Chef Alejandro Huerta doesn’t want Comedor, Australia Street’s new restaurant, to be pigeon-holed as Mexican – but the influences are unmistakable.

Huerta’s captaining the kitchen, after driving the taco offering at Paddington's El Primo Sanchez and a stint at Glebe wine bar No. 92 (you may have also seen him diving into at-home Mexican cuisine as a regular guest on The Cookup with Adam Liaw). Kieran Took (ex-Tio’s, Big Poppa’s) developed the drinks and is running the venue, which opens tomorrow, July 10.

“The restaurant isn’t just about Mexican food,” Huerta tells Broadsheet. “Asian and Australian ingredients feature heavily on the menu, but I’m passionate about Mexico; I love my culture and my memories of growing up there.”

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Food was a big part of Huerta’s upbringing and Comedor’s menu features plenty of dishes from family recipes. The serve of Goldstreet Dairy jersey cheese – by ex-Poly chef Colin Wood – riffs on the queso-and-salsa dish his mum often made when he got home from school. “Goldstreet is the best cheese I’ve ever tasted. We grill it until it’s caramelised and charred and finish it with salsa roja and nopales plus fresh jalapenos and lime.”

The mole takes inspiration from his grandmother’s recipe. “It’s really close to my heart. I make it from scratch, roasting the ingredients, using Mexican chocolate. It’s got 25 components, which sounds crazy. We serve it with squash and zucchini flower, and we encourage people to order tortillas to mop up the sauce.”

An important part of dining at Comedor is the comida corrida – which in Mexico means “menu of the day”. The three-course chef’s menu changes weekly, not daily, and it’s available at lunchtime only at an approachable $35 per person.

Huerta keeps the price down by using produce in its entirety. “Next week we’re doing a pasta in a corn miso made from leftover corn in other dishes. There are some peas, and a beautiful pork from Whole Beast Butchery cooked over coals. Leftover chillis are pickled and turned into jam. It’s about being creative and not wasting, working with seasonal ingredients.”

Took worked closely with the food menu when curating the list of wines and cocktails. “Typically you have cocktails before or after the meal, but these cocktails have a lot of ground spices and nuts, and earthy tones,” Huerta says. “They’re designed to drink while you’re eating.”

Take the Raicilla Fresca. The spritz is made from cold-pressed strawberry juice, cucumber and Raicilla Estancia – an agave spirit that’s “halfway between tequila and mezcal” – and it goes well with the crudo and the kingfish tostada. The Margarita Fuego, with habanero and mandarin, is the perfect pairing for Huerta’s mole.

Inside a 100-year-old warehouse on Australia Street, just a few blocks away from King and backing onto Camperdown Park in Newtown, Comedor is truly a neighbourhood space. The central marble countertop of the bar extends to the open kitchen, where Huerta and his team can be seen at work. White-topped tables are arranged around curved natural wood banquets, and the exquisite original timber beams vaulting the high ceilings preside over the dining room.

Although the feel is unmistakably upmarket – the suave fit-out is by Welsh & Major – Huerta and Took want it to feel similar to a friend’s home.

“In Mexico a comedor is a dining table that friends or family would gather around,” Huerta says. “The restaurant is beautiful, but we don’t want it to be pretentious or scary. This is a place to welcome the neighbourhood with good food and good drinks.”

Comedor
182 Australia Street, Newtown

Hours:
Wed to Sat midday–10pm
Sun midday–5pm

comedor.sydney
@comedor.newtown