8 July 2022

Hot in the City: Henry's on Goonigul is elevating classic pub fare

| Anna Maskus
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Easily the highlight of the meal, the margherita was just one of nine different pizza on offer at Henry's. Photo: Supplied.

Easily the highlight of my meal, the Margherita is just one of nine different pizzas at Henry’s. Photo: Supplied.

I’m slightly confused when I pull up to the Wagga RSL and can’t park in my favourite spot directly opposite the front doors. I suddenly remember today is the last day that Service NSW’s Dine & Discover vouchers will remain valid, so every Waggarian and their dog has gone out for dinner.

My suspicions are confirmed when I see the long line to order food. I immediately seat myself on one of what seems like hundreds of sofas adjacent to the bar.

Wagga RSL’s flagship restaurant Henry’s on Goonigul is softly lit and freshly painted. The low ceilings hang over smartly dressed staff who scurry around the floor.

From where I’m sitting, however, the clink of wine glasses rings along with the bells of the pokies. The jazz music that floats seductively through the air is occasionally interrupted by reminders to get your meat raffle tickets before the draw.

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If it wasn’t for the familiar light show and clattering of pub-style buzzers summoning people to the pass, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Faced with an imposing queue for food, I settle in for the wait with a glass of 3 Tales Sauvignon Blanc.

The lovely Natalie is patiently obliging as I proceed to order half serves of everything, falling over myself apologising for being that customer on an insanely busy night.

I settle in with a Jungle Bird – a delightfully confusing cocktail with black Captain Morgan, Aperol, pineapple, and lime juice. Points must be awarded to the bar staff here – four different people ask me if I’m being served while I wait for my drink to be made.

Twenty minutes later, I have a heart attack as my buzzer unexpectedly goes off. I feel only mild embarrassment as I carry three plates back to my sofa alone.

I spear one of my arancini, the crunchy exterior giving way to miniature cubes of soft pumpkin blended with perfectly cooked rice. I can’t immediately place the flavour of the subtle green sauce that coated the arancini, but suspect basil and parmesan cheese.

Next was the slow braised lamb shoulder with fried rosemary and braised carrots on a velvety bed of mashed potato. I am the daughter of a third-generation prime lamb producer, so even before going in I consider myself a harsh critic.

The rectangular slab of shoulder falls apart as I nudge it with my fork – promising – and then realise there is no trace of pink in this lamb – less promising.

But when I put it in my mouth, the white wine & herb braised meat is soft to the point of melting, full of flavour (although slightly too salty for my liking) and, pleasantly, doesn’t get stuck in my infamous tooth gap.

I move on to gnocchi – and even before I bring the browned buttery sphere of carbohydrate to my mouth the scent of preserved lemon overwhelms my nostrils.

The scent cuts through a chaotic but complementary mixture of roasted butternut squash, spring onion, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, Danish feta and rocket.

I’m not sure what I think of the combination, but I look down to find I’ve eaten the entire plate somehow.

Natalie arrives with the pièce de résistance -a steaming Margherita pizza. The first slice is fantastically floppy, its blackened crust almost sandy from the semolina encrusting the base.

I’ve had many of Henry’s pizzas before – I already know this will be my favourite part and that it will be equally delicious when I stick the leftovers in my air fryer the following day.

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The poached pear is coated with a buttery crumb, which provides great contrast to the smooth icecream and hot fudge sauce. Photo: Supplied.

The poached pear is coated with a buttery crumb, which provides excellent contrast to the smooth ice cream and hot fudge sauce. Photo: Supplied.

I turn my attention to the pear. I can’t remember ever digging a spoon into a poached pear and not having it fly across the room.

This pear is different – soft and easy to slice into with a reasonably blunt spoon. It’s slightly cold – I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be cold, but it works well with the accompanying ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

For a girl who recoils from sugar in her coffee – the affogato blew me away.

The melted puddle of coffee and ice cream transported me right back to a specific stone bench in the south of Sicily, which is precisely what good food is supposed to do.

Natalie tells me that Henry’s is supplied by Zest Coffee – an artisanal, small batch roasting company based in Melbourne – so of course, it’s good.

Henry’s is the lovechild of your local pub and a coastal fine dining hotspot. Yes, they do a chicken schnitzel and yes, you can get it for $12 at lunch on Thursdays, but the atmosphere of the recently renovated RSL is one of refinement and reflection.

I finally waddle to the car with my pizza box. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and it won’t be the last.

Henry’s is located in the Wagga RSL Club building opposite the racecourse on the corner of Kincaid and Dobbs Sreets. Henry’s serves breakfast from 8 am, runs $12 lunch specials Sunday to Friday and serves dinner from 6 pm (but over winter feel free to come a little earlier).

The restaurant also offers patrons $4.80 schooners on Fridays from 4 pm to 8 pm and Saturdays from 12 pm to 5 pm. The Friday Raffle drawn from 6 pm has more than $2000 in prizes including a meat tray worth $200!

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