Fresh approach pays off

The annual American Express Awards are highly regarded as the People’s Choice Awards since it is regular dining patrons – American Express cardmembers and restaurateurs – who vote for their favourite restaurant, based on the quality of food, service and the overall dining experience.

SIMPLICITY and freshness are two key words underpinning the Red Herring approach, according to owner Ivan Rutherford.

The restaurant will be three years old in November.

“We bought the old Oyster Beds in September 1997 and gutted it over a two month period,” Mr Rutherford said.

“We completely revamped the kitchen, menus all that kind of stuff – and now have quite an adventurous menu with strong Asian influences.”

Mr Rutherford said the menu stated all fish was available simply grilled with sauce served on the side to cater to the health conscious or “just plain picky” individuals.

“We try to cater to women because they can be fussy about the use of butters and sauces – we avoid heavy accompaniments,” he said.

“You’ve got to offer proper salads without smothering it in dressing or balsamic vinegar.

“There are, surprisingly, quite a few people who don’t like or are allergic to fish so we provide one beef, lamb or chicken alternative – but that’s about as far as I’d go.”

Mr Rutherford said frozen produce was avoided at all costs.

“The food from our sushi bar is, of course, extremely fresh and we are still in season at the moment for crabs,” he said.

“There’s a lot of aquaculture products around these days such as yabbies and barramundi.

“There’s a crowd down in Fremantle producing plate-sized dhufish and that should come on the market in due course. That is something we will be involved with.

“I don’t think aquaculture products are quite as good as the wild variety but the local quality has improved tremendously.”

Mr Rutherford said Indonesia was also selling a lot of high quality, fresh aquaculture products to WA.

He said guest chefs and special promotional events were a major part of Red Herring’s marketing mix.

“We have had some of the best chefs from around the nation including Christine Manfield from Paramount in Sydney, the foremost Thai cuisine chef in Australia – David Thompson, Don Hansey,who provided us with a Great Southern menu, and Charmaine Solomon,” he said.

“This has a two-fold effect: it generates interest in the winter months and is a learning experience for staff. There is a shortage of culinary mentors in Perth so guest chefs provide our staff with an opportunity to work with people of high calibre.”

Mr Rutherford said an advertising campaign run during STW9’s Wide World of Sport program over the past five months had proved extremely successful.

Mr Rutherford said industry awards also provided a good opportunity to increase publicity.

When asked the reasons behind The Loose Box’s seemingly unstoppable success in the American Express Restaurant Awards, Mr Rutherford said Alain Fabregues was renowned for his perfectionism.

“His style of food is slow-cooked, traditionally rustic French fare – I hear he cooks ox cheek for at least twenty-four hours,” he said.

“Alain’s restaurant only seats fifty – we seat 300 and do both à la carte and functions.

“He does comfort food; we do quality seafood in huge volumes – there’s a place in the WA market for both styles.”

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