Chica Bonita (which means “pretty girl” in Spanish) in Sydney’s city-centre may be the younger sister of one of Manly’s best-known and loved restaurants, but it is no less exciting and innovative.

Chef Alejandro Huerta has a talent for modernising classic Mexican food and marrying it with Australian ingredients. Take his nopales (“no-pah-lays”), or cactus. Huerta pickles the cactus and serves it with burrata and milk infused with lemon myrtle. Each bite offers a new flavour. First you get the tangy cactus, then the creamy burrata followed by the gentle lemon-infused milk.

The pork belly, slow-cooked and deep-fried until crisp, is served with molé, a famous and complex Mexican dish made by mixing chillies, nuts, seeds, vegetables and sometimes unsweetened chocolate. It comes with an incredible fermented kale and topped with slightly bitter warrigal greens.

There are also tacos. Highlights include the fish with creamy mayo, lime coriander and fresh cabbage, and the chorizo with potato, caramelised onion and queso fresco (a crumbly, feta-like cheese).

Huerta’s alegria (happiness) dessert, an amaranth and honey candy is a tribute to family has chocolate and vanilla, served on milk foam with puffed cereals and finished with candied orange peel.

At the Manly Chica Bonita, the drink of choice is a Margarita, but here the wine list is the real draw. It features drops from Mexico, California and Australia.

Updated: September 7th, 2020

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