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The 12 Best Latin Restaurants in Sydney

All that's missing is that bright, equatorial sun and a cool tequila cocktail in your hand.

By Anya Krenicki
May 31, 2012

The 12 Best Latin Restaurants in Sydney

All that's missing is that bright, equatorial sun and a cool tequila cocktail in your hand.

By Anya Krenicki
May 31, 2012

Put a little spice in your life with our list of the 12 best Central and South American restaurants in the city.

This is the cream of the crop as far as Latin food goes; you won't find a single sloppy taco in the midst. All that's missing is that bright, equatorial sun and a cool tequila cocktail in your hand.

1. Porteño

Where: 358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

This Argentinean barbeque has put Cleveland Street on the map, Lebanese restaurants aside. Quirky and retro, stepping inside Porteno is like entering a themed party. The staff members have donned their rockabilly garb. The fit out is impeccable. The crowd is young, hip and hungry. The focus, however, is still on the food and drinks, which surely won't disappoint. Find out more

2. Morena

Where: 5/425 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

Sitting at the fancier end of the spectrum, Morena offers Latin American fine dining with a strong lean towards Peruvian. Perhaps the nicest part about this restaurant is that fancy doesn't come at the price of fun. The dishes are playful, particularly in their presentation, and plates are generally served up with a cheeky grin. While South American food doesn't quite feel unfamiliar, this menu is still a bit of a challenge for first-time diners. It's the perfect opportunity to go all-out and try the 'Taste of Peru' degustation menu. Find out more

3. Boteco

Where: 421 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

A little out of place amongst Bollywood posters, the dimly lit bar de ‘petiscos’ (the Brazilian tapas equivalent) sits on the Indian stretch of Cleveland Street. The specials of the day are scrawled in colours on the blackboard walls whilst cheer-inducing Brazilian beats supply the soundtrack. You may be a little skeptical of cuisine from a country best known for its controversial hair-removal methods, but not to worry. Try the 'Lula Frita' or 'Brazilian Fry' and banish all of your doubts. Find out more

4. Jah Bar

Where: Shop 7, 9-15 Central Avenue, Manly

Take a typical tapas bar in Barcelona then polish slightly, adding cut crystal glasses and a pinch of Almodóvar references. Add one chef with a talent for experimentation, a selection of well-sourced, top notch ingredients and a crowd willing to stay all night, then mix well. Serve up atop a plate in the shape of a leaf, and you have Jah Bar: one of the best of Manly's new breed. Find out more

5. Barrio Chino

Where: 28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

As it turns out, there’s only one thing better than a pitcher of margarita – and that’s a margarita with cucumber, agave and jalapeno chilli salt.  The people responsible for these dangerously good concoctions (and for your 3-day hangover) are the owners of Barrio Chino, the newest thing in Mexican to hit the Cross. And don't expect any run-of-the-mill Mexi fare here, either. Find out more

6. La Paula

Where: 1/9 Barbara Street, Fairfield

Most of us are familiar with the wonderful empanada and the delightful churro (never mind heath food stores' obsession with quinoa), but this little Chilean bakery in Fairfield has much much more to offer. La Paula is full of plastic chairs and tables, white tiles, and Chilean pride everywhere. We're talking coloured streamers that stay up all year, flags, plastic streamers of flags, and Chilean television buzzing away at the end of the room. Soak it all up and munch on one of their to-die-for empanadas. Find out more

7. Bodega

Where: 216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

If you’re after some soggy patatas bravas and a sticky glass of sangria then Bodega may disappoint. In an area of Surry Hills once flocked with wholesale garment stores you’ll find quality Spanish food with style to burn. A series of small plates give you the best chance to pick your way through. You’ll kick yourself later if you don’t introduce yourself to the chorizo with soffrito or the sassy salad of silver beet, chickpea and fried cauliflower. Find out more

8. The Carrington

Where: 538 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

Tapas is only one small part of what the newly renovated Carrington has to offer. Instead, Pintxos and Xampanyerias are opening up a whole new world to patrons. And what exactly is a Pintxos, you ask? Pintxos are associated with the seasides of San Sebastian in northern Spain, the Basque equivalent of tapas which is typically served in bars. Stop in to sample from the vego and pescaterian friendly menu; it is definitely worth a visit. Find out more

9. Miss Marley's

Where: 31 Belgrave Street, Manly

Retro furniture sits scattered outside the doors of a discreet shopfront on Manly's Belgrave Street. Step inside, and you'll find yourself surrounded by silver patterned wallpaper, amber lampshades and a cosy atmosphere. At the far end of the room sits the bar, with a glowing wall of tequila bottles set behind it. Welcome to Miss Marley's. The cocktail options are dizzying, the Central and South American food is worth fighting for, and the tequila list would satisfy even the fussiest aficionado. Find out more

10. El Capo

Where: 52 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills

This ain't nice food. Taking the 'dude food' craze that one extra step, El Capo is delicious - but real nasty. In the best way possible, of course. Enjoy fare from the kitchen of ex-guerilla chef Omar Andrade, now ganging up with Joey Astorga, amidst the irreverent decor of El Capo. Tables are built up on what looks like stacks of American bank notes. The walls are adorned with graffiti from Numskull and Roach: guns, knives and a bikini clad woman with the head of a chicken. Find out more

11. Cantinero

Where: 18 Sydney Road, Manly

Something about Cantinero feels a little bit... illegal. It could be the fact that this is a coffee house by day, occupied by this underground crowd only in the late hours. Or it might be the makeshift film projector, which shows Mexican gangsters flickering across the back wall. Either way, we like it. The bunker atmosphere and a relaxed courtyard combine into something that feels like an Alice in Wonderland-style rabbit hole in the Manly landscape. Don't miss this authentically delicious Mexican food. Find out more

12. El Loco

Where: 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

El Loco is a temporary solution to the reinvention of this venue, a prequel to a fully blown Mexican restaurant. But we think the wild mishmash of this whirlwind transition is the best part about it. While there's a few options on the menu, this place is all about the soft tacos (all $5). Don't expect an entirely traditional offering, however. While this place is conceptually Mexican, the food's strength is its subtle Asian twist. Find out more

Published on May 31, 2012 by Anya Krenicki


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