Rob and Karen Mooney are the new owners at The Waterfront Restaurant. Find out what they have in store …
What inspired you to become a chef?
I have always been interested in food and cooking. From an early age, I was keen to explore flavours and styles of food. The lifestyle also appealed to me – being able to travel Australia creating dishes up and down the coast.
Tell us about your background in the hospitality industry.
I am a Port Macquarie local and completed my four year apprenticeship at Cray’s Seafood Restaurant in Port Macquarie on Clarence St. This restaurant, owned by Zar and Gernard Waterhouse, was the seafood restaurant in its day, serving up a selection of local seafood for locals and visitors to the region. Head Chef at Vista Restaurant was my next big project; the new owners ironically took over the upstairs space, formerly Crays.
I then was the Head Chef for Finnian’s Irish Tavern, followed by a stint up in Cairns on the Ocean Spirit Cruise – the largest cruise operation in Cairns, with three boats each catering for 150 guests. This was an amazing experience, getting to meet many talented chefs and seeing some more of Australia’s beautiful coastline. I also worked at Fish Divine, an amazing seafood restaurant and bar in Cairns, before being offered the role at Zebu – bringing me back to Port Macquarie.
What are some of your favourite ingredients to use on a daily basis?
There are so many to choose from! I would have to say my key favourites would be seafood of all kinds, chilli, and cured meats like our house cured Ocean Trout.
What is unique about the Zebu menu?
Our unique point of difference would be our specially sourced meats. We are currently sourcing our beef from the Central Tablelands, Tasmania and the highlands of Victoria. Our Pork is coming from Bangalow on the North Coast and is some of the best in the country. We have also just employed a talented new dessert chef, Christina Hamel, who is creating some really eclectic and amazing desserts and pastry creations for our guests.
Tell us about some of the winter menu favourites.
Our winter menu will launch in mid June and will be highlighting some delicious winter classics with some modern inspirations, such as our Venison Wellington with globe artichoke and gooseberry jus. A classic Bouillabaisse will also be a feature on the menu – a French classic with a Zebu signature. Roasted Quail Confit with tomato fondue will also be a great winter dish. Something new to try will be the Five Course Seafood Degustation.
Do you cater for functions or any other special services at Zebu?
The Zebu Room is a private waterfront space attached to the restaurant that caters for 60 in a banquet formation or 90 cocktail style and is perfect for birthdays, engagements, cocktail parties or corporate dinners. This space has its own private balcony, with views and access to the Town Green and is perfect for celebrations and corporate events.
What will people enjoy most about dining at Zebu? Zebu has its own unique atmosphere, with beautiful fireplaces throughout the bar and grill, natural timbers, candlelight and of course, the floor to ceiling windows with vast views over the water. It is the perfect spot for a cosy winter dinner with friends or colleagues. The bar is also a great winter meeting place for after work drinks or a pre dinner cocktail.
Passion and commitment to serving great food is the underlying motivation for the talented staff at Fusion 7 … locals and visitors alike take great delight in dining on their tasty menu combinations, that have become Fusion7’s trademark …
What inspired you to start working in hospitality?
I grew up in the hospitality industry. My mother and father owned a restaurant in Thailand, so I was always around food and cooking.
How long have you been a chef?
I have grown up helping my mother and father in their restaurant, but when I was 18, I did all the correct courses to become a fully qualified chef.
What do you love most about your job?
I just love cooking and decorating the food. I like to try a bit of everything and work with all sorts of ingredients to create new dishes.
What are some of the most popular Thai dishes that you sell at the Thai orchid?
Definitely Massaman Curry. Everyone just raves about it, and also, coming in second would have to be Pad Thai. They are both our specialties here. The third best seller would have to be stirfried chicken and cashew.
What is one ingredient that you can’t go without using?
Chilli is definitely something we use in a lot of things, but I would have to say herbs. We use lots of fresh herbs in everything. That is why Thai food is so healthy, ‘cause all the herbs are really good for your digestive system. We use all different fresh herbs like lemongrass, mint, basil, coriander, ginger and many more. We don’t tend to use as much chilli in our dishes over here as we would back in Thailand, as it is generally too hot.
What does the future hold for the restaurant?
At the moment, we are looking at doing some renovations outside to make it look more traditional Thai and more outdoorsy.
What makes the Thai Orchid stand out above the rest?
I think because we have such a nice big restaurant, and we have a good atmosphere. The price of our food is very reasonable for the large portion sizes. Also, our food is 100% fresh.
We only cook it as it is ordered; no pre cooking takes place. That is why sometimes it may take a little longer for our meals to come out, but they are of the freshest quality.
You have been a finalist for the best Thai Restaurant in the North Coast for the past 5 years. What is the criteria that you have to pass to become a finalist?
They come in and check the food, service, portion sizes, restaurant, kitchen, table setting the lot; it is very strict.
How long has the Thai orchid been open?
Six years, and hopefully we have another 7 or so years in us.
Thank you May.
This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus
Fusion 7 is all about serving unrivalled food with service to match, in an intimate, relaxed atmosphere…
Chef Lindsey always puts forward an interesting menu, each dish unlike the one above or below on the menu.