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Travel guide Kalbarri

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Sing for Your Supper in Kalbarri

Gary Finlay is a man who’s as passionate about fish as he is about Australia.  As owner and chef of Finlay’s Fresh Fish Barbeque in Kalbarri, Gary has forged a successful business by combining these two obsessions. From an open kitchen in a tin shed on the back roads of Kalbarri, Gary delights the hordes of tourists and locals who seek out his restaurant and a unique and very West Australian, dining experience.

At Finlay’s, there is no service, no tablecloths, no drinks (bring your own) and absolutely no pretension.  In this down to earth setting however, is served arguably the freshest fish available on the coast.

The drill goes a little like this – order your dinner, pay your bill, sit down and be quiet until your number is called.  Those game enough to launch into a conversational tete a tete with Gary are likely to come off second best, although it doesn’t stop the tourists from trying. A sign above the barbeque invites patrons to sing for their supper, which Gary says is a great way of getting people together and helping them interact.

“I like to create an atmosphere with a bit of Australian culture.  The architecture, with barbed wire, corrugated iron, three inch nails and open fires, is Australiana.  I’m upfront with people.  If I can liven up their night it will make it memorable,” says Gary.

“I’ve been brought up to treat everyone equal and that’s what I do at Finlay’s.  Everyone is treated the same regardless of whether they are royalty, millionaires or just the average bloke off the street.”

“We had these two rough looking bikie characters come in one night when the place was full.  There were only two seats left on the end of a table that was being used by another group of rich businessmen. I told them to say g’day.  Things started out a bit cold but by the end of the night they’d swapped phone numbers. It’s the interaction of people that I find amazing.  You can get around the camp fire and really talk.”

Gary’s Aussie bravado is undoubtedly one of Finlay’s biggest drawcards. Gary does no marketing and relies solely on word of mouth advertising.  With 45 thousand customers per year and 14 years of business, his no frills approach is working. Many of Gary’s customers are interstate visitors during the wildflower season.  They hear about Finlay’s whilst on the road and put it on their list of things to experience.

While the atmosphere certainly creates a stir, the quality of the food is also well regarded.  As a fisherman by trade, Gary catches most of the fish himself, guaranteeing its freshness and handling. His style of cooking is simple.

“I don’t taint the fish with sauces.  I don’t want to disguise its flavour and freshness.”

Depending on the season and availability, mackerel, emperor, pink snapper, dhufish and mulloway regularly appear on the Finlay menu.

Finlay’s Fresh Fish Barbeque is open seven nights a week during school holidays and is located on Magee Crescent in Kalbarri.

About the author
Western Australia.com wrote this article

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