Following the announcement that iconic Sydney pub the Lansdowne Hotel was listed for sale in July 2023, Melbourne Mexican joint The Happy Mexican has taken over the leasehold of the venue.

In December 2023 the Lansdowne Hotel was acquired by a private financial group, and Julian Romero, owner of The Happy Mexican, was approached by the new owners with the proposition of operating the venue.

“I’ve been working with the owners of the building for a while now, and I have done a couple of projects with them in Melbourne,” he told Australian Hotelier.

“We like working together, and when they bought the building back in December last year, they asked me if I would be willing to come to Sydney to work with them and bring The Happy Mexican.”

While Romero has overhauled the food and beverage offering with Mexican fare and made minor cosmetic changes, he will continue to operate the Lansdowne Hotel as a pub and retain the rock and roll ambiance that the venue is well known for.

“I really like the whole culture around music and gigs, and everything that is happening in regard to local and upcoming artists, everything that the Lansdowne has been established for, for many years.

“At the Lansdowne, for many reasons, people didn’t even know the place was still open. I think it is a really good fit for our culture at The Happy Mexican, we will integrate it all together, and this time make sure that everyone knows we’re open, and that we will still have music events taking place in Sydney’s iconic venue,” he added.

A new lease of life

Without making any major changes to the design of the venue, Romero says that improvements have been made to fix the pub up and inject a subtle Mexican flair. As for the food and beverage offering, he explains that this is where most of the investment has been made.

“I have brought all of my major team members from Melbourne to put together a proper dining experience, which is still casual because of the style of the venue,” said Romero.

“We came up with a new menu for food and drinks which is really good, but we will still be keeping the main drinks that you would experience in the pub. We are not changing that, we want to keep it as the Lansdowne and we want people to still identify the hotel as the venue that has been there for almost a hundred years.

“The way that we do customer service has also changed, I believe that this has really improved.”

At the helm of head chef Jesus Rios, who hails from Mexico City, highlights from the food menu include The Happy Mexican’s famed birria tacos and quesabirrias, and a selection of tacos, burritos and share plates.

Drinks-wise, the cocktail list leans into the Mexican influence with classics such as the Paloma, Mezcalitos and variations of the Margarita, alongside a selection of draught beers.

The new food and beverage offering will be available throughout the venue, including the rooftop space which will be open on Fridays and Saturdays.

A new entertainment programme

Since its opening in the 1920s, the Lansdowne Hotel has been an institution for live music. Most recently, Oxford Art Factory managed entertainment bookings for the beloved venue, a focus that Romero will maintain with live music throughout the week.

“We’re now working with Good Intent, whose main business is managing artists. We have brought these guys on board to do the booking side, and the idea is to once again build on the pub’s culture and live music. These guys are super enthusiastic about the whole thing, and they’re really hungry to make it a success,” he says.

Patrons can expect to hear music of all genres at the venue, from rap to indie, rock and heavy metal.

In addition to the revitalised live music program, Romero hopes that the introduction of The Happy Mexican’s established food and beverage offering, and consistent opening hours, will attract patrons new and old.

“We want to be more consistent in the way that we operate. The place was being operated based on music gigs, and it was only opening based on how many gigs they had and what time they started,” he said.

“Now we’ve got more consistent opening hours, and a more consistent offering, so that people can come and enjoy The Happy Mexican at the Lansdowne with normal opening hours.

“I really want people to come and try what we are offering now at the Lansdowne from a new perspective, it’s got a different twist and energy. For anybody who hasn’t been to the Lansdowne for a while, they’ll be in for a little surprise, but a good surprise,” he added.

The Happy Mexican is celebrating its Sydney debut by giving away 500 tacos and tequila shots for free in April, kicking off yesterday, in addition to serving up $2 tacos month-long from 5-6pm.

The Lansdowne Hotel will now operate from Wednesday through to Sunday, with the kitchen open from midday to 9pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends, and the pub staying open until later.

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