No.2 Oak Street Restaurant is one of the most successful and award winning restaurants on the Mid-North Coast. We catch up with chef Ray Urquhart to talk about his cuisine and the restaurant.
> Why did you decide to settle in Bellingen?
My wife Toni’s mother lived on the coast near Bellingen and we had always liked the area and were very familiar with it. The area was lacking what we had to offer to the Hospitality Industry. The reason we moved to New Zealand originally was to spend more time with the kids and allow them to grow up in country New Zealand. Over there the schooling is different and once you reach high school age you go to boarding school – which kind of defeats the purpose of spending time together.
We came back to Australia and found a little cottage in Bellingen that suited what we wanted to do.
> Tell us about the renovations you did on the restaurant and what visitors can expect to experience.
It is basically a one bedroom house with a very large undercover verandah. It was a cottage built around the 1910 era. We re-roofed it, re-worked all the electrical and plumbing -whilst trying to keep some of the original character. The main room has an open fire place and we also installed double french doors. We built a toilet block and disabled access too.
> No.2 Oak Street has also won a few awards.
Yes it has. We are listed in the national Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide and received a ‘Wine Glass’ last year – which is a sign that we have a quality wine list. They also mentioned our impressive floor management outside the metropolitan area’s which is looked after by my wife Toni who is the Maitre De. We have also won the Fine Dining Northern NSW Restaurant Catering Award six years in a row. The 2006 awards are on Monday night so hopefully we will win again.
We were included in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide for the last seven years and have also been awarded a ‘Chef’s Hat’ – which is the sign of a quality family restaurant for the last two years. We have been judged again this year for the award which will be announced in Good Food Week later in the year, and hopefully we can retain the Chef’s Hat for another year.
We have ongoing support from Sydney customers and are unquestionably the best restaurant on the Mid-North Coast and have the accolades to show for it. We have been here for 11 years – which is a long time in the restaurant trade as it is usually pretty transient.
> What sort of menu are you currently running at the restaurant?
It is Modern Australian Cuisine, basically it is just use of quality local fresh food where available and cooked to perfection. I had a French and European training along with some Asian influences.
> Do you have a favourite dish on the menu at the moment.
I do a barbeque in summer, we buy fresh baby squid which is hand picked. It is barbequed with a chilli palm sugar dressing – which is always a favourite.
> How important is it to keep changing the menu and what you offer at the restaurant?
Very. Your regular clients are always looking for a change; sometimes you need to change as the products will disappear with the seasons. We change the menus usually four or five times a year, possibly more. Our menu is very easy to change and we can change it on the day if we need too.
> The restaurant sources a lot of fresh local produce including Murrays Craft Beer, is it important to you to support your local businesses?
Yes it is. Out of town tourists like to see the local products in use. We also use the Burrawong Quail Farm which is at Stuarts Point down near Kempsey. They process all local poultry including pheasants, rabbits, quails and ducks. I have also sourced certified 150 day lot fed Angus beef, and I believe we are the only ones using this in the Coffs Harbour Region. It is a very high grade beef product. We use organic vegetables from the local area too.
> We hear you get a few famous people up there to dine too?
Yes we have had a few. Bob Carr, Bob Hawke and a few movie stars too. All our customers are special and we treat them that way too.
> When you eat out where do you go?
We don’t eat out very often, but when we do we fly to Sydney and check out what’s happening down there. We like to see what products are being used. A lot of the time we will just cook at home though.
> Thank You for your time Ray.