21 Sep 2016
Is your heart longing for a serve of market ceviche from your trip to Peru? Do you miss the street side taco stands of Mexico? Walking into Tequila Mockingbird in Paddington will warm your heart and trigger many memories of the colours, tastes and foods of Latin America.
To start, you enter a lovingly restored little terrace house on a side street near Five Ways in Paddington. A grand, marble topped bar greets you at the narrow entrance, leading into the compact main room with an adjacent courtyard at the back. A large clear roof invites in lots of light to the beautiful leafy space.
We begin our journey into our Latin American adventure via Paddington with one of their signature cocktails. No surprises here – there is a generous selection of Mezcal and Tequila available on the menu and throughout the signature cocktail list. The Tequila Mockingbird cocktail itself, we are told, is to be featured in a high-end lifestyle magazine next month. Who am I to judge a prestigious magazine choice – so we order two for the table. It’s an intoxicating (in a good way!) mix of Don Julio tequila, elderflower liqueur, jalapeńo, lemon and agave. It tastes like Mexico: good smooth tequila, tang from the lemon, a gentle burn from the jalapeńo and a fresh cucumber slice to round it out. Moreish and delicious. “Bartender! Three more, please.”
The food is one word: FUN. I recognise many dishes from my travels like ceviche, tacos and for a novelty: Alpaca. But there’s also some cheeky Australian influences like a Kangaroo tartare with black beans and a chilli paste called ‘aji panca’. The menu covers Latin American from the tacos of Mexico to the flame grills of Argentina and is divided into 5 sections: raw, streets, between, flame grill and garden.
We start with 2 items from the raw menu: new style ceviche taco and a white fish tiradito. A mini crisp fried taco is filled with a moreish mix of salmon and avocado, lemon and spices. The white fish tiradito, is one of my favourites. Raw slithers of white fish combined with pickled jicama, (a radish type vegetable) and corn textures of mousse and sweet corn kernels. It’s so fresh but has sweetness and tang and combines beautifully with the white fish.
Fried beetroot tacu tacu is reminiscent of an arancini rice ball, on a beetroot puree with an onion tomato salsa. There’s nothing like the flavour of a good char and the Octopus comes straight from the grill with pickled onion and a herby green chimichurri.
Memories of parilla’s (woodfire grill) in gaucho country of Argentina draw my gaze straight towards the aged rib eye on the menu here. Tequila Mockingbird does it justice and the dish is a total winner. By Argentinian standards, it’s a more conservative size, but it’s great for sharing and leaves room for other dishes. It comes in slithers (2 for each of the 4 of us on the table) and the best thing about it: the generous stack of jalapeño garlic butter on top. I salivate just thinking about it. The beef is perfect – pink and juicy with a flame grilled layer on the outside – heavenly.
On our friendly waiter’s advice, we decide on two sides: crispy smoked potatoes, which are so intensely flavoured, you almost think they are chorizos and a grilled broccolini with mole and egg yolk. Even these have so much flavour, you could eat them as a meal on their own.
For any citrus aficionados out there, Tequila Mockingbird may just have BEST DESSERT EVER on their menu. It’s a generous serve that can definitely be shared (or not..) and is layered in diner style ice cream coupe. It begins at the bottom with a crumbly butter biscuit base, lashings of tangy sweet lemon curd, the unique flavours of a yuzu granita and a torched meringue quenelle on top. WOW. Just Wow…
There’s a decently sized wine list that’s not too overwhelming, starting at $45/bottle. The atmosphere is buzzy for our Sunday lunch meal but we can all hear each other talk. Even though it’s a grey rainy day, light beams into the courtyard making us all feel like we’re at a mate’s garden party.
I’m still talking to everyone about this place the week after, which is when I know I’ve found a great spot.
The short and sweet:
THE GOOD BITS: Beautiful setting. Fun and interesting menu. Really beautiful and flavoursome food.
THE NOT SO GOOD BITS: The attempt of hard sell on dessert. No big deal though.
STANDOUT DISH: White fish tiradito, Dry aged rib eye
COST PER HEAD: $95 (cocktails, a bottle of wine, 7 dishes, dessert & coffee)
Location: 6 Heeley Street, Paddington 2021
What’s the most fun dining experience you’ve had lately?