4 August 2023

Five minutes with Mathew Oates, Romano's Hotel

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Owner of Romano's Hotel Mathew Oates

The owner of Romano’s Hotel Mathew Oates also has hotels in Holbrook and Junee. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who is Mathew Oates: I’m a 40-year-old father of three. I’ve got a couple of pubs and a chef by trade. I was born in Forster-Tuncurry, grew up in Sydney and moved to the Riverina in 2010. At first, we were in Leeton as the caterers for Leeton Soldiers Club and then moved to Wagga Wagga in 2014. My wife and I had a catering company for 10 years and then got into hotels. We took over Romano’s on 31 May 2021 in between the two COVID lockdowns.

Best recent dining experience: I had lunch at the Rose Hotel in Erskinville. We had a tomahawk cooked medium rare, a whole lamb shoulder, a great wine list and fantastic service.

Favourite cuisine: I would say Asian fusion or Japanese.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Andrew Buik, The Oakroom Kitchen & Bar

What ingredient can I not live without: Corriander and chilli.

Most embarrassing pantry item: There’s a jar of homemade chilli from a mate. We made it on his farm in Yanco roughly two years ago but it is hot as hell and tastes amazing.

How many Weet-Bix do I do: I have a man shake for breakfast. No Weet-Bix anymore. As a kid when I was playing rugby and doing a lot of sport, I would eat 12.

Best coffee spot in Wagga: Jardine’s Cafe.

Pie and chips

Romano’s Hotel is serving the perfect winter warmer dish – their specialty pies. Romano’s Hotel.

Favourite coffee: Double shot espresso.

What’s your coffee blend: We use our own blend of coffee that is blended for us from a company in Melbourne called Zest. We worked with them fairly closely a few years ago. And we have our own blend that’s only sold through our coffee machines across the Riverina.

What’s the weirdest coffee order you’ve received: While I was in catering, I used to have a regular that would have a one-eighth-strength latte with extra chocolate on almond milk.


Romano’s Hotel serves tacos every Tuesday. Photo: Romano’s Hotel.

Next big thing in the Wagga food scene: I think we’re starting to get back towards casual dining and I also think there’s a lot of room in the market in Wagga to do good fast food.

Favourite place to lunch in Wagga: Romano’s.

A must-try on our menu: Our curry of the day.

Beer pouring

Mathew and his wife took over Romano’s Hotel in May 2021. Photo: Romano’s Hotel.

Most used ingredient at Romano’s Hotel: Beef.

Our top pick from our desserts: Sticky date pudding.

My biggest culinary influence: I would say, my dad. He was a chef and my head chef when I did my apprenticeship. From my dad, I learned about budget management, flavour profiles and the importance of caring about what you make and how it changes people’s perception of their day. A good meal can make your day and a bad meal can ruin it.

Food and wine

Romano’s Hotel specials change each month. Photo: Romano’s Hotel.

Favourite cookbook: Larousse Gastronomique (by Prosper Montagne). It’s the original cookbook that was written about 250 years ago in France. It’s the cookbook we were given with our chef’s apprenticeship.

Who I admire in the Wagga food and wine scene: Richard from Pastorale, Jamie Shepley (Mr. Lawrence) and any other restaurant that managed to get through the last three years of COVID.

What are this week’s specials at Romano’s Hotel: We have a weekly lunch menu that changes every month and we also have our special nights. We do tacos Tuesday, wings on Wednesday, ribs on Thursdays and kids eat free on Mondays.

Food and beer

Photo: Romano’s Hotel.

Death row meal: Yamcha with saki.

Where am I travelling to next: I’m going to Sydney.

Dream destination: Positano in Italy. I would like to go there in a couple of years when my children are older.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Bradley Neil, Carlo’s Cafe & Restaurant

My biggest fear: Unrealised potential.

My least favourite food: Pizza.

My top three cooking tips: Taste. Don’t be afraid to use butter and make sure you use salt and pepper.

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