Bad day in the office? A cellar full of tequila will sort that right out
The CBD is all about the dedicated spirit bar. On any given day the Barber Shop is slinging more types of gin that you have digits, Lobo Plantation and Papa Gedes have a monopoly on the rum trade and all your whisk(e)y needs are safe in the hands of Baxter Inn and those Ramblin Rascals. Now it’s tequila’s turn to colonise an inner-city bunker of its own.
First, pour out a little Mezcal for Spice Cellar, the lost home of a late-night knees up. But don't grieve too much – the booze they’re packing behind the bar at its replacement is the good stuff. This isn’t the place for a wine odyssey; agave-based spirits are the centrepiece and they are what the staff know best. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool whisky drinker, it’s worth checking out the Mezcals that feature some of the smoky qualities you love in an Islay dram. Treat yourself to a nip of the Bruxo No.2 Pechuga. It may be $17 a go but this earthy, almost savoury Mezcal has been distilled with a meat offering for the gods – perhaps that means you get a pass on a hangover?
Forget your usual after work special and order a Tommy’s Margarita where liquor, acid and agave sweetness all pull their weight. Or try an Espresso Martini made with white tequila, dark rum, cacao liqueur and chilled espresso – it’ll pick you up and lay you flat in one boozy, nutty, frothy cocktail. If nothing on the menu is speaking to you, ask the bar for a Francis. It’s a house recipe workshopped with a regular at Barrio Chino – their flagship operation on Bayswater Road – and it involves Nuestra Soledad tequila, elderflower liqueur and fresh lime juice with a chilli salt rim. This cocktail fears neither acid nor smoke, and we are totally on board with that.
If you’re in need of a buffer for all that go-go juice, the burger is just the ticket. We know. It sounds weird to recommend a burger in an ostensibly Mexican cellar bar, but they add jalapeños, chimichurri mayo and chipotle mustard to the recipe to give it a flavour upgrade.
On the snack front the chicharron here are the super puffy, packing peanut-shaped kind, rather than the crisp pork rinds you might expect from your Sunday roast. If you’re rolling with vegos, a dose of guac and chips chased with a soft taco packed with juicy slices of Portobello mushroom and two types of melted cheese will hit the spot.
Early in the evening it's unclear if the vibe is meant to be restaurant or bar. The cool, tiled interior suggests bar, but they do reserve tables, so a little guidance for newcomers wouldn’t go astray. Or just clock off early to secure one of the black booths or a spot on the giant dining table beneath a flock of chandeliers.
The lockout laws may have claimed another scalp when Spice Cellar upped stumps for Erskineville, but we remain a city with a ferocious love of an after-work drink. So if an underground club is going to be reincarnated as anything, it might as well be a tequila bunker with a spiced-up burger and an Espresso Martini that makes an excellent case for day drinking. Lucky they open for lunch on Fridays.
|Venue name:||Barrio Cellar|
58 Elizabeth St
|Opening hours:||Mon, Tue 4pm-midnight; Wed, Thu 4pm-3am; Fri noon-3am; Sat 5pm-3am|