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.
The Latin American restaurant at Paddington’s Five Ways looks like an unassuming terrace house from the outside, 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. The menu is split into three sections: Raw Bar, Streets and Flame Grill. It covers a lot of Latin America, including dishes inspired by Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Argentina, while staying true to 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 bar is led by sommelier Sam Jones, and the best cocktail on the menu is the Tequila Mockingbird, naturally. When asked what’s in the drink, the bartender answers “secrets”. Some things are best left as a surprise.