At the entrance, I meet a friend. ‘Are you here to review the place’, he asks. ‘Well, you must try the pizzas, they’re fantastic.’ Though it’s barely two months old, Mockingbird Café clearly has its loyalists.
The first time we visited was a buzzing Sunday night. When we returned on a mid-week afternoon, the restaurant was, again, quite full; this time almost entirely by ladies who lunch, with a few well-heeled professionals occupying the centre high-tables.
Hemingway meets hipster in the interiors of the restaurant, with books and writing being a pervasive theme. A large typewriter sits at the entrance of an alcove, under the stairs, which opens to a tiny library with two bean bags. Line sketches of typewriters on a series of white plates are mounted on a wall next to a blackboard. Framed book covers are mounted on another. In the small garden outside, next to an Instagram-ready cut-out, are potted herbs that you can request for as additional toppings.
But the food is anything but hipster. The comfort café food is a reassuring alternative to its neighbours — Gaylord’s fuddy-duddy Continental and Salt Water Café’s Modern European.
We start with a portion of baked nacho salsa, in which cheddar sauce has been replaced with a combination of cheddar and mozzarella. The substitution is not noticeable and works just as nicely; the tart salsa and piquant pickled jalapenos round off the heavy flavours. Mockingbird has jumped on the bao-wagon, and we decided to try the panko crumbed rawas and spiced kimchi salad. The sweet bao was soft and fluffy in contrast to the crunchy, crumbed rawas, topped with a mildly spicy-sour pickled kimchi.
Refreshingly cool and zesty, the summery melon mocktail will do well this season; the potent cocktail called blowjob had a perfect layering of spirits. Despite the waiter’s insistence that the dhansak-marinated roast chicken was just one leg of chicken — which would have made it frightfully expensive — it featured, in fact, a leg joint coated in a rub of dhansak powder, with mixed spices. The flavourful chicken was odd at first, but gradually grew on you. The mixed seafood fideua, a pasta version of paella, was a bit of a let-down; prawns and rawas tossed with lightly-flavoured noodles. Both the main courses were quite small and would be inadequate without a starter.
Keeping in mind the Indian palate, both the flowerpot tiramisu and the bread and butter pudding were rather sweet.
Mockingbird Café will do well. Its youthfulness appeals to an older clientele, who want a lively place with easy-to-understand food.
The author tweets at @chezantoine