Newtown’s Calle Ray brings a plant based, gluten free fiesta of Peruvian, Mexican and Japanese to Newtown. Plus a cracking Pisco bar to boot

Trying to get your head around a restaurant which spans the globe is a bit of a mind bender. Will this be fajitas with Guinea Pig (yes Peruvians really do like them) or should we expect a nigri covered in taco crumbs? On a cold weekday night we rock up at Calle Rey (meaning King Street), and prepare for the unexpected.

The music is pumping and we take one of the high tables towards the back and opposite the kitchen. Like any party canape ninja we know that the best place to be in the know is by the pass!

It’s not long before an effusive and ever energetic Juan Carlos (JC) comes over to greet us. I don’t think I have ever met a happier chef having led plant based kitchens for Plant Gallery, Hills Organic, Shift Eatery and Bad Hombres. His passion for plant based food has turned him around from his wild cheffing hedonistic days into a temple of human happiness.

Many plant based menus rely heavily on mock meat but not here. JC has worked smartly to recreate textures using real vegetables as opposed to replacement proteins. You can go a la carte, or opt for a tasting set menu or Japanese fusion set menu. We go rogue and order up across the globe.

A great example of this is the mainstay of any Mexican night out. You have to start with nachos. Looks like nachos, tastes like nachos, but hang on, what are these textural bites of smoke-tainted chicken? It’s slow smoked jackfruit. Now load it up with black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream then swirls of sweet potato puree which your brain tells you is cheddar and Ganamos hurra!

Brilliant but bonkers continues. Deep fried buffalo wings are bursting with crispiness drizzled with a smokey bbq sauce sitting over a creamy confit garlic sauce. The pea tendrils add a freshness to a decadent mouthful which reveals itself to be made of cauliflower. They are so delicious we order a second.

Onto passionfruit crispy prawns, six prawns are glistening, golden and decorated with sesame seeds. A bite reveals a prawn-like firmness, and I can actually taste and feel the texture of a prawn, yet its not – it’s my first taste of konjac, a plant which has an edible tuber. What a revelation.

The taco menu is eclectic ranging from eggplant to california roll (with those prawns again!). We round out dinner with a Maki roll of kanikama (fake crab) and a mushroom quesadilla with adobe which comes with a quaffable cheese sauce for dunking.

Calle Rey are also proud to host the first plant based Diablo Pisco Bar, which twins Peruvian mixology with a Pisco-based cocktail menu. Opt for a classic Pisco Sour (the Peruvian national drink) which uses aquafaba rather than egg, then head into the Sangria section or opt for a nice glass of chardy!

With a great range of specials, happy hours and menus to choose from, Calle Rey is living up to its mission of ‘Share.Plant Based’. Though you may find the ‘sharing’ bit a little more difficult than you had first imagined…

Calle Rey, 62-64 King St, Newtown 2042
Hours: Tues- Thurs 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat -5.30pm- 11.45pm

Whats On: 6 course set tasting menu for $39PP available every night. ‘Taco Experience’ – taste all seven of tacos for just $35PP Tuesday-Thursday nights. Japanese set menu special – includes five favourites for $35PP plus happy hours!

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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