Sitting smack bang in the middle of Kings Cross, on bustling Bayswater Road, sits Barrio Chino, a Taqueria and Tequileria that’s been looking after Sydneysider’s Mexican needs since 2011.
Part of the revolution that redefined Mexican cuisine from stodgy, full-of-melted-cheese tortillas to street food full of fresh flavours is Barrio Chino. It’s the latest venture from Peter Law and Nicole Galloway, the pair behind Potts Point’s chic Chinese restaurant, Fei Jai.
Occupying the space that previously held Darley Street Thai, Barrio Chino is split into two sections: the front bar and the restaurant. The bar features an impossibly long bar, lounge area, rustic timber ceilings, half-rendered walls with raw brick accents and industrial lighting. There, Anthony Grindrod and his team shake up cocktails, keeping with some of the classics from opening date designed by New York–based Naren Young. There are more than 100 tequilas to choose from, from pure blanco to lightly aged resposado and mature anejo and a selection of artisanal mezcal. Let the bartenders take you on a beverage-based adventure, working your way through the margaritas, sipping tequilas and sangrias on offer. If cocktails aren’t your thing, there’s also a small list of Spanish, South American and Australian wines, available by the glass and bottle.
Food is available at the bar, but there’s a whole space dedicated to the restaurant out the back including the covered terrace and the private dining rooms and cabinas. Bigger than you’d imagine, it’s filled with communal tables and wooden booths looking into an open kitchen. Start with guacamole and chips, and some BBQ corn on the cob to line the stomach, before moving onto one of the eight taco options. Sample the lightly battered baja fish and king prawns, mixed with a cumin-lime crema and cabbage; or the chipotle-beer braised chicken with crema, avocado and iceberg lettuce. Bigger stomachs can order the pollo achiote, a combination of achiote chicken, mole verde, arroz (rice with tomato and cumin), tomato salsa and pepitas with a side of crispy potatoes or spiced beans. Spice-savvy customers may want to take full advantage of Barrio Chino’s housemade salsas – much of the food is served mild.
Finish the Mexican immersion with a dessert – churros are served with salty dulce de leche and Ibarra Mexican chocolate with orange, and the Banana Snickers Chimmichanga comes with pistachio sponge, caramel ice cream, peanuts, coffee gel and cinnamon.
Joining the collection of Mexican restaurants dishing up fresh and fast street fare, Barrio Chino offers visitors to the Cross a viable food option on the infamous drinking strip. Designed to be washed down with a drink or two, the light and bright dishes will set you up for an excellent night out. Local djs running old school hip hop and classic tracks til 2am Friday and Saturday, you won’t even have to leave the building. Just don’t blame us for the tequila hangover the next day.