At Home with… Maureen Thornett

Well-known Balmain publican, Maureen Thornett, reached her 25th year in business at The Royal Oak this month, and she’s still going strong. Here she chats to Ciao about the secrets to her success.

What’s the secret to maintaining such a successful pub in Balmain for so long?
Passion, perseverance and optimism. You have to be able to accept the challenges of the changing demographics, listen to your customers and never settle for second best.

What does the future hold for The Royal Oak?
I have been giving this question a lot of thought in the last 12 months as Balmain has changed and there are more and more families and less and less young singles who like to party. It is also a highly competitive suburb and our customers have lots of choices. I believe it is easier to concentrate on our existing clientele, giving them a great experience and continually implementing my three essential ingredients: service, consistency and value.

Do you have a signature dish that you’re famous for cooking?
Being a pub there is an expectation we do lots of things great. In summer our seafood platter is as popular as our Sunday Roasts in winter. We are known for our steaks and have a dedicated steak menu using the same supplier and quality as Icebergs, and other top restaurants. We have also been using the same recipe for our famous chili plum sauce, which we use to marinade and baste our sticky pork ribs, since I have owned the hotel.

What ingredients do you think are essential in every kitchen?
You can have the best produce but if there is no love or passion it will show in the taste of the meal. Top quality produce, a passion for food, good communication and organisation – especially during busy times in the kitchen.

If you could invite anyone in the world over for dinner at your pub, whom would you invite and why?
Jeffrey Koons, I love his humour and his reproduction of everyday objects. George Clooney just because. And Barry White now deceased as “I love to love you baby.”


Prawn Linguini with garlic, chilli & parsley

Serves 4

Different variations of this dish have been on our menu for ten years.
It’s one of our top sellers and when we decide to give it a rest we end up making it to order.

800g dry or fresh linguini
20 green prawns (peeled)
4 long red chills (finely sliced)
8-10 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped)
Sea salt & black pepper
1 lemon (cut into 4 wedges)
20ml extra virgin olive oil

1.    Prepare pasta according to instructions.
2.    Just before the pasta is ready, seal prawns in olive oil in a large frying pan.
3.    Add garlic and chili, sauté with the prawns and season.
4.    Drain linguini, hot out of blanching pot.
5.    Add your pasta to your prawns, plus a generous amount of parsley and re-season. Serve with wedge of lemon.

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