Paddington is a long way from chef Gabriel Valente’s family farm in Uruguay. The property stretches from highway to beach and is populated by horses, fruit trees and vegetable patches. In 2015 executive chef Regan Porteous and co-owner Michael Fegent visited Valente there and together, over the indoor parrilla grill, they cooked the first versions of Tequila Mockingbird’s menu.
Tequila Mockingbird is a new Latin American restaurant at Paddington’s bustling Five Ways intersection. From the outside the terrace house is unassuming, but it opens into a surprisingly large space that seats 110 guests upstairs, downstairs and in the courtyard.
Porteous leads the kitchen with Matt Taylor-Watkins and Valente. Although Valente’s Latin American heritage helps keep the menu traditional, he says, “Cooking is an international language. I showed the others Latin American flavours, but they brought their own experience.”
The menu is split into three sections: Raw Bar, Streets and Flame Grill. It covers a vast region of Latin America, including dishes inspired by Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Argentina.
“It’s been a challenge working with unfamiliar ingredients,” says Porteous, who has spent 12 years cooking Japanese cuisine. Efforts to familiarise himself have paid off – the menu strikes an elusive balance between what he describes as, “Staying true to Latin American cuisine and pleasing the Australian palate”.
Dishes such as the ceviche taco and the vegan mushroom ceviche with plantain crisps are underpinned by a tart, energetic Peruvian dressing called menjunge, which translates to “wizard’s potion”. The kangaroo tartare, dotted with black beans and nacho chips, is surprisingly creamy and smooth.
The best cocktail on the menu is the Tequila Mockingbird, naturally. Made from Don Julio Blanco, St Germaine elderflower liqueur, jalapeño, lemon, agave, it’s balanced, punchy and refreshing.
6 Heeley Street, Paddington
(02) 9331 6794