At the turn of the 20th century, the city of Merida in the Mexican state of Yucatan was believed to have the highest concentration of millionaires in the world. Following a trip to the city’s famous Coqui Coqui hotel, Milpa Collective (Calita, Carbon, Taqiza and Sonora) co-owner Pablo Galindo Vargas was reminded of the similar European architecture along Kellett Street in Potts Point.
Merida pays homage to the city it’s named for, with an interior by Frankly Interior Design and Gemma Chapman of Guru Projects comprising elegant drapery, arches, a distressed ceiling with mirrors and an oversized chandelier in the dining room. Greenery throughout references the Yucatan jungle.
Executive chef Manuel Diaz and head chef Jiordano Bilcahlo employ flavours and methods exclusive to the Yucatan Peninsula, but execute their dishes with European flair. You might find a potato gratin made with guajillo chillies, and a guacamole served with pumpkin seeds and chapulines (roasted crickets). Infladitas (thick tortillas made of organic heirloom corn) are served alongside pork cooked in banana leaves, which arrives under a smoke-filled cloche. Taco fillings include grilled steak, Mayan octopus, grilled chicken, and a vegan option with pibil marinade.
Co-owner Liber Osorio has written a voluminous drinks menu, plus an entire hand-illustrated book of rare imported mezcals made by indigenous communities in Oaxaca (they’re arranged according to mood). A cocktail list inspired by the region’s tropical produce includes a Margarita that’s made with elderflower and activated charcoal.