276 Illawarra Rd
Marrickville, NSW 2204
Peruvian food is hardly dime-a-dozen in Sydney, and you’d think Marrickville is the last place you’d find any. Yet despite being wildly out of place among the slew of Vietnamese restaurants and cheap eats, Pepito’s feels oddly appropriately. If you ask me, it’s the deliberate shabbiness of subway tile and retro band posters, mimicking the feel of a long-standing neighbourhood taberna where locals come to eat, drink, and make merry. The staff are just dandy, adding to the comfortable experience as they weave around with drinks and platters piled high with snacks. And the dodgy chain-link curtain hiding the entrance to the bathroom? It’s the coolest bit of décor I’ve seen for ages.
Rating: 13.5/20 – flavour country.
Good-to-know: watch out because the casually-priced snacks add up quick, especially if you throw in some drinks.
You can’t spell Peru without ceviche, so get around the Leche de Tigre ($22). Not only is the citrus-marinated seafood the brightest and most zesty around, it’s also topped with fabulously light and tender calamari rings that made me immediately want to ask for a full serve.
If you want something to fill your stomach fast however, the sanguches should be your go-to. The Pan con Pescado ($13ea) is a crispy delight of freshly crumbed and fried fish, accompanied by a slaw tossed with the unexpectedly rich addition of sesame oil. If meat’s more your thing however, try the Pan con Chicharron ($11) with its salty, fatty slab of pork belly.
I wasn’t originally going to get the Papa a la Huancaina ($14), thinking to avoid the filler dishes. But after seeing (and smelling) the table on each side of me presented with a tottering pile of golden potatoes, I caved completely. And although these may ‘just’ be roast potatoes, the additions of tangy pickled onion and cheesy huancaina sauce makes each bite much more interesting.
Aside from the ceviche, the other super traditional Peruvian dish is the Corazon ($15, 2pcs), a rustic street snack of grilled ox hearts. Whilst I really enjoyed the smoky, spicy flavours, I couldn’t get around the drudgery of chewing through all that tough muscle. Combined with one too many anatomy practicals with cadavers in med school, this is one dish I’m happy to give a miss on in the future.
With a menu designed for snacking, there is only one real main on the menu, which changes week to week. This week is the Arroz con Pato ($26), which I’m told is highly popular, and it’s not hard to see why. The hearty yet simple combination of succulent roast duck and herb-flecked rice hits just the right balance between interesting and comforting, making it good for pretty much any occasion.
Being a taberna, there are of course drinks aplenty. On the Mocktail ($12) front, they have 3 options – a fruity one, a citrus one, and a ginger one. I went with the first, and was rewarded with a deliciously refreshing concoction of freshly squeezed pineapple juice and mint – ideal for washing down all the salty snacks.