You won’t find guacamole or nachos on the menu at Esteban. And lick-sip-sucking salt, lemon and tequila? It’s discouraged. Instead, you’ll find mezcals and tequilas (for sipping, not shots) and dishes from across Mexico, inspired by a research trip taken by owners Mark Crawford and Michael Fegent, the team behind Paddington’s Tequila Mockingbird.
A 400-kilogram acid-aged steel door, custom-made by Byron Bay artist Daniel Heapy, leads from Temperance Lane into the split-level venue; a heritage-listed former print shop. Upstairs is the kitchen and restaurant, furnished in dark wood, leather and copper. Guests can sit in booths and on banquettes, and there’s a hidden chef’s table too.
Though the menu takes in all the various influences on Mexican cuisine – from the Indigenous Mayans and Aztecs, to the Portuguese and Spanish – it also makes the most of native Australian ingredients and locally sourced produce. Meat and vegetables are cooked over an ironbark-fuelled parrilla grill, and tortillas are made in-house with a press imported from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Those tortillas are put to use in tacos al pastor – with pork cooked on a charcoal-powered vertical rotisserie – as well as prawn tacos with tomatillo and salsa. Other menu highlights include fire-roasted whole calamari from South Australia; market fish with cabbage puree and charred salsa verde; and a one-kilogram Wagyu rib-eye from Perry Family Farm. For dessert, it might be a riff on the Pina Colada featuring coconut mousse, pineapple sorbet, granita and charred pineapple rum salsa.
The downstairs bar is inspired by New York underground drinking dens. A cabinet holds the bar’s extensive tequila and mezcal selection, including Clase Azul Reposado, which comes in at $300 a shot. There’s also a focus on fun and fast cocktails and an extensive selection of new and old-world wines.
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