Cantina Bar makes the grade as a watering hole alone, but additional casual grazing amps up the experience.
On Sydney's current form, it is no great surprise to see the Mexican bar revolution spread to an increasingly cosmopolitan Balmain. Enter Cantina Bar, Darling Street's version of the latin cuisine that has the harbour city at its mercy. Admittedly, this punter entered Tiger territory with a degree of intrigue, caution perhaps. Two hours later all hesitations had been put to bed. This bar is a cracker.
Cantina Bar is owned and run by the Singer brothers and judging on their other project, Rozelle's Corner Bar, the boys have a bit of hospitality nouse about them. The bar ticks all the boxes you'd want for a lazy post-work beer or squeamish first date; simple things that we want but won't likely find in the pokie tainted mega pubs of, say, Balmain.
The bar is, expectedly, a shop-width across and tastefully decked out in a polished-industrial spirit. The walls are adorned with day of the dead motifs, fake flowers and … a film that outdates any of the bar staff being projected onto a side wall. The crowd, a pleasant mix of suits and skateboarders, park around the bar or sit at the front tables; here, standing ain't really an option. After copping a gorgeous sunset through the front doors, the lighting is perfect and a few salsa tunes later and we're itching to consume.
Cocktails are the first order of the day. A 'pc'' fizz (gin, chamomile and grapefruit) and jalapeno margarita (both $16) take the edge off. The bar stocks a range of imported Mexican and Spanish beers ($8.50-$12) and boasts a decent wine list. The organic shiraz ($8.50 glass) comes with an ethical stamp of approval and is a delightful drop.
Cantina makes the grade as a watering hole alone, but some casual dining certainly amps up the experience. The lovely bar staff recommend the pulled pork sliders ($16), and they don't disappoint. These tasty suckers are culmination of explosive flavours in a bun-sized package that go beyond generic Tex-Mex. The build-it-yourself mini fish tacos ($16) are a nice little innovation and the cactus salad ($12) a buzzy way to say you've eaten cactus. And to cap off the night, the warm churros with chilli chocolate dipping sauce ($10) are more than worth the guilt.
Mexican bars may have usurped Irish pubs for the themed drinking throne, but it's a hard formula to complain about when well executed. Cantina Bar is certainly a welcome addition to the cartel and will deservedly pack out with Balmain locals and tourists after a few drinks and a mean feed.