Port Macquarie’s highly acclaimed restaurant The Stunned Mullet has once again secured itself a SMH GFG Chef’s Hat. Focus caught up with Lou Perri to chat about their latest accolade and the culture of The Stunned Mullet …
Lou, for those of us who don’t know about The Stunned Mullet, can you tell us about your restaurant?
Sure! We are located right opposite beautiful Town Beach, and we serve lunch and dinner seven days a week. We offer a tantalising international menu with a focus on sustainable and MSC certified seafood, hormone and GMO free poultry, beef and lamb, along with seasonal organic fruit and vegetables. We also have an outstanding international wine list, with offerings from around the globe.
What is your food philosophy?
Using the freshest and highest quality ingredients is our culinary focus. Letting the flavour of wonderful produce speak for itself – utilising the skills of our talented team and a variety of traditional and the latest cooking techniques to prepare dishes perfectly. Trying to avoid over-complicating and overwhelming the palate and allowing the beauty and simplicity of amazing ingredients to shine through.
The restaurant has prestigiously retained its SMH GFG Chef’s Hat for the fourth year in a row. What does this mean to you and your team?
Keeping our hat is important for all of us and an absolute reflection of the hard work, passion and ongoing dedication of the entire team. The incentive that receiving this respected and coveted accolade provides drives us to strive to continue to offer a highly consistent food, ambience and service proposition and to continue to challenge ourselves in terms of menu offerings, innovations in technologies, as well as continually improving the overall proposition for our guests.
The awards system was tightened this year. How did this change things for you?
Realising this year that the Good Food Guide had upped its minimum score to be actually included in the guide from a previous 12/20 to 14/20 was a bit of a shock to the system. This has raised the bar for inclusion so much higher. The pressure to perform, especially for regional restaurants, is on – this year many regional restaurants that had previously been staples in the guide had failed to make the cut. In fact, in the Mid North Coast itself, there are no longer any restaurants included other than my industry and Port Macquarie colleagues, Fusion 7 and Zebu (congratulations to their respective teams).
It is unfortunately that much harder for restaurants
in regional areas to score high enough in all the criteria used in the judging process – food, beverage service, ambience – simply because we do not have access to anywhere near the same level of resources as in urban areas. This problem exists across the board – from the difficulties in finding and keeping quality staff, to having access to a wider range of suppliers, and avoiding logistical issues with deliveries.
Without giving away all your secrets, what “ingredients” do you think go into a good restaurant?
There are no secrets! It’s simple – it all starts with a great team, a whole lot of love, a truckload of luck (being in the right place at the right time) and a dash, if not an overwhelming amount, of craziness helps too! Seriously though, a lot of it comes down to getting down and being prepared to do lots of hard work. The hours are antisocial and long; the margin for error is ridiculously high. You have to keep your wits about you and do your best to stay afloat, to not be afraid to make changes where necessary, to remain flexible, to keep the flame for it all burning!
Most of all, you need to find joy in dealing with people. Your team and your customers are your world; without the love for them, there is absolutely no point bothering with any of it.
Now we’re in spring, you must have some new dishes. What we can expect to see?
The team is busy working on some new dishes as we speak, which will include some new additions, along with some old favourites. Drop in to see us, and our team will enlighten you on some of our new offerings.
Anything else of note about The Stunned Mullet we should know?
We are thrilled to now be able to offer a decadent selection of wines by the glass from our wonderful cellar. We are using a new and revolutionary method of wine preservation – the Coravin. Put simply, a thin, hollow needle slides through the foil and cork into the bottle. The bottle is then pressurised with argon (a harmless gas sans odour and taste) which pushes wine back out through the needle and into your glass, without letting any oxygen into the bottle. Once the needle is removed, argon is left in its place (hence no oxidation), the cork reseals itself and the remaining wine continues to naturally age as if it was never touched. It is truly an amazing device!
We also have the Coravin available for sale, an exclusive first in Australia! Give us a call or email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more.