Henrique Antunes, Executive Chef at Mahonia talks about aspects of Bahrain that most inspire him and the culinary style of the restaurant.
You call Bahrain your home now. It’s no more, as you’ve put it, ‘just a circuit in the F1 calendar’ for you. Tell us about some of your major cultural inspirations on the island, both as a person and a chef.
Yes, Bahrain feels like home to me! As a person who loves travelling, getting to know Bahraini and Middle Eastern cultures and habits more closely is something I love. The art, the food, the religion, the history and seeing the melting pot of cultures that together create the soul of the island is inspiring and opens my mind. As a chef working in a different country, having the chance to try local food and products and understand the locals’ taste is unique and challenging every day. It’s my favourite part of my job and we try to show that appreciation in the food we serve to our customers.
Please tell us more about Mahonia’s unique fine-dining culinary style.
Mahonia is a restaurant focused on serving great food and an experience that you will remember. Our menu nowadays is a balance between our previous concepts and dishes for guests who want something new, something more technical or just want to appreciate good, comforting food and enjoy the ambiance in a relaxed way. We are not a place that you visit only sometimes but one that you can come to whenever you want to feel at home and have either a comforting meal or experience a journey through something unique and refined.
Could you please describe the essence of Chef Henrique Antunes that is imbued in the food at Mahonia.
My essence lies in constant change. It evolves with what I experience and what I see around me. Travelling has opened my mind to new flavours. Working at some of the best restaurants in the world, like Gaggan or Kadeau, taught me new techniques and showed me different philosophies and work methods. I am a chef, but I am also a traveller. I am an artist who appreciates art and, at the end of the day, I am also someone that enjoys eating great food filled with care, soul and flavour. I try to transmit this to people that eat my food, I want them to travel and feel that every bite is unique. My food is for everyone!
What would you say is your signature dish?
I don’t think I have a signature dish, all of them have different meanings or ideas behind them. Some are more focused on memories and others on trips, art, colours or even on the ingredient itself. In the current menu, my favourite dishes are: the Gazpacho Explosion, which is a bite inspired by traditional Portuguese and Spanish flavours; a cold tomato soup that we serve in two bowls that are shaped like stones – one black and the other white. It will transport diners to the streets of Portugal with your typical Portuguese pavement [made of stones arranged as a mosaic]. The Beef with Beetroot is our main dish with a more artistic approach. A totally monochromatic creation, in which the only colour we focus on is red. ✤