A polished setting and innovative menu with made-from-scratch ingredients make Nathan Sasi’s new latin-inspired cuisine a real treat, writes Eloise Basuki.

Dining in Sydney’s CBD is exciting again. With the launches of Hubert, Indu and No.1 Bent St in the last year, we’re spoiled for modern, beautifully designed restaurants helmed by forward-thinking chefs.

Mercado, while an ambitious new contender, stands strong among its peers.

The venue is elegant. As we enter down the 19th-century heritage-listed building off Ash Street, we’re seated in plush leather booths in the classic yet stylish dining room.

Former head chef of Nomad with prior experience under the likes of Neil Perry, Peter Doyle and Heston Blumenthal, head chef Nathan Sasi is carving his own reputation here and determined for Mercado’s latin-inspired menu to be made almost entirely from scratch.

We begin with the basics. Made with house-milled grains, the sourdough is a light, airy, yet gutsy slice served with just salted creamy butter – the perfect start.

The tapas menu is full of innovation. Fish and chips becomes taramasalata-style dip and handmade sebago crisps. Kingfish ‘jamon’ comes cured like the famed Spanish ham.

But I came for the toasted sandwich. I’ve made notes about this sandwich (homemade brioche shortened with pig fat, FYI).

Tender slivers of smoked wagyu tongue are topped with mustard béchamel, gruyère and pickled green tomato. It’s crunchy, savoury and cheesy, and I love that it’s bringing the normalcy of tongue to the table.

Mains include slices from the in-house rotisserie: spit-roasted chicken, pork, lamb or beef shortrib.

We choose lamb: meltingly tender from the eight-hour roast with a rich smoky flavour, but the small portion left us wishing for a few more bites for our $52.

The desserts are creative with obvious latin influence. A dash of Pedro Ximénez spikes the pudding, and ice-cream is dulce de leche-flavoured.

The wines also stay on theme – tempranillo, crisp white albariños from Rías Baixas, and sherry, of course.

We leave Mercado satisfied and impressed. The fundamentals are strong, the skill is clear, and while the pricing seems a little high on some dishes, Sasi has a lot to be proud about.

The Details: Mercado, Sydney

Where: No.4 Ash Street, Sydney, 2000, NSW; mercadorestaurant.com.au

Verdict: The made-from-scratch menu, wine list and smart setting make for an impressive night out, but the mains could offer more bang for your buck.

Score: 4.5/5

We rated: Hone in on the tapas menu, the barbecued chorizo with salsa verde has juicy fire, while the spiced cauliflower with jersey milk labne is addictively crispy.

We’d change: The prices are understandably high in a restaurant where craft comes above cost, but the small portion sizes for the mains are too much of a tease.

All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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