen and believe he'll adjust to this new venue and wow us again. Luckily, the venue — which is acting as a pop-up until the building is demolished — will be around for at least six months, so they have plenty of time to get it right.

Published on March 16, 2017 by Marissa Ciampi

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