Eat & Drink

This Funky New South American Restaurant Just Took Sydney’s Spice Alley To A New Level

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Neon lights, cuisine from around the world and a bustling street scene are all things I expect to find in many cities around Asia. Maybe even in Sydney’s Chinatown, but despite being a resident of Sydney for about four years now, I never expected it to be Kensington Street.

Excuse me but, when did the inner-city Sydney suburb of Chippendale get so cool?

In amongst the many Asian cuisines available to eat in this Bangkok-style street eatery, is the brand new Cartel, bringing a South American fusion cocktail bar and eatery into the mix.

Image: Provided / Cartel

The restaurant decor is so cute, giving off some very Aztec vibes. It’s a perfect balance between laid back, and uber chic, so you can really dress up or down depending on your occasion. The staff are also super friendly, and so enthusiastic about what they do, which makes eating their creations so much more exciting.

I’m going to be honest here, the entire review could just be one word: “yum”. You came here for business though, so I’ll continue.

Let’s start with the extensive cocktail list. The drinks menu was curated by international mixologist Grant Collins, who’s also responsible for Gin Lane and the W Bali, among others. The best way to describe the result is ‘creative’.

At first, we’re presented with a literal margarita tree. They don’t just rest on the old lime and salted rim, oh no. There are five options on the permanent menu, plus a rotation of new creations. We’re talking ideas like the “Chips & Dip” which lists cactus-infused tequila and guacamole as ingredients. I haven’t even gotten started on the rest of the cocktail list.

For the truly adventurous, you can find cocktails with classic Aztec ingredients like “chapulines” (grasshoppers) and “Sal De Gasano” (spiced worm salt).

Meanwhile the food, my god, the food. Chef Arnolfo Raimondi of Eastside Bar & Grill and Gavroche Chippendale put the menu together, using his time living in Panama and travelling South America to create a range of staples from around South and Central America with modern twists.

Image: Provided / Cartel

If you’ve ever read one of my other reviews you’ll know I’m a vego but, while there are plenty of non-veg options, that absolutely did not matter here. The menu is divided into four main categories: tacos, cevicheria, empanadas, tapas and dessert. Just give me the Maiz and Frijoles Negros empanada for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy.

The best part about the menu is that every individual order it small, so you can mix and match and try them all — which between my friend and I we just about did. I can skip the heirloom tomato cevicheria, but more of literally everything else please.

In summary, just go. You can book and see their full menu (except changing specials) on their website here.

The author dined as a guest of Cartel.

(Lead Image: Provided / Cartel)