Tempero is a Karangahape Road restaurant that aims to combine the casual, approachable ambience of a bistro with high-quality Latin food that isn’t commonly found at other New Zealand eateries.
Brazil-born chef-owner Fabio Bernardini has impressive credentials, including a year as executive sous-chef at Mexico City’s Pujol (currently number nine on the World’s Best 50 list) and head chef at Michael Meredith’s Mr Morris in Auckland.
Tempero is his first New Zealand venue, he and partner Tiffany Low having taken over the former Peach Pit space. After a thorough makeover, which saw them remove Peach Pit’s booths and banquettes, open up the rear kitchen and lay white tiles behind the bar, it now feels much more crisp and spacious. According to Bernadini, the building’s high ceilings and colonial structure are reminiscent of the buildings in Brazil, and the curved bar they’ve put in was inspired by the pavilion at Provence’s art, food and wine destination Chateau la Coste – designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, a pioneer of Brazilian modernism.
On the menu, you’ll find Mexican, Brazilian, Peruvian and other Latin influences throughout the snacks, entrees, larger dishes and desserts (all shareable). It’s a journey through the flavours that Bernardini grew up with or has encountered on his culinary journey – for example, he ate mole negro on a daily basis when he worked at Pujol, and serves his interpretation here with a confit chicken leg and carrots.
Start your meal with pao de quijo (cheese bread), which comes as five piping hot balls, reminiscent of a cheese scone. Then try the acarajé – a crispy-shelled black-eyed pea and onion cake, a common street food in Brazil – and tamale, a Mesoamerican dish of filled dough that Bernardini serves in a corn husk with blue corn and potato. Among the sides you’ll find octopus with pipian (green sauce with pumpkin seeds) and pico de gallo (fresh salsa), and feijao – Brazilian baked beans.
Latin cuisine is usually based on roots instead of grains or flours, so much of the menu is ideal for those who are gluten-free – even the cheese bread, which is made with tapioca flour.
The cocktails and many of the wines stick with the Latin theme – you might have an alma negra from Argentina or a white tempranillo from Spain – along with a mix of natural wines. Either way, you should try the “milk lemonade” (known as limonada in Brazil), a refreshing, frothy drink made with limes and sweetened condensed milk.
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