South and Central America may be destinations high on your list, but unfortunately they’re not exactly nearby. Luckily, although it may be a few years behind its Italian or Japanese counterparts, Latin American cuisine has made quite a name for itself here. Here’s how to experience it all, in one day.
Start the day the Colombian way:
Start with breakfast at bustling Colombian Cafe Con Leche, owned by the Herrera family, with a menu rooted in generations of their own recipes. Opt for the Dirty Eggs – slow-cooked red beans, arepa paisa (Colombian flat bread made with ground maize), fried egg, guacamole and hogao sauce. Or, dive in head first with a breakfast soup such as the beef-based callo de costilla. Cafe Con Leche takes pride in its single-origin Colombian coffee, but those after a truly authentic experience should try the cafe’s signature hot chocolate, served with a slab of creamy queso blanco on the side – to dunk, or not to dunk? (Dunk).
Re-energise with the good stuff at Earth to Table:
For a mid-morning reboot that doesn’t involve coffee, head to raw vegan cafe Earth to Table in Bondi Junction where you’ll find the tastiest mate- based (pronounced mah-tay) drink this side of the Pacific. The vitamin-packed mate root – found in the Peruvian Andes and celebrated for its energising properties – is at its most delicious in cafe owner Julie Mitsios’ chocolate mate latte.
Chilean home cooking at La Paula:
Make your way to Chilean bakery La Paula come lunchtime. This unassuming local favourite is known for its home-cooked empanadas and dulce-de-leche-laced desserts. Family run for more than 30 years, the majority of the clientele and staff here speak Spanish first, English second, with regulars forming daily lines to pick up their fresh bread. Join the queue and order the empanada de carne loaded with beef, onion, olive, egg and spices, and finish with a warm, sugar-dusted churro.
Cocktail Time at Bridge St Garage Bar & Diner:
In need of a little pre-dinner aperitif? Bridge St Garage Bar & Diner’s cocktail list takes inspiration from North, Central and South America. “We’ve tried to create a selection that represents everything from 1920s New Orleans through to Cuba, Mexico and then right down into the South Americas,” says head barman Lee Williams. Although experimentation is this place’s game, the classics are not overlooked. “Caipirinhas are practically Brazil’s national drink, so that one never goes away,” says Williams. “The difference with ours is that we shake it with whole limes, rather than muddling with chunks – we find that gives a much smoother finish.”
Authentic Argentina at Porteño:
When it comes to dinner options, nobody does steak quite like the Argentinians, and Porteño is no exception. It has made a triumphant comeback earlier this year following a fire that temporarily closed the premises in 2014. The Sydney stalwart (which specialises in Argentinian parilla and asado cooked meats) draws in the crowds. Hearty meat dishes such as slow-cooked lamb and whole suckling pig sit alongside lavish sides perfect for sharing. Dishes are complemented by a standout wine list that will see even the best of intentions cast aside.
Sugar, Spice and All Things Mexican at Mr Moustache:
Save some room for the sweet stuff at Bondi bar and diner Mr Moustache. The Mexican street-food menu is impressive, but the real highlight is the desserts. Changing week to week, chef Leon Aguirre mixes traditional Mexican recipes with locally sourced produce from suppliers such as neighbouring Gelato Messina to produce unique and distinctive creations. Keep an eye out for the platanos machos, made with reduced plantain and Mexican agave nectar, served alongside Messina vanilla-bean ice cream.
Party at The Cuban Place:
The Cubans know how to throw a good party, so round off the night with a heady dose of beats and bolero at The Cuban Place. With a distinctly 1950s edge and a rum collection to rival The Black Pearl, here’s where to find the spirit of Havana in Sydney. Head down from Wednesday to Saturday and watch the pros cha-cha the night away to live music courtesy of the in-house band. A signature Mojito or two might even tempt you up there yourself.