Mexican Food Brisbane – Pepe’s, Newmarket

If you’re looking for Mexican food Brisbane is not short on options. Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar in Newmarket, impressively, has been dishing out Mexican options to patrons since 1972. They also claim to have one of Australia’s largest selections of tequilas and Mexican beer, which is perhaps why Pepe’s is so popular with groups of people and birthday celebrations.

Pepe’s bar, which serves a wide selection of spirits and beer

Pepe’s is located around the corner from our house, so it was a nice and easy option to leave the dog at home. Sorry Cookie, back soon! I’ll just mention, that I lived in Mexico City for six months (as I went to university there) and my first career was as a chef, so I was looking forward to the night.

The atmosphere

Upon entering the restaurant, it was apparent Pepe’s has atmosphere and the décor is tasteful. It’s like a little cave inside and as friends told us, this is unexpected from the outside, as it looks unassuming. I liked the vibe and Pepe’s was busy on the Thursday night we arrived.

Mexican food Brisbane

There are also several sections you can sit in in Pepe’s which make for a little adventure. There’s a shop when you enter the premises (see my Reel at the end), which even has a small table for two next to it. The bar is located just as you go in and next to the bar is another room, which looks homely.

Another eating section in Pepe’s

Mexican food Brisbane – Pepe’s service

We were seated up the back of Pepe’s and informed by Ollie that he would be looking after us tonight. Ollie was friendly and attentive and made sure to come over even though he was busy. We had a few questions for Ollie, as we’re a pretty fussy family!

Olin, enjoying his iced-chocolate

As the chill con carne was for my son, Ollie assured us it was made from mince (which he likes) and not pulled beef, and that it wouldn’t come out with spring onions on top (which he doesn’t like). Awesome, although as attentive as Ollie was, the chilli con carne came out with pulled beef, very few nachos and spring onions on top.

Mexican food Brisbane
The chilli con carne

Okay, time to order a beer. I ordered a Negro Modelo, which is a Mexican stout and it’s good beer, but it was plonked on my table by a lady who promptly walked off. I would have liked a glass, but wasn’t given the option. Perhaps these actions are minor, but they added to our overall experience at Pepe’s.

The chef’s recommendation

When it came time to order our food, my partner and I both liked the sound of the same dish – the sizzling seafood fajitas. I thought a bit of sizzle would be fun and I always like to try a chef’s recommendation, which this was.

I was worried about the portion sizes, so Ollie told us it would be a good idea to share. However, my partner is gluten and dairy free and she asked if we could have the fajitas and cheese separate. Ollie then recommended we should order a separate dish each, to avoid cross-contamination.

Mexican food Brisbane
The sizzling seafood fajitas

Mexican Food Brisbane – The Gringo Sauce

Out came our sizzling fajitas, which looked pretty fun and I had a good time filming them. A plus was the seafood was tender. In this regard, Pepe’s passed with flying colours, although the sauce, which was sweet and tomato-based with onions, tasted lifeless and about as Mexican as a vegemite sandwich.  

Portion sizes matter

Additionally, the portions that came out were enormous and obviously for two people. I feel Ollie was playing it a bit safe and got lazy. Having one each was wasteful, even though we took the leftovers home. Now, I love that Pepe’s caters for gluten-free and dairy-free people, as it is an inclusive restaurant, which is awesome. However, it would have made more sense if we had separate fajitas and shared the seafood.

Mexican food Brisbane
Fajitas for one

I was disappointed that this was a chef’s recommendation, especially as there appear to be a lot of genuinely good reviews about Pepe’s. I’m predominantly working from home at the moment and I had the seafood fajitas for lunch the next day, which just reinforced how utterly lifeless and un-Mexican it was.

The Red Sangria

I’ll just say that I also lived in Spain for a year, so I’ve had my fair share of Sangria and perhaps I’ve been a bit spoilt there. This sangria was tepid (it’s supposed to be cold) and while the menu says it has red wine, brandy, orange, ginger, anise, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla, it tasted like somebody shoved red wine in a warm glass and just added a splash of brandy. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

The sangria

It pains me a little to write this, but I’m certain it won’t hurt Pepe’s one iota. I also want to keep the reviews on here honest, as I don’t want to be one of these bloggers who says everything’s lovely when it’s just not. I’ll write about more Mexican food Brisbane experiences soon. With this one, I’ll just say I won’t be returning.

This is another nitpick, but I like trying to speak my modest Spanish when I’m at a Spanish or Mexican restaurant. Here, I was told no one spoke Spanish. This place just didn’t feel like an authentic Mexican restaurant to me at all. If you’ve had a different experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Mexican food Brisbane
Our spread

The Good

Pepe’s is inclusive, the seafood was tender and the atmosphere was great. We also didn’t explore the tequila or the extensive drinks list, part of which Pepe’s has become renowned for.

Pepe’s is also known for its Mexican grocery section just beyond the entrance, which people allegedly travel to get to.

Pepe’s grocery section sells different types of Mexican-inspired goods.

Additionally, I love that Pepe’s sells buckets of beer. Perhaps this is pretty common in Mexican restaurants, but I have good memories of ordering ‘cubos de cerveza’ in Mexico City.

The Vibe – busy, fun and slap-happy.

Go for – the atmosphere and to explore the bar options (which we didn’t).

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