It’s hard to get authentic Mexican cuisine in Australia. And understandably so, as there isn’t a large population of Mexicans, nor is Mexico an easy-to-reach destination for Australian chefs who might’ve brought back its spices.
The owners of Nu’u by Nativo in Sydney’s Glebe, set to open Friday, August 18, want to change that. They’re offering authentic cuisine from the Mexican city of Oaxaca — no cheap tacos, sombrero décor or fiesta scenes in sight. They launched tiny taqueria Nativo in Pyrmont in 2022, but Nu’u by Nativo is a topped-up offering, with a 60-person seating capacity.
“Oaxaca has the best gastronomy in Mexico, and is the birthplace of mezcal,” says Michelin-trained chef Manuel Diaz, who owns the venues with his partner Diana Farrera. Both grew up in Oaxaca.
While Diaz serves as Head Chef, Ferrara is the venue’s General Manager, as well as showcases her skills as Australia’s only certified ‘mezcologist’. “In Oaxaca, they do nightlight in a different way, which feels very bohemian, light-hearted and carefree,” Ferrara says.
‘Mezcalinas’ on the menu are cocktails made with mezcal, with each focusing on the flavour profile of mezcal — floral, herbal, citrus and sweet. They’re named after real and fictional famous women from Oaxaca, like ‘Juana Cata’ and ‘Maria Sabina’.
In the kitchen, Diaz cooks everything from scratch, sourcing directly from the land, farmers and markets. He then uses indigenous methods to cook, like metate (grinding on traditional stone) and slow cooking in traditional green clay pots he brought over from Oaxaca. The resulting menu is 18 small dishes, designed to share.
Highlight dishes include ‘memela del mercado’, maize-dough grilled with beans, cheese and marinated pork shoulder, ‘pulpo escondido’, grilled octopus on paste made from dried chillies hand-ground in stone, and ‘chile reileno’, poblano chilli stuffed with shiitake picadillo and served over mole verde.
His personal favourite dish? The pork belly. “I think it goes great with the mezcal molasses and is a great homage to how the cooks in Oaxaca make their dishes. It feels rich, fresh, and it’s just a homey meal. It also comes with ‘mole’, which is the essence of Oaxacan cuisine.”
Nu’u by Nativo’s setting follows Oaxaca’s boho ethos, too. It’s housed in a two-storey Victorian terrace on Glebe Point Road. Its interiors resemble an Oaxacan heritage house, and it’s decorated with arts and crafts, including wood-carved figures, red clay sculptures and woven artwork, handmade by indigenous people in the Mixtec communities of Oaxaca.
“If you travel through the state of Oaxaca, you discover that each locality has its own ‘speciality’, so we wanted to bring that to Sydney,” says Ferrara. “It was important for us to give a little nod to all of these places that inspired the menu and that for us, are pieces of home.”
On the ground floor is an open kitchen, with a chef’s table, while the upstairs’ terrace has views over Glebe Point Road. It’s that area with the views that Ferrara considers her favourite area of the venue.
“It feels very cosy and warm, and I feel you really connect with the surroundings here,” she says. “If you look through the windows, you’ll remember you are still in Sydney and the streets are alive, but the space inside is crafted for you to feel at home.”