A new player on the Northbridge restaurant scene is determined to bring families back to the city. Adam Orlando reports.
WHEN it comes to the negative publicity about Northbridge at night, most business owners are united in their view: ‘Don’t believe the hype’.
Julie Velzen, who is a new business owner in the entertainment precinct, says while anti-social behaviour does exist, it’s no more prevalent than in places such as Fremantle.
Mrs Velzen recently opened Fish Monger Seafood Restaurant on James Street, on the former Fishy Affair Garden Restaurant site near the Northbridge Piazza.
She says local business owners are informally looking at setting up a joint marketing fund in a bid to encourage families back to the area.
“Obviously there has been such a large amount of negative publicity that we need to get the message out there that this is a nice, safe place to come and eat,” Mrs Velzen told Gusto.
She says while the marketing fund is in the very early stages of planning, many nearby business owners have indicated their interest.
Although she’s a newcomer to Northbridge, Fish Monger is the seventh business with which Mrs Velzen has been associated. Among the others is the Australian-themed Outback Jacks Bar & Grill franchise, where she owns the WA master franchise.
“The reason I got into Outback Jacks was because I was bored, so it was my first taste of hospitality,” Mrs Velzen says.
“I hadn’t worked in any restaurants other than working at Hungry Jack’s when I was in high school.
“But I didn’t buy Outback Jacks to run restaurants; I bought it to sell restaurants and to grow that franchise model.
“About three years ago I set up the first one in Fremantle so people could see what it was all about; then once it was established, my plan was hopefully people would want to buy the business and then I could grow the brand.
“But I really enjoyed it, hence now ending up with another restaurant.
“I wasn’t looking to open another restaurant at the moment but when I heard the Fishy Affair was on the market it was a location too good to pass up.
“With the piazza now open, the push to re-energise Northbridge and summer now here, there is so much on offer that people who haven’t been to Northbridge in a while should make the effort to come in and see the area’s transformation.”
Following a six-week fit-out, the kitchen at Fish Monger has been completely gutted, walls in the main dining area have been replastered, the bar has been relocated, the garden courtyard now has exposed bricks, and the colour scheme and furniture modernised.
As the new name implies, the menu is seafood focused.
Head chef David Walker says the menu is quite large for a new restaurant “but the end result is a balanced mix of WA premium produce, good old favourites and modern global cuisine”.
Mr Walker has previously headed up kitchens at Caversham House and Dear Friends.
With little experience operating restaurants, Mrs Velzen says her new venture has been challenging, but that her time running Outback Jacks in Fremantle has been helpful.
For inexperienced business owners entering the hospitality industry, franchising systems offer an array of benefits and support systems, she says.
“You don’t have to think about much to start with; your menus are done, your uniforms are done, your finance, your marketing, the logo, your colours, are all set out for you with franchises,” Mrs Velzen says.