When coronavirus cases dropped in Queensland, and venues were cautiously given the green light to reopen in July 2020, Jason and Katie Coats, owners of the much-loved Eleven Rooftop Bar decided to do something a little different. Eleven is taking a break. In its place is pop-up Mexican restaurant, Maya.
Stepping out of the lift into Maya is a very different experience to arriving at Eleven on a Saturday night. A liberal application of white paint has given the entire venue a bright, breezy feel. The booths, couches, giant planter pots and even the bench at the front of the venue with its jaw-dropping views of the CBD are all reserved for dining. The Eleven Courtyard, which previously held 120 people, is now an intimate open-air restaurant space set among olive trees and cactus gardens.
In the kitchen, longtime Coats Group chef Leisa Smith cooks a Queensland-produce-driven menu that explores a variety of Mexican influences, from the Pacific-inspired food of the northwest to the Caribbean-inflected dishes of the Yucatan peninsula. There are small plates of smoked beef ribs and chargrilled squid with pickled kohlrabi; slow-cooked pork, pulled chicken, and Dos Equis-battered fish tacos; and larger share plates of achiote-spiced chicken, chargrilled flank steak, and pan-seared market fish finished with a jalapeño beurre blanc.
For drinks, there’s an enormous range of tequila, mezcal and sotol; a Mexican-influenced cocktail list (including four different types of Margarita); and a relatively efficient wine list that favours whites, sparklings and vintage champagnes.
Make no mistake, Maya is intended as a pop-up – Eleven isn’t going anywhere just yet, and the bar will continue to trade until the wee hours with bottle service and DJs spinning the venue's usual giddy selection of tunes – but it also has the feel of a permanent restaurant. Then again, that’s what Eleven was supposed to be in the first place