John Frid is a 27-year kitchen veteran, so it’s rare for him to encounter something he’s never done before. That’s why he was excited at the prospect of cooking over a parilla (an Argentinian-style wood or coal-powered grill) when he started at Tequila Mockingbird shortly after it opened in 2016.
“After so many years, to encounter something new in your everyday work life puts a new spring in your step,” the Canadian-born chef tells Broadsheet.
Frid will experience that newness again when Tequila on York, a six-week pop-up eatery in a dramatic heritage space off York Street in the CBD, opens on Wednesday September 2.
Tequila Mockingbird is well-known in Paddington for its refreshing take on Central and South American cuisine, and Tequila on York will continue to play on those influences.
“The menu is a bit more refined than Tequila Mockingbird,” Frid says. “I want to tell a story with the menu. It starts with an acidic amuse bouche to awaken the tastebuds, and takes you on a journey to Mexico, Argentina and Peru.”
The compulsory set menu involves eight dishes over four courses ($89) and changes weekly. For opening week, it includes dishes such as ceviche and Nikkei-style (Japanese-Peruvian) kingfish tacos; tamales; grilled calamari with chorizo; and grilled broccoli. As in Paddington, the parilla will be a centrepiece of the kitchen, this time burning ironbark. Frid is christening it by cooking up smoked lamb shoulder for the first week.
Tequila will make an occasional appearance on the food menu, in dishes such as Patrón Blanco-poached pear and borracha (drunken) salsa. The drinks menu is packed with tequila and mezcal. “We’ve got something like 150 mezcals and tequilas in the selection across the two venues,” Frid says.
The setting for the pop-up is a hard-to-find heritage-listed sandstone space off York Street that was once a print shop. The entrance is concealed – when diners arrive they’ll need to call a phone number provided upon booking and be escorted to the dining room. Although floor space is limited, dramatic beams and ceilings as tall as the space is wide result in a venue that’s both intimate and grand.
With Tequila Mockingbird well established at Five Ways in Paddington, the York Street venture will be a space for experimentation. “It will give me a chance to play around and flex some creative muscle. I want to develop dishes to bring back to Tequila Mockingbird for something new.”
There’s also a benevolent reason for the pop-up.
“We’re using our existing staff and trying to keep everyone employed during this period.”
Tequila on York will be open from September 2 to October 9 for bookings of up to 10 people. Bookings are essential.
Tequila on York
50 York Street, Sydney
Hours Wed to Fri 12pm–4.45pm, 6pm–10.45pm