When you arrive at the address of El Topo Cantina, you might wonder if you’re in the right place. The Warwick Farm precinct in Sydney’s southwest is the home of El Toro Motor Inn, and next to that is a motorcycle wrecker in an industrial park.
Walk down a breezeway next to the inn and you’ll find an outpost of Goodtime Burgers and most recently, El Topo Cantina, a sister restaurant to the popular Bondi eatery moved in.
“I think the Liverpool area is going to be the next big spot,” says executive chef Marc Cartwright. “Colin Fassnidge (4Fourteen) is setting up down the road. There’s lots going on.”
Cartwright is a skilled chef who has Quay on his CV. Cartwright held a series of seven tastings before opening. There were examples of Tex-Mex, authentic Mexican and experimental cooking techniques. “I enjoy the challenge of involving the community and giving them what they like,” he says.
The resulting menu isn’t quite Tex-Mex, nor is it authentic Mexican. “We inject a lot of modern techniques into a Tex-Mex menu,” he says.
“We found that if we tried to honour the region, people weren’t really bothered about it,” says Cartwright. “First and foremost they want a delicious meal, and if that means using ingredients that are a bit different, that’s what we did.”
Some dishes like the coconut-crumbed avocado taco with tart pico de gallo salsa can also be found on El Topo Bondi’s menu. But there are more new dishes than borrowed ones. The beef taco with salty, crumbly queso fresco (white cows milk cheese) is made with beef cheeks braised for 12 hours in red wine and habanero chillies.
Forty types of tequila are behind the bar, and every cocktail features a version of that smoky spirit. For the classic Margarita, El Topo Cantina infuses tequila with jalapenos. There’s also a Largarita, which is a Margarita served with a “Coronita” (little Corona) bottle overturned in the drink.
The decor takes inspiration from Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography and there’s the occasional portrait of Frida Kahlo. It celebrates the colourful textiles of Mexican folk art, and there are with mid-century modern elements in the furniture and light fixtures.
El Topo Cantina
6 Homepride Avenue, Warwick Farm
(02) 9602 7077
Mon to Tue 5pm–10pm
Wed to Thu, Sun 12pm–10pm
Fri to Sat 12pm–11pm