Darwinites rejoice! There’s a new restaurant on the block – The Knuckey St block that is – and it’s well worth a visit. We caught up with the owner and chef of the new restaurant Phat Mango, Martin Bouchier. Martin has worked around Europe, developing award-winning restaurants in England, Wales and southern Spain. He moved to Australia 12 years ago and started his Australian career in the Adelaide Hills, which brought him to Darwin for a two-week trial – and he absolutely fell in love with the area.
It was Covid that pushed Martin to start his own restaurant in Darwin, after he was made redundant from his previous role. Rather than retreating, he got to work and launched his first Australian venture: Phat Mango by Martin the Chef. His focus is on showcasing local produce and Red Centre flavours and developing the idea of Cuisine Australiana.
We were lucky enough to experience lunch at Phat Mango and sat down with Martin to find out more about this new and exciting venture.
What brought you to Darwin?
About 10 years ago I was coming to the end of my 457 visa in Adelaide. I got a phone call from the Dowling family that ran The Parap Tavern and Raging Bull Steakhouse to see if I fancied a two week trial. I thought to myself “I’ve never been to Darwin” and the rest is history.
What do you love most about Darwin?
The people, the lifestyle, the storms and the sunsets! It’s a place I now call home!
How did you come up with the name and concept for Phat Mango?
As a chef I have a notebook by the side of the bed for when I wake in the middle of the night with an idea. I did exactly that about 10 years ago. Phat stands for “Pretty Hot And Tempting” and mangos are synonymous with the NT. My original thoughts were for a funky café concept but I think Phat Mango is way beyond that! Like all things it evolves into an idea of getting people to enjoy food and flavour beyond simply ingesting calories, and experiencing, or remembering that going to a restaurant is a pleasurable experience.
What inspired your menu choice?
Every menu I have ever written is for myself. I love flavours and playing a little with people’s minds. I like to push boundaries. Having three great chef’s minds developing dishes and awesome ingredients and an unusual concept in these days, it has developed into a “perfect storm”.
What’s your signature dish from the main and dessert menu?
Our signature at the moment is the Gumbalanya Eye Fillet, Kipfler hash, bush apple and green plum compote, Minya currant and rosella jus. It’s great meat from a great producer and bush flavours sourced by Leila out at Maningrida. But then we have a couple of awesome fish dishes, with fish sourced from The Duck Pond when the boats come in. Its hard to signify one particular dish from the small or large plate choice. As a dessert, we have developed ”Ants Nest” a flavour bomb of macadamia and white chocolate, mango curd, lace tuille and topped with green ants from Arnhem Land. It’s a sweet, zingy, rich dessert with a little citrus “pop” form the ants.
We were blown away by the strong flavours in the baked banana dish, what is the significance of this dish?
Baked banana hit my menu 27 years ago, I was at a hotel in Evesham, UK and had a dish of poached pears and stilton cheese. The following day I was at a friend’s for a BBQ and had banana wrapped in bacon. I went back to my restaurant in North Wales and developed an idea that combines sweetness, saltiness and the funky flavour of good blue cheese. It became an instant hit and has been on my menus around the world.
So add Phat Mango to your next dinner venue and experience a restaurant that encompasses so much about the NT. Our local’s tip is to order the baked banana – you won’t regret it!
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