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By Jasmine Crittenden
April 26, 2019
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Chica Bonita CBD

Refined Mexican fare in a stunning restaurant on Clarence Street.
By Jasmine Crittenden
April 26, 2019
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At 156 Clarence Street in the CBD, you'll find a cluster of award-winning hospitality venues: Baxter InnDuke of Clarence and the Barber Shop. And in March, one more opened its doors. Chica Bonita CBD is the sister venue to Manly's much-loved neighbourhood eatery, which has been serving up Mexican street food since 2012.

It's a distinct change in scenery. With 100 seats inside a high-ceilinged heritage-listed building on Clarence Street, Chica Bonita CBD is twice the size of — and worlds away from — the original diner on The Corso. What's not different is Chica Bonita's laidback feel. Or its fish tacos. Or its margaritas.

Different from the usual Mexican-inspired decor of bright colours, skulls and flowers, the space has an earthy colour that is subtle and calming, with pot plants adding pops of greenery. On walking in, you'll notice a central spine of free-standing tables and chairs, and, against one wall, a row of comfortable booths.

Heading the kitchen is Mexican chef Alejandro Huerta, who trained under Enrique Olbera at Pujol in Mexico City, which was last year ranked the number 13 restaurant in the World's 50 Best. You can still tuck into fish tacos with baja sauce, cabbage, coriander and lime but, Huerta, who grew up with a mother and grandmother who loved to cook, has also brought in some dishes of his own.

Smaller plates include baby corn with fermented chilli mayo, queso fresco and cacao, an oaxaca cheese and saltbush tamale and a kingfish ceviche tostada loaded with avocado, sea banana and finger lime. To share, there's mole pork belly with fermented kale and charcoal king prawns with chipotle and arbol chilli. For something sweeter, we recommend the fresh and simple fresas con crema — strawberries with vanilla cream, biscuit crunch and walnuts.

Drinks wise, grab Chica Bonita's legendary jalapeño margarita, a mezcal sour or choose from a next level international wine list.

Images: Kitti Gould.

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