Tequila Mockingbird, Paddington

Eat, Sydney / 14 September 2016

After all, it’s a sin Tequila Mockingbird

Situated on Heeley street, on the fringe of Paddington’s popular Five Ways is Tequila Mockingbird. Travel through Peru, Mexico and Argentina without ever leaving the country at this funky tequila bar and restaurant, serving Latin American cuisine with a sophisticated twist.
First-time restaurateur Michael Fegent (ex-Sake) and executive chef Regan Porteous (Riley Street Garage, Toko) work at the helm of this 110 seat, two story terrace-style restaurant. Fegent explains how he was inspired to bring the authentic food experiences he enjoyed while travelling throughout the Americas to Australia.
If you think about the tight, terrace-style confines Fegent is working with, you can’t help but commend his interior design ingenuity. There is no dead space with every facet serving a purpose. A couple of after-workers can be found sipping wine in the intimate outside area just near the front entrance. Cross the threshold to find a wall of liquor bottles gorgeously glistening on your left. Some even more gorgeous looking bartenders can be spotted shaking cocktails vigorously from behind the bar. These sounds, plus the ones of wine glasses clinking and soft Spanish music soon fills your ears. The stress of the working day suddenly like a distant memory.
tequila mockingbird-upstairs
Walk down the hall and you’ll find a series of black and white prints clinging to the walls. Each print captures couples dancing, some even locking eyes. This in combination with the warm lightening, candles and lush greenery evoke a sense of old-school romanticism. Although my date and I don’t venture as far, we are told the upstairs level has a similar feel. The courtyard area even has a retractable roof! It’s not hard to imagine how ideal a sunny session of cocktails and tacos would be.
tequila-mockingbird cocktail
Open the drinks menu and you’ll find 32 tequilas and 10 mezcals to choose from, plus rums from Guatemala and around Central America. We start our evening with a round of cocktails including their signature Tequila Mockingbird ($19). Don Julio Blanco, St Germaine elderflower liqueur, jalapeño, lemon and agave are expertly mixed together to offer the fundamentals of a good margarita, with a twist. Coating the rim of the glass is a dark red salt. This is where the jalapeños come into the equation. Before long the tip of my tongue is on fire. Thankfully, the sweet, citrusy flavours take the sting away.
If spicy isn’t your thing, we recommend the Papi Chulo ($19). Germana Soul cachaca, muddled strawberries, lime, basil, Monin strawberry and basil sprig are served over lots of ice. It makes for a fruity, boozy and exceptionally easy drinking beverage.
Looking at the food, our waiter explains that all dishes are designed to share. The menu is broken up into five categories: raw, streets, between, flame grill and garden. It’s suggested we follow the menu in this order.
tequila mockingbird
There are several stand outs from the ‘raw’ section including the ceviche taco ($7 each). The fish is served exceptionally fresh, cut into small cubes and slightly opaque as a result of the lime juice. The taco shell itself is really delicious. Unlike many wheat based taco shells which can quickly turn soggy, this one is light and very crunchy, using rice pastry.
A slightly left of centre addition to the raw list is the mushroom ceviche, served with plantain chips ($16). With some initial skepticism, I quickly realise how meaty and delicious these five different types of mushrooms are. Served with pickled onion and chilli, it works well with the salty chips. I recommend getting a little bit of everything in your mouth at the one time for maximum flavour hit.
Moving onto ‘streets’ we sample items such as the alpaca, mozzarella empanada ($8each). Chef Porteous explains that the alpaca meat is sourced from a local supplier in Berry. Gauging my shock, he quickly tells me that they only use the ‘grumpy’ alpacas, not the cute fuzzy, friendly ones as seen on many a road-trip. Taking my first bite, the pastry is super buttery and flakey. The meat has the consistency of pulled pork, with a slight chicken flavour. The verdict? Yum.
tequila mockingbird soft shell crab
Next on the agenda is the celeriac, soft shell crab taco ($12 each). Before this dish even hits the table, my date loudly exclaims “they look like hairy spiders legs!”. Okay yes, if you didn’t know it was crab it could be mistaken for a deep fried tarantula nestled between your soft taco shell. But for me, I marvel at the visual spectacle. The legs of the crab also contain some of the sweetest, most tender meat I’ve tasted in a while.
Other dishes on the menu include the South Australian calamari, roast pepper and ajo blanco ($24) as well as the octopus, which comes with green chimichurri and pickled onion ($26).
tequila mockingbird
At several restaurants these days, there tends to be one stand out, ‘must order’ item. For Tequila Mockingbird, it is the dry aged rib eye, served with garlic jalapeño butter ($58). It is the most expensive item on the menu, but with good reason. You get a big Flintstones style bone, with sticky meat encasing the outside. I feel no shame in putting down my cutlery and handling this beauty with my hands as nature intended. The remainder of the meat is served fillet style, where the waiter will ask as to your cooking preference. To offset the richness of this meat dish, we order a light mixed bean salad, served salted cucumber, labna ($9). The labna is nice and creamy, juxtaposed against the salty, crunch of the green veggies. It certainly hits the spot after an indulgent meal.
Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or simply the fact that you made it through the work week, you can’t go past an indulgent dining experience at Tequila Mockingbird. The staff are confident and knowledgable, with a little bit of cheeky flair thrown in for good measure.
Tequila Mockingbird 
6 Heeley Street, Five Ways, Paddington, 02 9331 6749
Open Wed 4pm-10.30pm; Thurs 4pm-11.30pm; Fri 4pm-midnight; Sat 11.30am-midnight; Sun 11.30am-10pm