Places and Spaces: An Historic Former Bike Shop Is Now a Vibrant Mexican Eatery In Sydney's CBD

Late last year, one of Sydney's favourite Mexican eateries opened its newest location in the hub of the CBD, on Clarence Street. If you've had the pleasure of visiting Chica Bonita's oceanfront flagship on the shores of Manly Beach, you'll be familiar with their delectable dishes and friendly service already. In contrast to the rustic, industrial edge stylings of the Northern Beaches location, design practice Studio Gram was brought on board to produce an entirely brand new concept for this heritage-listed site. You wouldn't know it on first glance, but Chica Bonita's city restaurant was previously a bike shop for over twenty years and the building itself holds significant value to the city, so the team worked tirelessly to produce a jaw-dropping setting within the heritage constraints and on a tight budget, of course.

If you hadn't noticed already, archways and curvy shapes are currently on trend in the land of interior design. Luckily enough, the sweeping stone archways that feature throughout Chica Bonita's spin-off location are completely original and had to stay for conservation purposes. Another incredible bonus is the deep, chocolate-tones parquet floors that have been given a new lease on life, adding a sense of authenticity and history to the interior. With such a strong canvas to work with, the team at Studio Gram have incorporated touches of traditional Spanish architecture throughout in a contemporary way. Repetitive stepped elements are an eye-catching way to offset organic elements and provide a lively and energetic atmosphere that's solidified through the careful selection of tactile materials. The Mexican restaurant's colour palette is directly influenced by the Mexican landscape, with a combination of richly-saturated and earthy elements. Private booth seats have been covered in plush velvets in deep mustard and sienna tones, while unusual, textured walls mimic the natural look and feel of the clay desert.

Available for lunch, dinner, and drinks, Chica Bonita CBD's food offerings combine the best in fresh Australian ingredients with classic Mexican recipes. For lunch, we're eyeing off the bebé corn with fermented chilli mayo followed by the crispy eggplant bowl with pepita xikil and caramelised carrots. Given that it's perfectly situated for an after-work dinner with friends, share plates such as soft shell crab and enoki pipian featuring wasabi and mushroom make it easy to taste a selection from the dinner menu. For something to wash it down, the extensive drinks list should excite you, with cocktails, a selection of mezcal and tequila, as well as a curated wine list that's categorised by their properties and taste profile. If you're in Sydney, this might just be your new weekend spot or even your go-to lunch option during the work week.

Images courtesy of Studio Gram. Photography by Toby Peet.

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