It’s no secret that Sydney’s having a bit of a love affair with Mexican food. And by bit, we mean a lot.
If you’re having trouble separating the Tex from the Mex, have no fear, Mr Moustache is here to set you straight.
There is a reason he calls himself the “real” Mexico.
From the moment you step through the door at Mr Moustache the contrast between the rich and the poor classes and the raw and the refined facades that Mexico is characterised by smacks you in the face like a burst of piquín chilli powder*. To your left is a bright pink corner-kitchen. Street food steams off the hob and a medley of low, bright-blue stools watch on as the cooks work the knobs. It bustles with the life of a busy kitchen cantina and hawker-style curbside eating and invites passersby on the narrow walkway to witness your night’s culinary adventure at their own whim.
Nothing is sacred here. Nothing is private.
And then you walk a little further in, away from the street characters and into the sanctum of the bistro (small restaurant) and all becomes calm.
To your right is Australia’s most extensive mezcal bar. Long and glam, it comes decked with a 75-strong library of shiny mezcal bottles, each stretching their necks up to a pearly white ceiling. High, black bar stools abound in an orderly fashion and light dances off mirrors framed in gold.
The men behind the bar are dressed in button-up shirts and while not all sport moustaches (our bartender tells us “it’s encouraged, but not enforced”) they’re more than happy to oblige the youthful clientele’s tendency to over-order cocktails.
Here’s a few things you should know when visiting the man with the moustache.
The vibe: Loud, young and energetic.
Ideal for: A long night of chatting with the bartender.
Bartender's choice: The Cloud People, $18
Try the...esquites, $7
By the way...the crowd moves quickly, so be patient and you’ll get a table - promise!
Find them on Facebook: Mr Moustache
We’re not judging. As we edge our way over the bar, dazzled by the glitz of the cocktail list, we’re inclined to do the same.
Those who were there when Mr Moustache flung open its doors on November 24, 2013 may remember him shaking and stirring a generous selection of 14 cocktails. Four months in and that count is up to 32. “He’s ambitious,” says our bartender of Mr Moustache’s main mixologist, Mike Tomasic. “The number of cocktails is only bound to increase.”
On the upside, this means more cocktails for us. On the downside, it means... more cocktails for us. Naturally, we order more cocktails.
Of the veterans, our pick for the warm Bondi Beach-worthy day is Mary Jane. She’s a fresh, summer mix of Nuestra Soledad San Baltazar, Calle 23 Blanco, fresh lemon, cucumber and Habanero agave, is named after Rick James’ song and is just as cool. Of the newborns, we’re nursing The Cloud People, which is a reference to the Chachapoya people – a tribe of warriors believed to have lived in the Andean cloud forest. It’s a smooth chile ancho-infused Nuestra Soledad San Baltazar mezcal with fresh lime, pineapple and amber agave nectar and a smoked fleur de sel (sea salt) rim. It’s the only chilli-based concoction on offer, but as we sit there licking the salt, harmonising it with the chili, we doubt that’ll be the case for long.
Don’t let the Tex-Mex amalgamation of chilli con carnes and fajitas mislead you – tonight’s tumble into the heart of Mexico is all about share-worthy veggie-laden tapas dusted in chilli powders guaranteed to make your eyes water in the best possible way.
There are nachos, but not as we know it. Housed under the name guacamole it’s clear what the centrepiece of this dish is. Fresh avocado, (smashed, not blended) with lemon juice and pico de gallo (uncooked salsa) beg to be dipped into with corn and beetroot chips and washed down with a mezcal mixer.
Those who care to spice things up can lick their lips around one of Mr Moustache’s traditional salsas. Warning: this place doesn’t scrimp on hot tamale or pander the mild Australian palate like others do. This, my Mexican-loving friends, is the real, hot and heavy deal. You have two choices here. One: You could ask your waitress for the lowdown on which is mild (serrano) and which packs a punch (habanero); or two: you could play salsa roulette and test them all blindly. We opt for the latter and you should too. It’s more fun that way, no?
Once you’ve re-discovered your tastebuds (Mr Moustache says the secret to "handling the heat" is in the breathing) there’s a wealth of tacos, tostaditas and ceviches to share with your cocktail swilling table. But we’ve chosen to continue the street food graze on the platitos page – because, you know, we can.
If you’re sitting bar-side, try one of the fresh seafood plates for size. If you’re kitchen-side however, yours has to be an order of esquites. Served in a shot glass, it’s Mexico’s go-to street eat, made of layers of char-grilled corn kernels, white corn, mayo and fresco cheese and punched up with a sprinkling of piquín chilli powder*.
What can we say? (Real) Mexicans like it hot.
*For an idea of how hot a piquín pepper is, it’s hotter than a jalapeño, but milder than a habanero. It’s also Mr Moustache’s spice of choice.
Address: 61 Hall Street, Bondi Beach
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 5pm-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, Sunday 12pm-10pm