Hunger Monger is the hottest new eatery in Napier. Owner and chef Fraser Slack talks to Mark Story about his love affair with kaimoana.
Your casual, retro seafood scene smacks of Rick Stein - do you agree?
A seaside location, serving simply cooked, locally caught seafood supported by local produce - exactly right! You can surely draw parallels with his intentions, but we're really about being champions for Hawke's Bay, right through the seafood, the produce and the drinks list.
'Fish 'n' chips but not as we know it'. What does that mean exactly?
Fish 'n' chips is a catch-all, and some people are surprised when they come in that we're not a fish 'n' chip shop. We look like a cafe but we would call ourselves a bistro, suited to everyday dining for lunch or dinner. So there's casual food and also more serious and ambitious items too.
See question one! Napier is a fishing port, there's plenty of boats with locally caught goods. Fish is always fresh and is always available. What's most exciting is that the seasons change too so it's never boring. With seafood I have more options at one time than I can fit on my menu, so it's a good problem to have.
What's your background as a chef?
I grew up around hospitality and catering on my mum's side, so I've been cooking since I left school over 20 years ago. I've had the privilege and pleasure to be in some of the best kitchens with the best people over the years, such as O'Connell St Bistro, dine by Peter Gordon and the refurbished Hotel de Brett (all Auckland).
Having our own place is now the best opportunity to put all that experience to work.
The viability of our fishing industry obviously impacts seafood restaurants; philosophically and practically, how do you address this?
Sustainability is surely the word of the moment, and it definitely is an aspect of our business we need to take seriously. The fish we buy comes from a variety of sources and catch methods, but crucially we're not concentrating on species of fish in danger of over-fishing. The point is, there are so many fish that get caught and all are worthy of eating when fresh, so we'll always offer what's freshest rather than just what's most popular.
I like the menu to move with the seasons and that applies to fish as well. It's been a pleasure to introduce people to some different varieties of fish other than the ones they are familiar with. Having so much variety with our seafood means we sell a little of everything rather than just a lot of a couple of types of fish.