Imagine looking over the Hunter River sipping a glass of local wine and nibbling on an antipasto platter.
That’s the vision of Daniel O’Leary, who will open his new restaurant COQUUN at The Riverlink Building in coming weeks with fellow local Anthony Ford.
The business name comes from Wonnarua language. It was the original name of the Hunter River and roughly translates to “fresh water”.
“It’s a simple acknowledgement of the extraordinary history of the country and land,” Mr O’Leary said.
I truly feel so fortunate. It’s been a long time coming.Daniel O'Leary
The native theme will continue throughout the menu, with wallaby, yabbies and other local flavours tested out by head chef Bryce Reynolds.
Mr O’Leary said he wanted as much of the produce as possible to be sourced from within a 200 kilometre radius of Maitland.
“It’s going to be flavoured very distinctly by the native food bowl,” he said.
The team will all be local as well, with five front of house staff and four full-timers in the kitchen.
Mr O’Leary has also returned to his local roots to run the business, having attended Linuwel School at East Maitland before heading off to Sydney where he established small bar.
It was an emotional affair when he was handed the keys by Maitland Mayor Loretta Baker on Friday, with the pair sharing a hug and a smile.
“I truly feel so fortunate,” Mr O’Leary said.
“It’s been a long time coming.”
His vision is for a refined café, small bar, deli and bistro that is still accessible and informal.
The venue will serve a continental style breakfast with batch brew coffee, but no espresso.
“There’s already great espresso and cafe culture in Maitland and I don’t want to compete with that,” Mr O’Leary said.
Lunch will revolve around charcuterie, with cheeses, “hearty” deli sandwiches, salads and wine also available. There will also be takeaway options including a “river box” and potentially even boomerang picnic blankets for diners to sit on and snack by the riverbank.
There will be more formal options for lunch and dinner upstairs in the traditional entree, main, dessert style with options to reserve tables overlooking the river and enjoy cocktails after dinner.
Mr O’Leary said he hoped to have COQUUN, which will be open for dining from Wednesday to Monday, up and running in early September.