El Primo Sanchez
27-33 Oxford St, Paddington
If there’s one song that you think of when you think of Maybe Sammy, it would have to be ‘Tequila’, complimented by the in-house brass. So it’s no real surprise that for the group’s fifth outing that they would open a Mexican Cantina with Tequila at the fore.
While the co-owners hail from different parts of the world (Stefano Catino and Vince Lombardi are both Italian and Martin Hudak a Slovakian), the Maybe Group has an internationally diverse team. And for this venue in particular, Cantino says: “We leaned on our Mexican boys – chef Alejandro, Eduardo and Jorge – for this one, they really wanted to showcase their food and culture that they remember from their childhood and what they ate when they were kids.”
“We leaned on our Mexican boys – chef Alejandro, Eduardo and Jorge – for this one, they really wanted to showcase their food and culture that they remember from their childhood and what they ate when they were kids.” – Stefano Catino, Co-owner
Located on Oxford Street in Paddington in what was once The Rose, the venue is a partnership between The Maybe Group and Public Hospitality Group, who purchased The Rose back in 2021. Named after P. Sanchez, a slightly mysterious, sometimes loose, always dapper fictional cousin, Mexican bar El Primo Sanchez is a nod to “Tequila, the 80s and fun,” says Catino.
The focus for the team was to build something that would feel authentically Mexican. “We didn’t want the concept to be a nod towards Mexican culture, spirits or food, it had to be a respectful homage,” says Catino, adding: “At the same time, we wanted to develop a venue that nestled nicely into the existing framework of a 1940s pub. The idea of creating a Mexican bar that is a throwback to the colourful local bars that are found throughout Mexico made sense.”
The drinks list was a really collaborative effort by Hudak, Catino and Bar Manager Eduardo Conde (who hails from Mexico City), with input from many of the Latin American staff who work at the bar.
Catino says, if you’re just stopping in for one or two drinks you have to have a Margarita (they sold so many on the opening weekend they ran out of limes!) or a Highball, a hard-to-beat thirst quencher on a hot day and a drink that is ubiquitous in most Mexican cocktail bars.
Catino says, if you’re just stopping in for one or two drinks you have to have a Margarita (they sold so many on the opening weekend they ran out of limes!) or a Highball, a hard-to-beat thirst quencher on a hot day and a drink that is ubiquitous in most Mexican cocktail bars. At El Primo Sanchez, there are five to choose from including the Sanchez Paloma which does away with the classic grapefruit profile and brings mandarin into the mix and the Charro Negro AKA Batanga which is a twist on the classic Batanga of tequila, cola and lime, there are notes of roasted corn notes thanks to Nixta, a Mexican corn liqueur, as well as levels of smokiness from the mezcal and smoked cola.
All Highballs are served individually or in a jarrito, a traditional clay jug, as are the Sanchez Favourites collection of cocktails. Select from the likes of the Primo Margarita served in a bespoke margarita glass, the Gimlet El Maiz which showcases a cordial made from toasted leftover tortillas, or the frozen Slushy Blushy, a fruity delight made with rose and watermelon wine, strawberry gum and lime.
Hudak wants El Primo Sanchez to have the familiarity and conviviality you expect from a neighbourhood bar delivered with the finesse of an internationally applauded bar team. And if you leave feeling like you’ve had a mini break to Mexico, it’s a win in his books.
“For us, it is not about having the biggest collection of tequila and mezcal in Australia, it’s about celebrating and appreciating this highly nuanced selection of spirits. In the Los Clásicos section of the menu, we’re replacing traditional spirits with tequila or mezcal so you can see how agave spirits can level up classic cocktails. Tequila replaces vodka in our Espresso Martini, we swap bourbon or rye whiskey for aged tequila in an Old Fashioned and for our Negroni, Blanco tequila is the substitute for gin,” said Hudak.
In the kitchen, Mexican born and bred consultant chef Alejandro Huerta has developed a food menu where layers of traditional Mexican flavours and ingredients bounce through the dishes with a playful edge. Over the last decade Huerta has headed up restaurants in Australia including Sydney’s No. 92 restaurant and wine bar, Chica Bonita in Manly and the CBD and Mexican Society in Adelaide. His international career includes stages at several 3-star Michelin restaurants such as Alinea in Chicago, Noma in Copenhagen and Quique Dacosta in Denia (Spain) as well as formative culinary years at the celebrated Pujol in Mexico City.
Tacos, served as individual portions, include the De Pastor made with 12-hour achiote marinated pork belly cooked over coals. The richness of the achiote pairs well with the sweet pineapple and acidic salsa verde while the onion and coriander jardin provides a slight crunch. Another option is the Brussels Sprout, which are roasted and then tossed in a chilli vinegar made from five dried Mexican chilli varietals and served with a smear of hazelnut requesón, a vegan version of the traditional Mexican cheese.
The interiors were managed by Tom de Plater, Principal Architect at Public Hospitality Group wanted El Primo Sanchez to reflect a lively local Mexican bar from the 1940’s. With a bold colour palette of oranges and blues, and a huge focus on LED lighting, which is one of Catino’s favourite features. “There are about 17 panels of lights for me to play with,” he says. “I can make any colour I want, I love it.”
Another highlight feature for Catino is the two-person karaoke room tucked discreetly behind the DJ booth and disco ball-adorned dance floor. Catino and Hudak both loved the idea of having a Karaoke Booth. “When we were traveling we would always end up at Karaoke bars,” says Catino. “You always have the best fun!”
El Primo Sanchez will open four nights a week initially, from 4.30pm until late. Walk-ins only.