Architect Stuart Krelle introduced a South-American ambience to a Victorian terrace in Sydney’s bustling Paddington. By Kerryn Ramsey
When restaurateur Michael Fegent contacted architecture firm Luchetti Krelle, he rolled up his sleeve and showed them his favourite tattoo.
“He obviously had this concept in his mind for a long time,” says Stuart Krelle. Fegent and Krelle met in 2009, when Luchetti Krelle designed Saké for Urban Purveyor Group and Fegent was working as a waiter there.
In order to convert a run-down, three-storey terrace in Paddington’s Five Ways into a 100-seat restaurant with a Latin feel, Fegent had to go through two NSW Land and Environment Court appeals. Following this, he signed up executive chef Regan Porteous (ex Riley St Garage, Toko) as co-owner, and brought in head chefs Matt Taylor-Watkins and Uruguayan Gabriel Valenti.
It was an architecturally challenging project, says Krelle: “The terrace was incredibly narrow, and adding linings to the walls only encroached further on the space.”
Despite this, Tequila Mockingbird opens to a cosy front bar that continues into a slender dining room and leafy courtyard. Upstairs, there are two dining zones, one of which doubles as a function room with a retractable roof.
The kitchen is on the ground floor, so Krelle installed a dumb waiter. In front of the kitchen stands a big, wood-fired parrilla grill. “Michael wanted it positioned so guests could see it as they walk into the dining area,” explains Krelle. “It’s a big unit, so it set the limitations in the kitchen. There’s not a lot of prep space for the chefs but the system still manages to run smoothly.”
While Krelle introduced Latin American design elements, he also acknowledged the history of the suburb itself. “Surprisingly, it turned out to be a natural merge,” he says.
The front bar boasts black and white diamond tiles and a wooden bar with a marble top. “While this has a South American reference, it also fits in with the heritage of Paddington.”
A focal point of the back bar is a circular mirror. “The design was based around the idea of the Indian-head pennies in To Kill a Mockingbird,” says Krelle, referring to the scene in the novel in which Jem and Scout find pennies in a tree.
It’s just one of the surprises in this eclectic, well-executed restaurant.
And the naive, black and white mockingbird tattooed on Fegent’s arm?
That’s now the Tequila Mockingbird logo.