At the elegant, 50-seat restaurant Juni in Manhattan, Shaun Hergatt presides over whimsical, multi-course tasting menus—a type of cuisine that’s very different from what he grew up eating in Cairns, Australia, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. (Think meat pies and mud crabs.) Here, he gives us a meal-by-meal tour of hometown, which he visits at least once a year.
“The best breakfast place is Perrotta’s, which is next door to art gallery. I eat here every day whenever I go home. They have organic eggs, these citrus-and-ricotta pancakes, bacon cut from the loin, and amazing café lattes. Everything is delicious, and some of the staff has been there for years and years.”
“I’ll give you something that’s very traditional Australian. I’ll go to a pie shop and pick up a few meat pies and a sausage roll, and have it with ketchup. At Manning’s Pies, which has been around since I was little, I like the regular beef and the pea.”
“There are these finger buns like a brioche roll covered in pink icing and coconut, and I have them with my coffee. It’s a childhood thing. You can get them anywhere, at little pie shops around the city. You have to get relatively early because they sell out by 1 p.m. So you go in morning, pick them up, and keep them until the afternoon. It’s a whole system.”
“Most hip and trendy places don’t last in Cairns. Most of them disappear within a five-year period. And they survive on local business, so if it’s making money and it stays open, then it’s good.
The place I go to the most is Barnacle Bills, a legendary steak and seafood restaurant. It’s been around since I was little. Back in the day, it was this small place that was built like a ship. It has since been refurbished and changed locations, but it’s still nice and simple. You can get fresh and local things like Moreton Bay bugs, mud crabs, and prawns.
There’s also an Indonesian place called Bayleaf in a little hotel. They make traditional Balinese that’s consistently delicious. My sister used to work for them, and the owner actually came to New York and ate at my old restaurant SHO.”
“There are so many patisseries and bakeries. I’m pretty healthy now, but I used to go to a place called Annabel’s.”
“There’s a big club scene, and ever since I was a teenager, I would go to this place called the Woolshed. It’s sort of this weird and iconic Cairns place that people still go it. Locals and tourists party there until 8 a.m. I just remember being young and dancing on the tables there.”