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Casa Esquina Is Balmain's Friendly New Argentinian Restaurant From the Tequila Mockingbird Team

Affordable midweek meals, whole suckling pig, South American wines, and a Fernet-Branca and Coke cocktail — they're all on offer in the former Efendy space.
By Ben Hansen
February 13, 2024
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By Ben Hansen
February 13, 2024
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While the Sydney CBD is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the lockout laws and Western Sydney just keeps getting better and better, the Sydney suburbs that might just be having the biggest hospo boom right now could be Balmain/Rozelle. The peninsular has welcomed back historic pubs and seen luxe French diners pop up — and now, Casa Esquina, a fresh Argentinian joint from the Tequila Mockingbird and Esteban team, is about to swing open its doors.

Opening on Thursday, February 15, the new arrival has taken over the historic Elliot Street space formerly occupied by Efendy and L'Unico. The focus here is flame-grilled feeds, with Head Chef Will Quartel and Atticus Hospitality Director Michael Fegent perfecting the art of the char during their time traveling through Argentina and cooking in the Australian outback.

The kitchen at Casa Esquina is built around a huge open-flame parrilla grill, while out in the courtyard you'll find a barbecue spit — both of which will be firing on all cylinders, cooking high-quality meats and a variety of veggies. Torched bonito, pork chicharron, charcoal sweet potato and a variety of house sausages all grace the menu, alongside a sizeable steak selection ranging from tajima wagyu picanha to one-kilogram 60-day dry-aged angus ribeye. You can even order a whole suckling pig if you've got a spare $400 to splash.

There are plenty of enticing accompaniments to the flamed-grilled menu items. You can kick your meal off with oysters or beef tartare with caperberry and pickled mushroom; order a selection of empanadas including a kangaroo and maraschino cherry variety; and pair your mains with a rocket and watercress salad, Old Bay seasoned fried and fugazzeta, an Argentinian-style stuffed pizza.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the team will be prepping the courtyard barbecue during the day and serving street eats for locals who are after a quick midweek lunch. And, on Sundays a whole lamb or pig will be cooked on the parrilla grill, introducing a fresh element to the menu.

Atticus Hospitality's Paddington fave Tequila Mockingbird may have top-notch eats, but it's also known for its creative drinks menu, which the Group Bar Executive Mark Crawford has transferred over to Casa Esquina. There are plenty of nods to the group's first venue on offer, and you can even order the signature Tequila Mockingbird cocktail.

There are also a few new takes on Argentinian classics. The Fernet Royale is an ode to the Fernet-Branca and Coke, a mainstay in Argentina. Casa Esquina brings the combo to Balmain with the addition of Cynar, a secret Buenos Aires bitters blend and a charred Coca-Cola foam.

Head Sommelier Sophie Gitterle is in charge of the wines, with a big focus on Argentinian drops. Gitterle and Group Sommelier Chesterton Cook have been working with South American importers to craft a list that represents the area and acts as the perfect partner to the flame grill.

All of this is housed within a vibrant multi-space venue. Take your pick from the ground-floor dining room and courtyard, ground-floor bar, mezzanine private dining room/wine cellar, first-floor restaurant and shady al fresco balcony. Adding to the lived-in feel of the longstanding building is a pair of 80-year-old camphor laurel trees that grow through the balcony and shade the first-floor tables.

"Casa Esquina is a testament to the remarkable bones of the building, its beautiful courtyard and a salute to the lively community that surrounds it," says Fegent.

"Balmain is especially close to my heart — I'm a Balmain local, and my son goes to school here. I remember the old days when the area was pumping and I want to contribute to bringing that back — now is the time with Casa Esquina."

"The venue is elevated but approachable — a sophisticated take on Argentinian fire-cooked food but with a friendly, local and approachable vibe. We are putting a lot of emphasis on creating an offering where people can come in and have a well-priced meal on a Tuesday night or go all out on the weekend or for a special occasion — there's something for everyone!"

Casa Esquina is located at 79 Elliot Street, Balmain. It will open on Thursday, February 15. For more information and to make a booking, head to the restaurant's website.

Published on February 13, 2024 by Ben Hansen
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