In the past The Excelsior was a grungy little pub mainly known for having live acts in the back room. However, Merivale has now taken it over and turned the back section into a Mexican taqueria. To be honest, I’m torn about this: on one hand, I love tacos with an almighty passion. On the other, I do think it’s sad that Sydney has lost yet another live music venue.
The front hasn’t changed much, other than for the addition of some piñatas and tables covered with brightly-coloured blue and orange contact paper with a pot plant growing herbs on each one. The back, however, has had a major makeover, complete with brightly painted walls, Mexican kitsch and an open taco kitchen where you can see the meat sizzling on the hotplate. I like it: it’s fun, casual and, with tacos only $5 each, cheap.
I’m here with the Amazonian Croatian and we order three kinds of tacos – the chicken, pork and lemongrass beef – as well as the corn chips with pico de gallo (tomato and coriander salsa).
The tacos also come with cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa verde, spring onions and a good amount of coriander and are served in soft tortillas. The chicken and the beef (to my surprise) are the best in our opinions – they’re really good, to the point where they rival the ones you can get at The Norfolk and Bedlam. The only disappointment is the pork one – it’s still good but not great, and instead of the delicate shredded pork that we were expecting (and looking forward to) we instead get pork pieces that really feel more Asian than Mexican. We are, however, impressed overall and the pico de gallo salsa is fresh and full of coriander goodness.
Since we drank beer rather than margaritas we decide to have some tequila shots out of respect to Mexico’s agave plants. We go up to the old wooden bar counter and notice that they have a good tequila selection here. We opt for the Fat Ass Blanco tequila, which is made from 100 per cent agave. I’d never tried this before but it’s good – smooth enough for sipping and with an earthy agave flavour.
And that’s it – at least for now. If you think you can add to this review, however, then feel free to leave a comment below:
The Excelsior / El Loco Cantina. 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. Open Monday-Saturday until late, and Sunday until 10pm. See the El Loco website here.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Excelsior?