But this place isn’t about gimmicks from old Mexico way. The food here is serious – it’s definitely not your typical Tex-Mex joint. Food is inspired by the Oaxaca region in south west Mexico, so their seafood options are epic. The mosaics on the wall are bright and colourful, and they tell me, imported from Mexico. You’ll find this hidden gem on the third floor of the Eastern Hotel and after passing through the dark, sticky pub, it’s like arriving in a tropical oasis where the tequila flows fast.
The grub: I’m not exaggerating when I say the tacos ($5) are the best in town. And after chowing down on $3 tacos in just about every pub, diner and American dive bar in Sydney, I feel adept to make this call.
The cactus tacos with cabbage and roast pepper and tamarind mayo are to die for. Our waiter also tempted us with a daily special: the blood sausage taco – the most hardcore taco ever. As I said, seafood is where it’s at. Scallops ($16) are pickled in lime, chili and coriander, so they’re silky, mouth-watering and should be eaten straight from the jar they’re served in.
While the Octopus ($15) is so tender it falls apart in your mouth. It’s served with potato an pineapple vinegar.
Desserts are rich – doughnuts are the obvious crowd pleaser but the Smashed Flan ($14) with coconut, chocolate, hazelnut and caramel is an understated beauty.
Behind the bar: The bar staff know their tequila, and aren’t afraid to give you an individual masterclass. As you’d expect the Margaritas ($14) are spot on. You can choose between Cuervo or “illegal Mezcal”. Go the Mezcal if you want to knock your socks off. If you’re just here to drink, then a bowl of hand cut Tortilla Chips and Guacamole ($7) is probably wise.
Bill please: A little more expensive than your typical taco joint, but as I’ve mentioned, you’re playing with the Mexican big boys now, so it’s worth the few extra dollars. Go Sundays for the $10 cocktail jugs and live DJs from 3pm.
Verdict: El Topo is probably as close as you’re going to get to Mexico – and it’s only a short train trip away from the CBD.
Rooftop, The Eastern Hotel, 500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction eltopo.com.au
Image: Alex Harmon