Inspired by a lengthy trip through South America, Paddington's Tequila Mockingbird is an inspired marriage of the vibrant, bold flavours of that continent with top-shelf Australian produce.
Designed by the prolific Luchetti Krelle (Bar Brose, ACME), the terrace has been refashioned into a skinny but stylish space, with a long bar leading into a warm space with wooden floors, hanging plants and gorgeous black and white line drawings of tropical fish and cacti.
The menu allows you to play mix and match with tapas-style servings or settle for a set menu, which is a filling three courses for $65. The latter begins with ceviche tacos ($7) which offer crunch, freshness and come in that most wonderful of inventions: the taco stand. Another entrée of kangaroo tartare with black beans ($16) continues the inventive, cross-continental approach.
Often the menu comes across as a kind of delicious potted South American history lesson. A white fish tiradito ($18), enlivened with colourful corn textures and nutty pickled jicama, is a vivid illustration of the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cooking, while the causa potato with salt cod ($16) is a dish tied with up the history of Peru and speaks volume of the cuisine's ingenuity with root vegetables. Here it's plated in a colourful crescent, bringing fine dining finesse to a rustic dish.
From the grill, there's spatchcock with coriander ($32) and the comfort food of broccolini with mole ($9) that was included on the menu to please co-owner Michael Fegent's mother. Unusual sides include alpaca empanadas ($8) with meat that is sweet and tender, not unlike lamb. Octopus ($26) is another highlight, with succulent pieces of the seafood daubed with a dazzlingly green chimichurri sauce and scattered with lightly charred pickled onions.
You'll want to finish with a suspiro limeña ($15), a dulce de leche and meringue dessert whose name roughly translates as 'sigh of a girl from Lima'. It tastes as poetic as it sounds and is elevated by a spot of yuzu granita.
A tequila-heavy cocktail list complements the big flavours and South American accent of the menu, with the likes of Volcan De Fuego ($20) which combines tangy, citric sweetness with the spice of anejo mescal. The house cocktail shares a name with the restaurant ($19) and is also heartily recommended for its fresh, summery flavours and tajín-coated rim.
They also boast an unusually comprehensive tequila list, with dozens of selections and the likes of a complex, aromatic Don Julio Reposado ($20) on offer. It's a place that takes its tequila pretty seriously — so don't expect to be throwing down cheap shots with a lemon and salt chaser.
Silly name aside, Tequila Mockingbird is seriously good, pulling off an ambitious menu complemented by lively service and an expertly curated drinks list.