A stunning new restaurant called Londres 126 has opened in Sydney’s stylish new dining hub Quay Quarters, near Circular Quay.
Named after one of the most iconic home addresses in Mexico City – renowned artist, Frida Kahlo – it’s the latest creation by Milpa Collective.
Established in 2017 by Mexican-born chef Pablo Galingo Vargas and Chilean co-owner Liber Osorio, Milpa Collective’s mission is to elevate the lens of Australian dining culture with flavours of Mexican and Latin American cuisine.
The restaurant’s fit-out is a long way from the garish colour of other Sydney cantinas, it features plush banquettes, dark wood panelling and a stylish tiled floor.
“Londres 126 is the address of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera house in Coyoacan, Mexico City,” Osorio explains. “And the venue is inspired by the whole bohemian, politic, artistic and intellectual movement around them on that era. They represent the heart of Mexico with their artwork, they were also surrounded by great artist and intellectuals like Breton [father of Surrealism] and Trotsky.
“We think this is a great example of what Mexico City is, a surrealistic world where the western modern world meets the indigenous traditions. There is a rumour about the great parties Kahlo and Rivera used to have at this address. The idea is to revive those times with the fit out and paying tribute with the cocktails that we named after Frida Kahlo’s art work.”
The bar takes its Mexican spirits very seriously and even has a mezcal locker – customers can purchase their own bottle of tequila or mezcal and store it at the restaurant, to be enjoyed at their leisure over up to six months.
We are newcomers to mezcal, which is the Mexican cousin of tequila. While tequila is only one made with one agave, tequila weber; mezcal can be made from up to 50 different agaves and from different terroir, so the flavour profile is broader.
“I personally like to enjoy mezcal and good tequila to start and when I finish my meal,” Osorio tells us.
“Aged tequila – Reposado, Anejo, Extra Anejo – works well with desserts for the vanilla, caramel and chocolate flavours coming from the barrels.”
Osorio’s favourite cocktail on the list at Londres 126 is ‘The Dream’.
“I love the flavour of cognac and mezcal with the touch of apricot liqueur. Inspired by 1940 Kahlo’s artwork that represent Life and death. Death (Spirits) are represented by a skeleton with explosives is the alcohol for us that can make us explode – in a good way -anytime.”
We are in the mood for Margaritas and Osorio urges us to try substituting mezcal for tequila.
“Educating Australians about mezcal is an important part of our day-to-day work,” he said. “We talk about the sustainability, organic product, fair trade, the indigenous background and the complexity of the spirits. People are keen to try good product, especially if there is a good story about it. The best way to serve with mezcal is with a glass of water on the side, but because the high percentage of alcohol – between 45-55% – we serve it with fresh fruits to balance the flavours.”
We order a classic Margarita and a Tommy’s Margarita, both of which are delicious with the smoky flavours of mezcal.
The menu draws inspiration from the dynamic food scene of Mexico City, with items ranging from botanas (snacks) to more substantial offerings.
While the ox tongue skewers are Osorio’s favourite dish on the menu – “tongue is those beautiful surprises that people don’t expect,” he says – we decide to dine on roasted scallops on the half-shell with ancho chili and ginger butter; Clarence River octopus with watermelon compress, shaved fennel and potato; tempura corn with kaffir lime and queso fresco; albondigas (lamb meatballs) with chipotle caldillo and soft polenta; and chat potatoes with spiced salt and onion crema.
The flavours in each dish are nuanced and elegant, the service is fabulous and the atmosphere is buzzing as we enjoy the ambiance of the crowded restaurant.
We loved our night at Londres 126. Put Quay Quarters on your must-visit list.
You’ll find Londres 126 at 8 Loftus St, Sydney NSW.