As the competition is heating up, the bar is being raised, and these days? It’s almost hard to find a bad meal in any town – large or small in this island known for its produce and table. Henry’s Restaurant is cool with a capital ‘C’, and hot, in a good way.
What does it take to really grab a share of the market and settle in to a long life in the restaurant industry? Apart from an oil tanker full of guts and hard work, carefully chosen staff to head the teams can make an eon of difference between good, and great.
One of my favourite sayings is “A fish stinks from its head” – and in any organisation I always look to the top when something is good – or bad. Everything filters down. Nick Daking, one of the owners of the Social Hospitality Company, cut his teeth in Brisbane and later Rosevears, and it’s no accident that Henry’s comes across as assured and smooth as the whiskies served in the bar.
History is here, the eponymous Henry presided over the Northern Club, where gentlemen of a certain standing met to relax (and escape family duties I have no doubt) as was the English tradition. Nick has met the old with the new head on, and the décor is a classy blend of ultra chic modern and old world comfort. Clever.
Jack Turner runs the bar with a knowledge of drinks and cocktails that is encyclopaedic, and Christie Chase heads the kitchen. They both make a formidable team, and as we wandered in one night, found pretty much nothing to fault, and everything to praise.
A Hendrick’s Gin and tonic at $12 began our journey nicely, and we settled on the small degustation menu, $45 for 3 dishes per person, which was ample for us, as we tasted and savoured our way jointly through 9 courses between 3 of us.
Kristie changes the menu monthly, so I won’t go into exacting detail about each dish, but what we sampled was perfectly balanced, and gave the palate a pleasant journey of flavours and textures. The crab gazpacho was light, with a perfect acid balance.
It was a dish I had to sample: having made gazpacho in my first restaurant (Spanish) by the bucket full. I still have memories of pushing puréed onion, red capsicum, cucumber and tomato through a sieve and blending the oil and vinegar until I had that perfect umame taste.
This gazpacho had that, and the addition of the crab was inspired. A katsud quail dish with panko crumbs and black sesame was a nod to Japan and its Okonomiyaki, with zig zag drizzles of the (in Japan) ubiquitous Kewpie mayonnaise and a dark hoi sin sauce. Wallaby fillet topped with toasted hazelnuts, and fresh herbs melted in the mouth, Thai mussels had the right bite and fresh coriander zing, and goats’ curd croquettes on a bed of rich tomato sauce with tiny accents of golden sweet potato went, in a flash.
Salmon timbale blended artichoke and avocado with a pleasing mouth feel, and to finish, for by this time we were done, a sharp but sweet lemon tart with perfect buttery short pastry sent us out into the night.
A Holm Oak Cab Merlot, at $55 the bottle had enough guts and fruit to hold its own against the parade of textures and flavours. Have I mentioned the staff? Not yet – but they were fast, professional, and like all great waiters there when we needed them, and scarce when we didn’t. Kristie began her life as a pastry chef, and it shows. An attention to detail and lightness of touch that sets her food apart.
Henry’s Restaurant and Bar is something Launceston needed, and thankfully, now has. My friends up there are happy to make it a haunt, and with food and service like it has, I’m not surprised.
Henry’s / 61 Cameron Street, Launceston TAS 7250 / Ph: 03 6334 7757 / Open Tuesday – Saturday 4pm – late, Fridays lunch / $$$ / www.henryslaunceston.com.au