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Carmen Tequileria

James Street's new tequileria heroes agave cocktails and small-batch mezcals.
By Sarah Ward
July 26, 2023
By Sarah Ward
July 26, 2023

It's a shot favourite with lemon and salt. There's a surf instrumental track that shares its name. Just thinking about it likely gets the early-90s hip hop cover of that tune stuck in your head. Although it's a famous spirit, tequila isn't always the best-appreciated tipple. Head to Carmen, James Street's newest bar and Mexican eatery, however, and the latter might change.

Running through Fortitude Valley and New Farm, this stretch of road has long had Brisbanites flocking to the city's inner north for a sip and a bite to eat, adding dining and drinking options aplenty over the two decades since it rebadged its industrial stretch into an urban precinct. The new reason to head is this 80-seater tequileria from aka Potentia Solutions Leisure, joining a hospitality stable that also features rooftop joints Lina and Soko. While Carmen is an eatery, bar and lounge in one, tequila- and agave-heavy drinks take pride of place on the menu.

Standout sips include the El Tigre, which is made on Patron Reposado, plus grapefruit bitters, agave and dehydrated grapefruit; Sueno de Sandia, a citrusy number featuring Patron Silver, watermelon juice, lime, agave and basil syrup; and the Aventura, a mix of The Lost Explorer Espadin, Grand Marnier, St Germain elderflower, lime, lemon and raspberries.

In addition to cocktails, plus a hefty list of tequila and agave in general — including a focus on small-batch mezcals — Carmen boasts Coronas, naturally, plus a premium wine list ready for the swilling. Australian vinos get ample attention, as do New Zealand, French and Italian drops.

Food-wise, patrons can tuck into poached lobster tacos, Mexican popcorn chicken, charred corn rillettes, kingfish ceviche with fermented pineapple and wagyu steak crudo tostaditos, as well as dulce de leche cheesecake and Patron tequila sorbet. Other dishes also glean their influences from elsewhere around the world, as seen with Sydney rock oysters and beef short rib rendang.

Seafood is a big feature, as tends to be the trend no matter what style of cuisine is on offer in Brisbane. Also, sustainability is a hefty focus across both the food and drinks spread. Carmen is working towards a zero-waste cocktail list, setting itself a goal to achieve waste-free tipples — but launching with a menu that's as close as possible in the interim.

Images: Fortem Media.

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