David Henry, Head Chef and Co-Owner of The Stunned Mullet
Hi David. Congratulations, once again, for making the ‘cut’ for the SMH Good Food Guide. Thanks so much. It is an honour just being included in this dining ‘bible’ once, let alone 4 years running. We are very fortunate that we have such a loyal following and a creative, dedicated and talented team who contribute so much to our ongoing success.
Any aspirations of getting a hat? Well, that would certainly be an amazing achievement for any restaurant, but in a way it is a double edged sword.
What do you mean by that? Once a restaurant has a hat, expectations become so unbelievably high. The talent pool becomes small and volatility, which always exists within food and service, becomes inexcusable. I suppose by this I mean, the higher you fly, the higher you have to fall. Once you get that hat, you basically have to hold on to it for dear life, as losing it can be so damaging to your business – the hat brings such notoriety and such pressure to perform at the same time. And as much as we aim to please all our patrons, at the end of the day you can’t please everyone – having the hat just creates such huge expectations, and the lucrative enticement doesn’t always deliver, because you spend so much money maintaining it.
So tell us about your style of food, Dave.We aim to keep it fairly simple at the Mullet – no fancy foams or fiddly stuff. Our main philosophy rests with utilising fresh produce, meaning local too – as much as we can. I believe that if you have a truly superior example of an ingredient, you don’t need to do too much to enhance it. A bit of skill in the cooking technique and some clever and subtle accompaniments and seasonings are all you need. I have worked with the likes of Luke Mangan and The Cargo Group in London; however, it was a local restaurant in Bowral that etched the seafood philosophy into me … yes, Bowral.
You have also been awarded a glass rating as well. What does this mean? The Guide gives a glass to restaurants which showcase an exceptional and comprehensive list. Gourmet Traveller has also awarded us with a glass for the last three years as well.
Lou is responsible for maintaining our list, and he spends countless hours on this – as we speak, he is in Sydney for an imported tasting (or so I am led to believe) to further his awareness on current releases from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Spain. We do have a very strong list for any restaurant, let alone a regional restaurant.
So what’s next? We have our spring menu out at the moment, and one of my favourites is our Blue Eye Cod with sweet corn fritter, avocado soup and wombok and blood orange salad and our Spanner Crab taco (back after serious demand) – both really fresh and super tasty. The pork belly is an institutional dish with us, consistently pleasing our guests.
And what about dessert? It seems to be all the rage at the moment, with dessert bars opening throughout the US and Europe?
It’s funny you mention that, as I am currently working on the dessert menu; I promised Chris (a regular) that I would have a few new items for him when he returns from holidays.
Any sneak previews? You’ll have to watch this space, as I should have things nutted out by the time this interview goes to press … but, I really should go, because I need to finalise these desserts for Chris … I can hear his plane approaching.
Thanks for your time, David.
PICTURED: Left to Right, Dylan Cashman, David Henry, Kieran Ari.
This story was published in issue 83 Port Macquarie