Is this Sydney’s best Mexican food?

The Thirsty Travellers are calling it: Esteban serves some of the most delicious Mexican food we’ve tasted in Sydney.

After trying Esteban’s sister restaurant – Tequila Mockingbird, in Paddington – a few years ago, we finally got the chance to take a seat at the bar of the team’s new venue after being thwarted by lockdown.

The food menu showcases authentic regional dishes and traditional Mexican cooking techniques, incorporating a modern Australian twist. Each element is made in house – including the soft corn tortillas, which are made fresh every day.

As we wandered up to Temperance Lane to dine at the atmospheric former printing shop on a recent Friday night, a live mariachi band playing “Tequila!” It was the perfect introduction to the atmospheric space.

The venue includes an upper-tier restaurant, a basement taqueria and alfresco seating. The lower level featurwes booths and banquette seating. Upstairs is a dining room with floor-to-ceiling Mexican murals by famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera.

We’d booked a table outside, but the weather app predicted 100% rain, so we’d risk managed a few days earlier and swapped for a seat at the bar. The rain didn’t appear, but it was lots of fun to watch the four or five bartenders constantly shake up cocktails, sometimes two at the same time! 

Esteban also has the largest selection of tequila and mezcal in Australia, from sweet and citrusy Blancos to smokey, barrel aged Anejos.

We weren’t sure how to match our food with our spirits, so we turned to Patrón Brand Ambassador Joseph Chisholm for advice.

“Both Esteban and Patrón are built on values of quality, authenticity and tradition, this is evident in not only the food but also your experience when visiting Esteban,” he said. “Esteban is well known for its delicious, authentic regional dishes and traditional Mexican cooking techniques; Patrón is exclusively produced in the Highlands of Jalisco, in the same small batches and with the same commitment to quality and craftsmanship as when it was first crafted.”

Chisolm said the secret to pairing food at Estaban with tequila is all about finding flavours to complement or contrast the dish or the spirit. Silver tequila pairs well with seafood or light vegetable dishes, for the more aged tequilas like Reposado or Añejo the secret would be to choose smokey flavours to match the tequila – such as the Smokey Beef Shank Taco or the Fire Grilled Mooloolaba Banana Prawn Taco.

“You can’t really go wrong at Esteban but if you are looking for the perfect pairing or interested in learning more about the wide range of tequila and mezcal available, be sure to take a seat at the bar and chat to sommelier/tequilier Mark Crawford [above]. He has a wealth of knowledge and banter to match.”

The food at Esteban was divine, we nibbled on delicious morsels including Mooloolaba Prawn Tacos with tomatillo crema, salsa mexicana and cilantro served on a yellow corn tortilla; grilled ocotopus served with with chile de arbol & green olive raisin purée; chorizo tostaditas with smoked butter bean puree, pickled onion and mahon anejo; and Byron Bay pork belly & crackling with tomatillos, micro salad and crema ranchera.

Our cocktails were equally moreish. We chose a Margarita with Patrón Silver and The Smithy – hibiscus-infused Patron Blanco with Domaine De Canton, granny smith apple and lime.

Both were sensational matches to our delicious food.

Chisolm’s favourite signature Patrón cocktail to enjoy at Esteban is The Tequila Mockingbird, named after its sister venue in Paddington.

“The flavours of Patrón Silver, St Germain elderflower liqueur, jalepeños, cucumber, lemon and agave combine to create a truly delicious cocktail,” he said. “The cucumber adds a light and fresh flavour while the jalepeño adds a mild yet addictive heat that keeps you coming back for more.”

Esteban, 1 Temperance Lane, Sydney NSW 2000

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