Bugging out with my niños locos // El Topo

Day of the Dead Skull“Mama, did you know that in some countries people eat real bugs!?” I did indeed know that, my darling! “Coooool. Can we eat some this weekend?”

Um, Be careful what you wish for, Raffles… mama loves a dare.

Eating insects may be the done thing in Central and South America, South Africa and South East Asia where, incidentally, I once enjoyed a bag of deep-fried cockroaches – and by enjoyed, I mean I ate one so I could say I’d tried them and chucked the rest because dude, they were cockroaches!!!!   But in Australia insects are more likely to meet their maker via a can of Mortein than through the digestive desires of a curious boy. In fact, most people I speak to are revolted by the thought of eating insects… something I find a touch ironic given that those very same people are likely to slather their toast with honey which, if you think about it, is just glorified bee vomit.

A recent BBC article suggests that insects, in all their low-fat, high protein, iron and calcium packed glory, could even be a potential solution to some of the world’s food issues as insect protein is cheap to produce, energy-efficient and therefore kinder to the environment than many of our current sources of protein!

But back to the issue at hand… where the hell am I going to find edible insects in Sydney?

Enter El Topo Bondi, a newish Mexican nosherie, perched atop Bondi’s Eastern Hotel. And the one place in Sydney with a menu that boasts Chapulines (roast crickets with chilli, garlic and lime)! But more on those little guys in a minute…


When we first enter El Topo we go into momentary shock at the crazy cool decor.

El Topo, Bondi Junction

Our waiter, the awesome Herman, escorts us to our table and our eyes dart about wildly as we take in the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) inspired, skull studded interior!

DIa de los muertos cross at El Topo

Ay, caramba! It’s such a riot of colour that it looks like a demonic rainbow vomited on it.  And I mean that in a good way.

Quirky collectables at El Topo, Bondi

There are quirky skeletons, deadly dioramas, hundreds of ornamental skulls and
quirky wall art dotted around the restaurant’s many nooks and crannies.

Dioramas El Topo

All watched over carefully by a statue of the Virgin Mary, who you’ll find at the bar patiently waiting for a Mescal.

Virgin Mary at El Topo

The effect off all this deadly decor is festive rather than morbid, in keeping with Mexican tradition. And my niños locos LOVE it!

Kids at El Topo

But back to those bugs, Raffles… are you really game? I expect the reality of a plate of dead insects will see him balk… but both my brave bebes give the crunchy crickets a go!

Boy eats bug, El Topo

In fact, Raffles scoffs several of the crispy critters before he decides that no, they are not for him after all.

Boy eats bug, El TopoWhile we like them, and he says the flavour is OK, I think he finds them a bit dry without the benefit of a nice Mexican beer to wash them down… and at five, he’s probably not going to have much luck scoring a fake ID to show the bar guy.

The rest of the meal fares better with our four-foot food critic. Taking its inspiration from the Oaxaca region of South Western Mexico, the menu is a revelation. There’s not a crappy faux Mexican cheese-laden, refried-bean filled burrito in sight!

Instead, we chomp on chicharrones (crisp fried pork skin) and fight like Banditos over the last mouthful of  Chorizo Con Huevo Y Papas Jalepeño (a wild concoction of chorizo paste, slow cooked egg, fried potato crisp, ink-black turtle bean puree and Jalepeño).

Chorizo Con Huevo El Topo

Sugarpuff inhales a bowl of tasty fresh-baked Totopos (Tortilla Chips) and Guacamole while the rest of us take on a platter of Queso Y Flor De Calabanza (zucchini flower and quinoa quesadillas).

totopas (tortilla crisps), El Topo

zucchini flower and quinoa quesadillas El Topo

She joins us in devouring Taco de Pollo, (fantastic soft shell tacos filled with juicy chicken thigh, oregano, mayo and watercress) which have us at “Hola!”

