Krzystof (Kris) Swiecinski started his career 14 years ago in Poland, working as a Sous Chef and Head Chef for fashionable venues in Sopot, a seaside town in the country’s north.
In 2011, he moved to Ireland to work in 4-star-hotel kitchens and the following year became a Sous Chef in the award-winning gastro pub, Hartes Bar & Grill.
It was here that Swiecinski found a fascination with pub food, using fresh and local Kildare products and supporting local businesses. Early last year he moved to Harrington, less than an hour’s drive from Forster or Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast, to start a new adventure with Australian food.
At The Galley bistro at the Harrington Hotel, Swiecinski continues to nurture his passion for gastro pub trends, with a seaside twist.
Awarded two schooners in the 2012 SMH Good Pub Food Guide, The Harrington Hotel serves a diverse menu in a picturesque setting close to the Manning River, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
BISTRO: How would you define a ‘gastro pub’?
KRIS SWIECINSKI: A gastro pub combines a loose pub atmosphere with upscale food brought to casual dining. It’s focused on locally sourced, fresh and seasonal ingredients and is a place which offers craft beers, culinary delights and matching wines in reasonable prices. In the gastro pub menu, you will find dishes similar to ones served in a pub, but the techniques and ingredients used to prepared them, and presentation, takes it to a higher level.
B: Can you compare Irish produce to Australian produce?
KS: Both are high quality. In Ireland, I’ve largely enjoyed produce sourced from small local suppliers and I’m looking for the same here in Australia, as it’s still new for me.
B: How would you compare classic pub food in Ireland to Australia?
KS: Surprisingly they are not much different. Main differences are because of climate. Ireland is rather a cold country so you get more hot and heavy meals like soups, stews and braised meats and way more potatoes, served in many different ways than in Australia.
B: Can you outline the main dishes that were served at Hartes Bar & Grill?
KS: Our best sellers were steaks served on a hot rock, and slow braised blade of beef with braised red cabbage, creamy mash, horseradish and blue cheese cream, and rich beef jus. Also traditional pub dishes like homemade burgers or beer-battered fish and chips. Sandwiches served on homemade sourdough and buttermilk soda bread, wild forest mushroom and Cooleeney cheese spring roll with pecan nuts and golden syrup glaze. Goatsbridge smoked trout and crab pate plus many more delights.
B: Can you describe Harrington as a town?
KS: It’s a beautiful, small and quite town, perfect for a holiday or weekend destination. Beautifully situated on the water, it’s a great fishing spot. Harrington also attracts surfers. It’s a place I have fallen in love with.
B: How would you describe your client base?
KS: Mostly locals and people from surrounding towns like Port Macquarie, Foster and Taree. Harrington is a popular holiday destination place with caravan parks and a good accommodation base. During holiday times, we get a lot of visitors from the larger cities around the country.
B: Is it difficult to introduce innovative dishes to your clientele? How do you do this?
KS: Well, it’s not that bad. We need to be careful with naming and descriptions. Generally, our guests are open for innovative dishes and our efforts are acknowledged. Some of our new dishes become best sellers, so it’s a good sign.
B: Are there defined price points for your clientele that you need to be mindful of?
KS: Like any eating venue we offer decent size meals at reasonable prices.
B: Have you had an opportunity to visit hotel venues in Sydney or other capital cities as yet? Your impressions?
KS: So far, I’ve been to the Gold Coast and Newcastle. In many places I found a lack of diversity in the menus. Instead of visiting accommodation-based hotel venues, I like to dine in small restaurants, pubs and bistros.
B: Seafood is a growing component of your menu. Where do you source it from? What innovations are you bringing to the menu with seafood?
KS: We source from three companies – the local Taree Fisherman’s Co-op, the local Manning River Stones Oysters, and Monin Seafoods. When I’m creating specials with fresh seafood, I’m trying to use different components and techniques. For example, if I’m serving fish with risotto, I’d rather use pearl barley or pearl cous cous instead of Arborio. Instead of serving grilled or pan fried fish, I’d marinate it with some pickled ginger, soy and sesame oil in a vacuum bag and then poach it as you do it, using sous vide techniques.