CALAVERAS MEXICAN is a non stop fiesta (for dinners only haha) in Newtown, Sydney. I have been to quite a few Mexican restaurants in the last couple of years and Calaveras definitely wins the award for most festive and bright. I was a lucky hombre, they invited me in with a group of my foodie friends to experience the fun.
CALAVERAS MEXICAN VENUE:
CALAVERAS MEXICAN is located next to the train station at Newtown, above the landmark Bank Hotel. It is an upstairs venue and it can get quite hot in summer and it stays quite warm in winter, it is well suited for margarita drinking. From the moment you arrive at the staircase you will become aware of the festive nature of the venue.
Everywhere you look is a colourful wall hanging, a candy skull, with the correct term being calavera, or something so bright you will need sunglasses. Calavera translates to “representation of the human skull” so get excited you are dining at “Skull Mexican”. To make things even more festive grab one of the many sombreros lying around and really embrace it.
If I had kids we would be eating here regularly and if I lived in the area I would be downing a few to many Beer-Garitas and stumbling home.
It gets packed and plays hosts to singles, couples, corporates, friends and families, a true fun allrounder and something quite different for the Newtown area. I wish I had known about it sooner.
I got quite excited, I wasn’t driving for this review and was getting an Uber home, the cocktails could free flow down my throat. Founder and owner, Gerardo Macip and a lot of his staff are of Mexican heritage and the venue embraces the traditional cantina theme. As such these Mexicans know how to drink and their bar menu reflects this whole heartedly.
Their sangria is something I could drink by the jug, their margaritas are aplenty, they have a few to choose from and I kicked it off with a Lychee Laguna – Tequila fresh limes lychee juice, topped with a lychee. Subtle and refreshing and something I could bathe in on this monumental Sydney heatwave day. They offer three styles of Margarita and their Triple Sec Blood Orange Margarita is something that needs to be experienced.
I did not dive into single tequila drinks but speak to the staff, they have separate menus for the tequila and mezcal. Gerardo has been collecting unique tequila and mezcal bottles since his first restaurant in Surry Hills, Agave, and you will find these bottles all over the venue.
And if having drinks at Calaveras you MUST try the Beer-Garita, just scroll down for the pic, a Margarita with an upside-down Corona in it – BLOODY AMAZING – just don’t lift that Corona bottle too soon and do it SLOWLY haha.
The food at Calaveras Mexican, or more so everything that we ate, was share based. I would highly recommend making it more a tapas style dining experience with lots of drinks. The place is perfect for long early dinners, having enjoyable drinks and oodles of sporadic snacks.
We kicked it off with a regular starter, Guacamole served with Blue Cornchips. The corn chips were like little patches of crunch corduroy and they were sensational. And that guac was a perfect start, we could have eaten a few more bowls of this. I would go so far as to say top three guacs of all time.
Following the guac came the Ceviche de Pescado. Fresh fish slowly cured in lime juice brought together with their authentic pico de gallo salsa and served on crispy corn tortillas. Honestly one of the best ceviches I have had. Fresh and zesty, it was as bright as the venue’s decor.
Next up was the Al Pastor, The Al Pastor is a pulled pork guajillo taco topped with pineapple, coriander and onion. Al Pastor is the most popular taco in Mexico and the most popular at Calaveras also. This was a salivating combo of savoury pulled pork with a nice hint of heat, a heat that is made subtle by the sweet pineapples. A delicious taco and a table favourite of the night!
THE FUN FOOD KEPT ON COMING:
The food and the fun kept on rolling out and there is something about Mexican food that makes it a perfect thing to share and drink with. That little hint of heat in nearly every dish, the zest pop of flavours and the accompaniment of a crispy taco or a soft taco or a quesadilla, every dish has a serving food with it. Mexican night at home was so much fun – all the separate dishes on the table for make your own taco nights, families made the fortune of El Paso back in the day?
We then had the rest of the taco styled dishes placed on the table together. The Tostaditas de Pollo was another delicious meal. Marinated chicken strips drizzled with salsa verde, topped with feta on hand made crispy tortillas with a touch of Guacamole. Perfection, I would eat this any day of the week.
But it got better – the Huitlacoche y Hongos was my fave, they had me at the word truffle. Sautéed black corn truffle with mixed grilled veggies and mozzarella. Damn it – vegetarian haha, I love the veggie meals so much lately and this was no exception. Incredibly flavoursome and quite different from the other taco meals.
Next up was a fresh jug or two of sangria and the Fajita de Pollo. Achiote marinated chicken strips, guacamole, rice, sour cream and flour tortillas. The flavours in this were delightful with a nice hit of heat from the peppery sweet achiote. This was more like the home Mexican dishes I remember, scoop your own on to your tortillas, roll it up, devour and repeat. Paired with sangria this was close to perfection.
And then the food blogstagramming mafia went and lost their shit over the Queso Fundido. Just WOW – this dish took cheese porn and knocked it out of the park. A bed of pinto beans with bacon bits covered in mozzarella, baked in a traditional Mexican clay pot topped with smokey chorizo in a tomato chilli jam, served with flour tortillas. This had to win dish of the night for its sheer theatrics, never mind how bloody tasty it was. We took more pics of this dish on the night than all the other dishes combined. The above shot of the cheese lift is only about two thirds of how far we could stretch it – but I couldn’t get it all in the one shot. This dish is the total shiz – ensure you eat it if visiting.
The traditional fun food dishes and festive nature of CALAVERAS MEXICAN is what makes this venue so enjoyable. Whether it is families, friends, work colleagues or even yourself alone I can see you having fun at this place. The staff were happy, friendly, knowledgeable and efficient and it was an honour to dine in Gerardo’s passion venue. The walls are lined and made with love as is the food and OMFG I love Beer-Garitas.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
Calaveras Mexican Deets:
PH: (02) 8317 4888
Tue & Wed: 6pm – 11pm
Thur: 5pm – 11pm
Fri & Sat: 5pm – 12am
Sun: 530pm – 10pm
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.