02/07/2008 - 22:00

East Freo’s got it, by George

02/07/2008 - 22:00

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Ask the average punter in Perth where to find good coffee, quality wine, fine dining and boutique designer outlets, all in a street with a heritage feel, and they'll probably tell you to try a different state.

East Freo’s got it, by George
DESTINATION: Soren Koberstein’s George Street Bistro (below right) and Hubbles yard are two businesses to have enjoyed the growth in popularity of East Fremantle’s George Street precinct (main) after its 2001 rezoning. Photo: Grant Currall



ASK the average punter in Perth where to find good coffee, quality wine, fine dining and boutique designer outlets, all in a street with a heritage feel, and they'll probably tell you to try a different state.

But there's no need to go that far.

East Fremantle's George Street precinct has grown into a European-style foodies' paradise, and there are plans to grow the offering even further.

Since it was rezoned from residential to mixed use in 2001, food and wine businesses have flocked and prospered in the area, bringing high-quality services and produce to what for some time had been a fairly desolate part of Fremantle.

The area is home to top food and wine businesses including Soren Koberstein and Sabine Treder's George Street Bistro, and the European gourmet deli attached to the restaurant, George Street Merchants.

Then there's the Wine Store, run by Brookland Valley founders Dee and Malcolm Jones, which was extended to include an upmarket wine accessories and gourmet food shop three years ago and features exclusive wine stocks.

On the corner of Hubble and George streets is the always busy Hubbles yard, which was taken over in October 2007 by Swiss-born Fabio Hupfer and his Australian wife, Eleanor.

The popular cafe was thoroughly renovated by its previous owners, who won the 2006 Fremantle Heritage Award, and the stunning 1900s building is an attraction itself.

Among the other food businesses are the traditional Italian restaurant Gigi, formerly The Amadeus, which was reopened a few months ago, Pizza Palace, and Limones Café & Restaurant.

A smattering of high-end clothing stores are interspersed between the restaurants and cafes.

Casual fine dining spot the George Street Bistro was one of the first upmarket food businesses in the district when it opened six years ago, and executive chef Soren Koberstein says the bistro, which added a gourmet food shop 18 months ago, has grown substantially since.

"When we started we had no staff. Within a year we had eight employees, now we have 20," Mr Koberstein told Gusto.

"At the time, reasonable rents, which are still reasonable now, played a big role in the initial profitability of the business."

It's a similar story up and down the strip, which was rezoned after a long-running campaign by locals to bring businesses back to the precinct.

Historically, George Street was the old commercial centre of East Fremantle; it used to be a working-class district full of small cottages built between 1890 and 1910.

However, with the extension of Stirling Highway in the 1970s, the commercial centre of East Fremantle was relocated on the other side of the highway, where the council is, and the George Street precinct zoning changed to residential only.

"There has been a strong local movement to get zoning changed back to mixed use; people saw the area as a village centre and a local gathering place. There was always the vision in the area but it didn't coincide with the council policies," local resident and well-known artist, Tony Jones, told Gusto.

Since the 2001 rezoning, the district is going through a revival of the village culture.

"The strip now has more vibrancy and is more active, it is enlivened by the presence of people interaction and business supporting each other," Mr Jones says.

The long-awaited renovation of the Royal George Hotel is another development generating a buzz in the area.

The National Trust of WA owns the derelict building, which is currently being used as artists' studio space, and has worked on plans with developers for the past two years.

An agreement was reached last week for the building to be fully renovated, while providing commercial opportunities for businesses.

National Trust of WA CEO Tom Perrigo is hoping to submit the plans to council in three weeks and start the renovation of the hotel in six months.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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