Ask Neil Perry what he thinks about Sydney’s Mexican food scene and the Rockpool Dining Group culinary director is brutally honest. “It’s heavy, there’s lots of Tex-Mex stuff and it doesn’t often taste fresh and light, not at all like real Mexican food.”
Perry says Sydney’s newest Mexican restaurant, Bar Patrón by Rockpool, is the antithesis of that: authentic, not carb-heavy and every dish won’t be covered in guacamole. “I really love Mexican food,” he says. “I’ve been cooking it at home for a long time, and if you look back at my cookbooks and at my Good Weekend columns, it’s really what I like to eat at home. I like the freshness of it … there’s the acidity through lime, the freshness through coriander, and plenty of herbs.”
Bar Patrón by Rockpool, as the name implies, is a collaboration between the Rockpool Dining Group – Australia’s largest restaurant and dining company – and one of the world’s most recognisable tequila brands, Patrón Tequila.
This is the first restaurant and bar collaboration the brand has undertaken, and it has created a number of bespoke tequilas for the bar to serve. There’s rare and limited-edition tequilas, and five “barrel-select” tequilas. The idea is that, for everyone who loves a Negroni or an Old Fashioned, there’ll be a tequila-based alternative available.
The signature cocktail, however, is the “Millionaire Margarita”. Made tableside, it features Patrón Gran Burdeo Extra Anejo (that’s available for $85 a shot), Grand Marnier Cuvee de Cent Cinquantenaire, Remy Martin Louis XIII, fresh pressed agave nectar, freshly squeezed lime juice and an ice sphere topped – of course – with gold leaf.
Perry says Bar Patrón is the kind of place you can have a light business lunch, a Margarita and a bowl of salsa, or supper at 1am. In fact, he’s hoping the venue becomes a go-to for Sydney’s hospitality crowd as it has a 5am license. Thursday to Saturday night there will be a revolving line-up of DJs.
The venue is in the former Café Ananas site in Circular Quay (before that Café Nice), and was given a face-lift by Rockpool’s “go-to guy” Grant Cheyne (Rockpool, Jade Temple, Burger Project, Spice Temple, Rockpool Bar & Grill) to capture the relaxed vibrancy of a Mexican hacienda. The horseshoe bar is no longer there, now it’s made of Carrara marble and runs the length of the window. Pull up a leather stool and take in the views of Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay.
Pamela Valdes is running the kitchen. Before that she was at Rosetta and, prior to that, Xalapa, in the Mexican port city of Veracruz, her hometown. She’ll be making made-to-order tortillas; ceviches; aguachiles (prawns in a citrus, chilli and coriander dressing); Mexico’s sandwich equivalent, the tosta; and a selection of tamales, which Perry is a recent convert to.
“I’ve eaten tamales all around the world and to be honest, every time I’ve eaten them, I’ve sort of wondered, ‘Why do people eat these things?’ Then Pam made me a tamale and I was like, ‘wow’,” he says.
Asked what he hopes the venue will offer, he says: “We really just want to make great tortillas and fantastic salsas. I think then everything else will look after itself. It’s a beautiful foundation and gorgeous, fresh food. That’s what we’re most excited about.”
Bar Patrón by Rockpool
2 Phillip Street, Sydney
(02) 9259 5624
Mon to Sun 12pm–late
This article was updated on March 17, 2018.