Taco de Pollo at El Topo

While Mr Eats World bonds with some Mexican beer, Raffles & I share a bowl of Ceviche de Pez Real (rare hiramasa kingfish, with charred corn, wild rice and a spicy achiote sauce).

Ceviche, El Topo

Like his seafood lovin’ mama, Raffles has a weird affection for raw fish and will happily devour any kind of ceviche you’d like to send his way… generally accompanied by the shock and awe of restaurant staff unused to the sight of a tiny gringo scoffing hotly spiced raw fish.

We’re about to burst but the lure of Las Nieves (home-made ‘Paddlepops’) for the kids and Buñuelos con Chocolate (Mexican Donuts dripping with chocolate sauce) can’t be resisted and somehow we shoe-horn them in.

paddlepops at El Topo

We’re spent, and my nutty niños are both happy converts to Mexican cuisine, if not to bug-munching.

Asking Raffles what he enjoyed most about our adventure in Mexican cuisine he answers emphatically, “Herman! Oh, and the ceviche!” before adding with giggling glee, “But mama, the crickets bugged me!”

Sabelotodo! (Rough translation? Smart Arse!)

kid at El Topo

30 Comments on Bugging out with my niños locos // El Topo

  1. Kate
    March 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm (11 years ago)

    Amazing! Fussy, he ain’t!

      March 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm (11 years ago)

      Not my little pelican! He’ll try anything at least once 🙂

  2. Cooker and a Looker
    March 29, 2013 at 10:39 am (11 years ago)

    Chorizo Con Huevo Y Papas Jalepeño sounds divine! I have loads of black turtle beans in the pantry – you’ve inspired me to try something Mexican with them. I’ll let you know how I go. 🙂

      March 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm (11 years ago)

      I’d love to hear what you make 🙂

  3. Bec | Mumma Tells
    March 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh. my. goodness. Kudos to the kidlet… I could not… I would not… {perhaps I need to be a bit more open-minded?} Bugs aside… I love the brights and artwork of that place. Very impressive.

  4. Me N my Monkeys
    March 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm (11 years ago)

    Art work looks awesome but as for the the insects, yukko! no thank you.
    Thanks for sharing, i didn’t know such a place existed 🙂

  5. kirstyrussell75
    March 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm (11 years ago)

    Good on your boy for giving it a go – I would not have been quite so brave!

  6. Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions
    March 30, 2013 at 11:14 am (11 years ago)

    Oh wow, I would go there for the decor alone! My husban would cry if presented with the ceviche, unfortunately his 3 experiences with raw/rare fish have not left him feeling too fantastic so now he runs screaming whenever he sees it in a menu!

      March 30, 2013 at 11:23 am (11 years ago)

      It really is stunning! You should go (but hide the ceviche) 😉

  7. mummyoftwo2
    March 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm (11 years ago)

    He is one brave boy, don’t think I could eat one! Everything apart from the bugs looked delicious though!

  8. Kyla @ Three Quarters Full
    March 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh my gosh that just looks divine, the food up here is good but can never reach the variety of the bigger cities down south. Totally putting this place on our to do list next time Sydney-side, hubby would be all over the ceviche, and the rest!

  9. GourmetGetaways (@GourmetGetaway)
    March 31, 2013 at 8:19 am (11 years ago)

    LMAO!!! What a great story!! Your kids need to be as adventurous as mine obviously. The pic with the crickets hanging out his mouth is a classic. What a great restaurant! I will have to give it a go next time I’m in Sydney.

