The Tequila Mockingbird team's two-storey Mexican restaurant is home to Australia's biggest collection of premium tequila and mezcal.
Paddington favourite Tequila Mockingbird brought its South American and Mexican flare to the CBD when it opened the doors to its pop-up restaurant, Tequila on York. That was then replaced by a more permanent Mexican spot called Esteban. The multi-level venue is split into three distinct offerings: an upstairs restaurant, a downstairs mezcal bar and a laneway dining space.
In the kitchen, Executive Group Chef John Frid is plating up Mexican share plates created using traditional cooking techniques, but with sustainably sourced Aussie produce. Corn tortillas are made in-house daily, while the custom-built parilla grill and vertical charcoal rotisserie have been installed to turn out the likes of tacos al pastor ($9 each) and ironbark-grilled chicken mole ($36).
Other specialties served in the upstairs restaurant include kingfish ceviche ($23) with watermelon sorbet, chile verde and fried plantain; wattleseed-rubbed duck breast ($34) with yellow chilli peppers; and a massive one-kilogram rib eye ($160), paired with a salsa flight or porcini butter.
Meanwhile, in the the basement bar and alfresco dining area, it's all about the street food — with tacos, ceviche and tortas on offer from lunch straight through until late (five days a week). Alongside the tacqueria-style menu is an emphasis on mezcal and tequila, with a roving trolley pouring drops for patrons throughout the night.
To combine a bit of both, punters can opt for Esteban's taco tasting flight ($29), which will feature three mini cocktails paired with three tacos: wagyu beef tartare with the spicy Martine on Fire, the prawn cocktail with a paloma and the Tasmanian salmon ceviche with the signature Tequila Mockingbird cocktail.
Designed by Sydney architects Humphrey & Edwards (Barangaroo House), the space takes inspiration from the underground basement bars of Mexico City, as well as 1930s art deco buildings. The heritage aspects of the building have also been preserved, including its exposed sandstone walls, high archways and existing timber beams.
Upstairs, expect the intimate 45-seater to boast an open kitchen with counter seating, as well as a floor-to-ceiling mural created by Sydney artist Nanami Cowdroy. Other artworks include hand-painted and beaded bottles, which have been crafted in Oaxaca.
In the basement, you'll find leather booths and banquettes, plus a granite bar top and custom-built timber cabinets to hold all of that distilled agave. The bar claims to be home to the largest collection of mezcal and tequila in Australia. On the way in, take a closer look at the 400-kilogram front door, which was created from acid-aged steel by Byron Bay artist Daniel Heapy.
Images: Steven Woodburn