“When you combine smell and taste, it is quite literally what memories are made of” – Beth Peluse, travel writer.
I remember my first taste of Mr Papa back in 2015, seated outside the Peruvian food van at the Hamlet in Braddon. Breathing in the harmonious melody of flavours that is their chanchito burger.
The burger’s tangy salsa Criolla cut through its luscious pork belly and mellow sweet potato filling. And then the enigmatic green sauce on the side played pied piper to my transfixed tastebuds. The flavours were so memorable, so delicious, that at least once a year since I have attempted to recreate the magic of this green sauce. Unsuccessfully.
Five years on, the Hamlet is no more. So, what did Mr Papa do next?
“When the Hamlet came to an end, we needed to look to another direction,” says co-owner Carlos, who founded Mr Papa with his brother Moncho.
“An opportunity came along when the ANU needed a food hub. We created a temporary pop-up there with Brodburger and other food vans. This helped build our following and it’s how we began catering. Couples started to ask us to cater their weddings. We now cater about 32 weddings a year!”
The brothers recently established their HQ kitchen in Fyshwick, the heart of their food production, with a vision to open a food truck at the front for takeaway and ready meals. At the same time, Mr Papa’s most recent opportunity is at the Coop at Soho, an outdoor food hall at Dickson’s new building development on the corner of Morphett Street and Northbourne Avenue.
“It’s a little like the Hamlet, but with more options, more facilities and more parking spaces. And soon we will be introducing a drive-in theatre experience!”
So many wonderful things were in place that 2020 was shaping up to be Mr Papa’s best year. Then, well, we know what happened … COVID-19 hit and like a haphazard jumble of toppling dominos, dozens of wedding bookings and catering gigs at major concerts and other public events were cancelled.
Carlos says that it took them a week or two to decide what to do next.
“Yes, it has been hard, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is an opportunity to be pushed to the limit. To return to our roots and focus on our everyday customers.”
Any wonderful feast begins with your eyes, and at Mr Papa, they have nailed the art of gorgeous food presented beautifully. Your tastebuds are also in for a treat: Peruvian food is all about infusing flavour, about its rubs and sauces.
However, the empanada’s flaky butter pastry with crunchy edges are delicious just on their own. The varied fillings of beef and chicken are sautéed in a blend of Peruvian herbs and spices. The vegetarian fillings, including corn, spinach, mushroom and quinoa, are mellow and moreish.
We ordered a little of everything (correction: a LOT of everything) and loved it all. Make sure you use all the wonderful sauces (including the vegetarian and gluten-free options).
I would pay good money for Mr Papa’s green sauce recipe but soon you won’t have to! Keep an eye out for all the latest on their Facebook page and on Instagram, especially for upcoming tutorials on how to create your own Peruvian food at home, including those famous sauces.
Mr Papa is located at the Coop at Soho, on the corner of Northbourne Ave and Morphett street in Dickson.
They are open Thursday to Sunday for lunch from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and Thursday to Saturday for dinner from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Got the isolation doldrums? Check out Mr Papa online menu. The close-knit team has been busy refreshing their offerings and creating unique, fun ways to transport Mr Papa, and indeed Peru, into your own home.
“We have kept our most popular dishes and brought back some old favourites, like our handmade empanadas,” Carlos says. “Our empanadas are colourful and appealing to the eye. We want to bring Mr Papa to our customers, not just as a traditional takeaway but as an experience!”
Their Date Para Dos and Familia packages promise an immersive encounter. Both come with some background information about the menu, along with a Spotify playlist that “brings the vibe of Mr Papa”. Or grab some heat-and-eat empanada packs.
Pre-orders can be made 24/7. Delivery is available within a 5 km radius of their Dickson location. Order via Mr Papa or call on 0414 301 952.