Head to Teneriffe joint, Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria, for mezcal, margaritas and playful non-Mexican cuisine
We’re calling it now – this summer will be the season of margaritas. Give us agave in abundance, all the citrus juice we can handle and a silly amount of salt and we’ll be content. Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria – the new bar and eatery from the spaghetti-slinging Siffredi’s crew – is making margaritas galore at its location at the base of the Australian Mercantile Land & Finance Woolstores on Vernon Terrace in Teneriffe. In addition to mouth-watering riffs on the zingy cocktail staple, expect a playful take on Mexican snacks (including braised roo tail tacos and raw tuna tostadas) and some breezy street-side ambiance.
When Ollie Hansford and Aleks Balodis were coming up with the conceptual crux of their spaghetti bar Siffredi’s, they were careful to avoid positioning the venue as an Italian eatery. Sure, spaghetti is just about the most quintessentially Italian dish available, but Siffredi’s (which Ollie and Aleks opened alongside long-time friend Stephen Overty last November) purposeful use of ingredients and flavours that sat outside of the rubric of Italian cooking meant it eschewed easy categorisation. A year on and the duo have partnered with hot-shot drink slinger Daniel Pennefather (ex-Blackbird Bar & Grill) to open Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria – a mezcal-soaked cocktail bar and casual snack spot that applies the same free-wheeling non-conformist approach of Siffredi’s to Mexican cuisine. Rita’s opened a couple of weeks ago in the former home of wine bar Claret House, which has sat unoccupied next to Siffredi’s on Vernon Terrace since the once-beloved vino spot closed in 2017. Intrigued by the idea of opening an approachable bar that put well-executed concoctions first, the trio teamed up to create a new concept that favoured a more informal approach to service geared less towards sit-down dining and more to impromptu visits. A DIY fit-out process has transformed the interior, exchanging the previous timber-heavy aesthetic for one favouring an orange-accented, industrial-inspired gunmetal scheme. The wooden shelves behind the bar have been replaced by a pair of stylish arched mantles, with vino bottles swapped for an array of tequila and mezcal-filled vessels of various sizes (a few of which are also hanging from the ceiling). Rita’s can accomodate 70 guests without restrictions, with the spacious street-facing deck offering communal seating and high bars to go with a cluster of bar seats inside.
The team is quick to make clear that Rita’s isn’t setting out to deliver authentic Mexican fare, but are using the cuisine (which they collectively share a deep affection and admiration for) as a vehicle for out-of-the-box ideas. While you won’t find a conventional al pastor taco on the menu, you will spot some appetising riffs on familiar Mexican-style snacks. Ollie’s menu includes light snacks like oysters with smoked chilli and mezcal mignonette, black bean and goats cheese empanadas, raw tuna tostadas with XO sauce, and marinated chicken, grilled scallop and roast pumpkin skewers. Rita’s range of tacos is where Ollie shows off his canny culinary creativity, with seven varieties available (all served on La Tortilleria tortillas) including braised roo tail with sriracha mayo, grilled snapper with crispy potato, Urban Valley mushroom with cheddar and Vegemite cream, bang bang cauliflower with macadamia cream, sliced kransky with curry sauce and caramelised onions, and crispy buffalo soft-shell Moreton Bay bug (a sustainably sourced morsel from Australian Bay Lobster Co. that is exclusive to Rita’s in Brisbane). Daniel and Aleks have crafted a beverage list that aims to position Rita’s among Brisbane’s upper echelon of cocktail spots. Tapping into Brisbane’s current obsession with margaritas (which Daniel says has overtaken espresso martinis as the nation’s most-ordered cocktail), Daniel is funnelling Rita’s ever-growing range of agave-based spirits into a range of classic, flavoured and signature variations, including the Honey & Harvest (mezcal verde, butter-washed honey, lemon citrus and aquafaba), Lady In Waiting (Don Julio blanco, Aperol, prosecco, grapefruit and lime citrus) and Mexo-tini (Don Julio blanco, Tia Maria, vanilla, coconut and cold press). Beyond cocktails, Rita’s drinks offering also includes a selection of wine, Dos Equis on tap and Tecate tins served with lime and a salted rim.
Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria is now open to the public. Operating hours and menu details can be found in the Stumble Guide.
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