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John Rozentals has some reservations but Maitland’s Coquun soon quells them.

January 15, 2020 Destination Feature, Headline News No Comments Email Email

I must admit to some qualms about dining at Coquun, one of Maitland’s newest restaurants.

They were qualms largely based on a nudge-nudge-wink-wink conversation I’d had the evening before about the name’s pronunciation and hence its implied meaning.

“You know that they pronounce it ‘cock-one’ and you know what that suggests,” I was told.

A quick pre-dinner conversation with Daniel O’Leary, the Coquun partner who seems to have most to do with running what is a gorgeous venue in one of Maitland’s newest buildings and classiest locations, dispelled that myth.

Thirsty anyone: drinks at Coquun.

Sure, the pronuncation was quite correct, but the term certainly had nothing to do with male genitalia.

It was the name given by local Indigenous people, the Wonnarua, to the stretch of the Hunter River over which the restaurant looks.

No more, no less.

Coquun: a bright, airy restaurant addition to Maitland.

Morover, Daniel told me, Coquun’s menu included dishes that were obviously influenced by the food bowl of the Wonnorua people.

It was a declaration that set to work another lot of qualms.

In my experience, Australia’s Indigenous food plate offers a raft of potentially marvellous flavours, but ones that had to be very carefully managed or they would remain as caricatures rather than be part of fully fledged dishes.

The bar at Coquun

I needn’t have worried. The first salvo I tried was pirapa, a dish that combined one of my favourites, scampi, with bush-tomato beuree blanc, saltbush and wattleseed damper.

It was an absolute triumph of delicate favours that I found immediately satisfying, and that cast aside any doubts of receiving satisfaction from the degustation with matched wines I had agreed to order.

And the scampi went perfectly with a Krinkelwood Verdelho from just up the road — a crisp dry white made from a variety that has become a local specialty.

Daniel O’Leary: delivering wise words and great food.

This was followed by delicious servings of dishes based on kangaroo carpaccio and beef cheek, before an outstanding dessert of mulled pineapple served with vegan coconut icecream and native-spiced shortbread crumb, and an imaginative cheese plate.

The pineapple was served with a refreshing gin and tonic, based on very classy Farmers Wife Gin and served with local finger limes.

All in all, it was a great journey of food discovery. Thank you Daniel, thank you chefs, and thank you local Hunter food-and-drink suppliers.

Welcome to Coquun.

I must, though, leave the last words to Daniel, as delivered to a local art exhibition: “When I find life is challenging, and things just don’t make sense, I like to imagine that we’re all walking with the ancestors and its okay to ask for help.”

I’m not sure exactly where they fit in, but they’re wise words indeed and should be carefully digested.

IF YOU GO:

Coquun; Maitland Riverlink at the Levee, 396 High St, Maitland; phone 02 4030 8767; www.coquun.com.au

General info on Maitland: www.mymaitland.com.au and www.visitnsw.com.

By JOHN ROZENTALS

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