  10. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    March 31, 2013 at 9:03 pm (11 years ago)

    They’re so adventurous! I know plenty of adults that wouldn’t go there but I love it that he did 😀

      April 1, 2013 at 8:19 pm (11 years ago)

      I’m really proud of their foodie fearlessness Lorraine. The little one is starting to become as adventurous as her big brother. Makes eating out a whole lot easier for us. 🙂

  11. Grace
    April 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm (11 years ago)

    I’ve stopped over at El Topo for a quick drink before heading out to the movies so I never got a chance to have a look at their exotic menu. But I was in awe of the decor! I’ll be sure to look out for the crickets…but doubt if I’ll order them.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:17 pm (11 years ago)

      There are plenty of other non buggy treats on the menu, Grace. 🙂

  12. Have a laugh on me
    April 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm (11 years ago)

    That is very adventurous of your son, mine wouldn’t give that I go – I would though, esp with a nice crisp beer chasing it down 🙂

  13. Alex aka Whoa Mumma
    April 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm (11 years ago)

    Obsessed with that skull art work at the moment. It’s been popping up on tattooed hipsters around here lately too. As for the bugs? No thank you! Though my 1 year old would probably guzzle down a bowl full. On more than one occasion I’ve had to stop her from swallowing one that she’s unearthed around the house.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:51 pm (11 years ago)

      LOL. They’ll eat pretty much anything they’re not supposed to at that age. But they’re seriously worth a try – El Topo’s that is – for all ages.. 🙂

  14. Bek Mugridge
    April 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm (11 years ago)

    Hilarious!! Fabulous photos too XX

  15. Kelly HTandT
    April 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm (11 years ago)

    What’s especially hilarious is that I wrote about a cricket problem – I had not considered eating them! (I think I just vomited in my mouth a little). I can’t stand the thought of eating insects, I do LOVE me some mexican though, and that sounds AMAZING. Especially dessert. Might have to try it out. Thanks! 🙂 x

      April 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm (11 years ago)

      LOL! Nah, they’re not puke worthy at all. And it would be an excellent solution to your cricket problem…. 🙂

  16. Eve Adams
    April 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm (11 years ago)

    I ate some bugs in Thailand once, and it was all about the novelty. I think us westerners are so brainwashed to view them as pests that it’s hard to consider them anything else.

  17. Twitchy (@TwitchyCorner)
    April 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm (11 years ago)

    Loved this! There’s a few things on that menu I would certainly try, but crickets ain’t one of ’em. Especially when you see them at the pet supply store still crawling around in containers for the reptiles. But exactly *how many* did your boy swallow before deciding they weren’t for him? Hilarious- saw that brilliant shot on Instagram and wondered what that was all about! Go you guys! #teamIBOT

      April 3, 2013 at 9:47 am (11 years ago)

      Raffles ate three before he got “dry mouth” and nixed further any further bug munching. I thought that was a pretty good effort. Sugarpuff only managed half of one… she said the feet tickled her tongue! LOL.

  18. EssentiallyJess
    April 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh man I am so impressed you even did that! There is no way I could!
    Having said that, if my kids wanted deep fried cockroaches, I could just catch some in our bathroom at night. They love the tropics!

  19. Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel
    April 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm (11 years ago)

    Well tracked down that insect-loving mamma! I think my kids would throw their arms in the air and run away screaming, but I’d give them a bash – can’t be worse than frogs legs!! Sounds a great and really authentic place.

  20. laurasmess
    April 30, 2013 at 9:30 am (11 years ago)

    Raffles is my little foodie hero (runner-up being Sugarpuff!). I wouldn’t be game enough to try deep-fried crickets, though the rest of the food looks absolutely amazing. I wish I could try that Mexican place (but I’d need to buy a plane ticket… sigh). I love ‘Day of the Dead’ decor. I threw my husband a Mexican party earlier this year and bought a lot of the paper banners and other skull merchandise online for decorations. Very cool…. I love, love your ‘demonic rainbow vomit’ description, bahaaa (and the ‘glorified bee vomit’, I’ll definitely be sharing that one!). Thanks again for the gorgeous post. It’s been too long since my last ‘Boy Eats World’ dose of goodness!!

      April 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm (11 years ago)

      Aww thanks. They are pretty heroic when it comes to food. Perhaps I should to make them little superhero capes (with built in bibs!) 🙂


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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