There’s been a Mexican wave of new restaurants opening in the city centre lately - but Mexico 70 really hits the back of the net when it comes to bringing something different to Sunderland’s eating out scene.
Months in the making, the former Chapman’s jewellers in the emerging cultural quarter has been transformed into a real gem of a bar and restaurant with an underground club meets Day of the Dead vibe.
It’s the brainchild of musician Neil Bassett, from bands Hyde & Beast and The Golden Virgins, who’s collected his favourite bits of bars he’s unearthed on tour around the world and rolled them all together to create a restaurant in his home town that wouldn’t look out of place in some of the world’s more 24 hour cities. Neil’s musical background means you can expect a really eclectic play list too, which adds to the unique character of the place.
Neon-lit art and crosses - think Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet aesthetic - merge with bare bricks, low lighting and a super laid back atmosphere. Make sure to head out the back too where they’ve created a more pastel beer garden with climbing wall plants that will spring to life in the coming years.
The menu reflects the place’s informal ethos with a mixture of street food dishes made for sharing and getting stuck in. You can’t book ahead, but if there’s no room in the front restaurant area you can sit in the bar with its cave-like black walls and colourful bar, peppered with sugar skulls.
Prices are fair, ranging from £2.50 to £4 per taco, and you’ll need around three for a meal or five if you’re after a good filling. Flavours range from the Far East-inspired Korean pork belly taco to more traditionally Mexican offerings such as chorizo and crispy potato, with a stop off at the Caribbean for a jerk chicken version. For once, there’s also an equal amount of choice for vegan and veggie diners too.
Like tapas-style dining, plates come as they’re ready and are meant for grazing.
We started off with the bacon and chipotle guacamole with tortilla chips to share (£6.50), which was satisfyingly chunky with avocado and given extra depth with the salt of the bacon strips.
Next up, the Korean taco oozed flavour with its tender beef, the sweetness of Asian slaw, a smooth avocado puree and a lip-tingling Sriracha sauce.
They’ve managed to pack a lot of flavour in each small taco, especially in the special of chipotle, coconut shrimp with avocado and citrus cabbage which was a beautiful medley of flavours.
I also enjoyed the soft shell crab, which was a whopper for £4, with its mound of beer battered crab, served with guacamole and chipotle salsa.
Make sure to check out the sides too with its moreish padron peppers (£4) and cauliflower buffalo wings (£4) which are as sinfully good as they sound.
The drinks menu is equally exotic with its pitchers of sangria (£19.99) and mezcal mules which are strong enough to blow your sombrero off.