Monday, February 13, 2012

Bob's your uncle at Tio's Cerveceria

The new wave of tequila across Sydney bars is thankfully wiping out the dreaded memories from my younger days; replacing them with fun, education and good, if not better, times.

From the school of Shady Pines Saloon, Tio's is the latest kid on the block in Surry Hills, though technically it's called a Cerveceria or brewery/beer house.

Inside Tio's Cerveceria, Foster Street, Surry Hills
Located on a quiet Surry Hills street just down from Bar H, Tio's is making noise for all the right reasons. The casual vibe is like a friend's oversized backyard with fairy lights strung up throughout.  The back end of the bar is appropriately dark while some natural light sneaks in the two front windows.

Most seats are communal style, with rows of school-reminiscent benches on both sides of a table that would probably seat four or five on each side (though it's near impossible to get in or out in heels and a skirt).

Tio's back bar
The long bar is fitted out like a wooden house or shed, with comfy bar seats giving drinkers prime view of the back bar, dotted with ornamental owls and dogs amid the bottles. The owls with eyes that light up are particularly distracting.

With no beers on display, it's easier to pick from the house specials menu of cocktail and refrescos; handwritten and printed on the back of kitschy postcards that fit right into the theme. Only margaritas and Tommy's Margarita are listed beneath cocktails.

El Roberto Especial
The longer list of refrescos are mixed drinks featuring Espolon Tequila Blanco at $10 a pop, built in glass mugs with an interesting array of mixers and topped off with plenty of ice.

My first pick is the evocative El Roberto Especial with tequila (of course), a mystical three herb elixir, freshly pulverised Granny Smith apple juice, lime and thick slice of cucumber for garnish.

My first sip through the sneakily thick red straw is mostly tequila (note: mix drinks first), though the drink eventually becomes quite refreshing if not a little sweet.

Complimentary popcorn and Bloody Maria
The Bloody Maria is a play on a classic tomato juice cocktail, with tequila replacing vodka. With unidentified 'spices' and cucumber and curly parsley garnishes, this savoury drink will please any Bloody Mary drinker or indeed, tomato lover.

After sitting down with our first round drinks to the benches, we were hand-delivered a bulging brown paper bag of spiced popcorn, as if these guys knew they were serving a popcorn fiend (actually, complimentary popcorn is for all).

Freshly popped in an old-school popcorn machine and perfectly seasoned, Tio's has quickly weasled its way into my heart via its drinking snacks, beating out Shady Pines' peanuts and The Baxter Inn's pretzels.

I untangled myself out of the bench seating when seats at the bar became free, for a better view of the bartenders serving up beer cans rimmed with lime and salt.

Referring back to the refrescos menu, I have the girly pink Paloma, featuring tequila and a homemade pink grapefruit soda. There was an underlying bitterness to the drink courtesy of the citrus soda and even with a splash of sugar syrup.

Coffee with condensed milk
Most unusual of the mixed drinks, on paper, is undoubtedly the Cafe con Leche. Order it to watch the bartender fill a glass with Nescafe Blend 43 and steaming hot water. He'll then pour sweetened condensed milk from the can in a thick, gluggy dollop. But it doesn't quite stop there, Vietnamese cà phê đá coffee style.

Cafe con Leche
Tequila and ice are added then stirred thoroughly for an iced coffee of sorts. And I'm not sure if I'm pleased or a little disappointed to report that there is very little tequila taste. In fact, I'm sure I could get away with this as a replacement for my morning coffee, if only Tio's opened that early in the day.

Tio's street neon sign
Tio's is great fun and easy. The mixed drinks are served in larger vessels than at a normal bar, which makes drinks pacing a little easier for all, I think.

Ordering is a simple affair, snacks are taken care of and there's plenty of space and seating. All you need is a few people open to the idea of enjoying tequila and Bob's your uncle - at Tio's.

Tio's Cervecería on Urbanspoon


john@heneedsfood said...

Loving how the back bar is lit up like a shrine to the booze!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Thanks for reminding me about this place! My friend has been telling me about this bar for a while, looks pretty awesome :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The Bloody Maria sounds intriguing!

Trish said...

Just been there today... it was bloody awesome! I think I have found my new favourite drinking hole.

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

You totally have my attention with the spiked Viet-style coffee!

missklicious said...

Yum! The coffee one looks good!

Tina said...

Hi John - It sure is! And to owls...

Hi Vivian - It's lots of fun; if not more so than Shady Pines :)

Hi Lorraine - It was, and rather yummy too ;)

Hi Trish - Isn't it fab? So casual yet so much to enjoy.

Hi Rita - You can't even taste the tequila! Win! (I think)

Hi missklicious - All the ones I tried were great. A few more on the menu to try yet :)

Annie said...

Is there any more food besides popcorn there?

Tina said...

Hi Annie - Nope, it's a bar that only serves (very yummy) popcorn :)


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