Terrific tapas served ice cold

Despite the risk of an awkward introduction, it's easy to warm to Sydney's swish tapas newbie once the food starts arriving.

Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, indulges at Luke Mangan's new offering, Mojo in Sydney's Waterloo.

Four weeks is the time I usually wait before visiting a place because I always find that for the first three weeks, at least, they’re still finding their feet. Menus change, service becomes more assured and processes smooth out. And it was smack bang on four weeks when we visited Mojo, a converted warehouse space on Danks Street opened by Luke Mangan. I’ve only had great meals at Glass Brasserie so I was curious to see how a tapas concept would turn out.

Admittedly the night isn’t off to the best start. When friend Gerri Bear orders a martini she’s told “Madame, we don’t serve martinis. We’re a wine bar.” She asks if there’s a prosecco to order. The waiter tells her “We have a sparkling and it’s $9 a glass.”

“I guess I don’t look like I can afford the $20 a glass champagne…” Gerri Bear says, slighted. Sure it’s a wine bar but there are only about 10 whites, a dozen reds and two sparklings which is less than many restaurants would have. The attitude from that same staff member is served again when Florizal walks in. She told him that she was looking for her friend and he said to her, “well, I don’t know what your friend looks like so perhaps you might want to take a look”. Which she was doing…

I look around the space which is very much on message and on brand with the Luke Mangan logo everywhere. There are displays aplenty of his products from nuts to dressings, oils, etc, and wooden boards show the businesses that he ships these to. His sparkling water at $9 a 750ml bottle is the water served. It’s about half full this rainy Friday evening with some perched at the long bar while others are at bar tables. There is one sit down eating table that we can see as well as a large table in the back. We are at one of the bar tables although we want to sit down and eat and Florizal has asked if they have a table free. We’re told that once the diners leave we will get their table.

While waiting we order some olives and they come in a glass jar with toothpicks. The olives themselves are good but picking a soft fleshed green or black olive up with a toothpick proves difficult and we end up excusing our fingers as we use them to pick the olives up.

The other table shows no sign of leaving so we ask if we can sit at the big table out the back which we can see through the metal curtains. This table is apparently only for private bookings so apparently we can’t sit there although there is no private booking that night. After waiting one and a half hours they give us a table around the corner which we hadn’t seen – we’re not quite sure why we had to wait that long if a table was there all along and we finally settle in to order food as we’re getting peckish and it’s getting late.

Graph for Terrific tapas served ice cold

Raw kingfish, ginger, shallot and Persian feta – $14

Service is really a bit confused and we’re handed menus that are just too dark to read in our corner so we get out our phones to make them legible. They put down our plates and then take our menus without actually taking our order and we have to ask for them back so that we can order. It’s the kind of service you’d almost expect during a place’s first week of opening as staff find their way. We’re relieved that since there are five of us they can make orders for five instead of having to buy quantities of six. We’re told the specials and one of them has sold out and the kingfish is selling out so we ask if we can have those while we choose the rest. This is a version of the fabulous kingfish served at Glass and here the kingfish is served with ginger, shallot and little puffs of creamy Persian feta. I could have eaten 10 of these plates!

Graph for Terrific tapas served ice cold

Lobster and Vietnamese salad, bao bun – $19.50 each

We asked how big the lobster buns were and our waiter indicated that they are the size of a dinner roll. Surprised at the price he points out “well, lobster is a very expensive ingredient you know”. And when they were set down our eyes widened. Apparently lobster is much more expensive than any of us thought because the buns were incredibly small at 6cm or 2.3 inches in diameter and at $19.50 each we were a little shocked. They were served in a sweet, deep fried bao which was good and not greasy at all and it was stuffed with lots of fresh Vietnamese salad and lobster leg meat. It wasn’t that it wasn’t enjoyed but for the price it was the kind of thing that you’d order if you didn’t have to pay the bill...

To read the full post, click here.