27/03/2007 - 22:00

Growth plans bubble away at Vat

27/03/2007 - 22:00

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The owners of Margaret River’s popular Vat 107, Jenny Spencer and Gary Cream, have recruited the services of London chef, Steven Black, to spearhead the development of their sister operation in Bunbury, Vat2.

Growth plans bubble away at Vat

The owners of Margaret River’s popular Vat 107, Jenny Spencer and Gary Cream, have recruited the services of London chef, Steven Black, to spearhead the development of their sister operation in Bunbury, Vat2.

Mr Black is a long way from the culinary exuberance of Mayfair in London, where he spent the past three and a half years managing the kitchen of the hip and stylish Berkeley Square restaurant. He’s also worked at Peacock Alley, a Michelin star restaurant in Dublin.

But Mr Black loves body boarding, so moving to Western Australia’s South West certainly has some appeal.

Add to the positive change in lifestyle and some expansion plans for the Vat franchise, and Mr Black’s decision to leave London’s fine dining halls becomes easier to digest.

Just what the expansion involves is unclear, as neither he nor Ms Spencer wanted to reveal what was on the drawing board this week.

“It seems a bit of an odd choice to come here but I’m also here to expand the Vat name,” Mr Black says.

“I can’t go into it [the plans] at this point in time.”

The most likely development would be the opening of another Vat, but for now the focus is on building up the Vat2 business, which is finally starting to strike a chord with the locals, four years after it opened.

Vat2 set itself out from the crowd when it opened in April 2003.

There are no big t-bone steaks served with an equally big bowl of chips. It’s refined food that can be appreciated from the contemporary $1.5 million fit-out restaurant, which overlooks the stunning Koombana Bay.

Ms Spencer says its still tough going for the upmarket bar and restaurant, but she is determined to stick true to the business of offering quality produce and service.

And the strategy appears to be paying off, especially now that residents of million-dollar apartments that dot the bay have started moving in.

There are already 90 bookings for a truffle dinner scheduled for June 15.

Those bookings have come despite a minimal amount of advertising on a blackboard at the restaurant showcasing upcoming events.

Mr Black has been brought in as a consultant and his first task has been to refine the menu, while at the same time recruiting a head chef.

“I’ve come on board to help improve the business and take it another step forward,” Mr Black says.

“At the moment I would say it is serving the best food in Bunbury, but I think it can be better.

“Vat 2 is in a beautiful location, it is a beautiful restaurant and we want to bring the cooking style up-to-date.”

Currently on the dinner menu are: freshly shucked oysters with pale ale and lime sorbet at $18 for the half dozen; lamb cutlets with a baby beetroot, soft fetta and pine nut salad for $27.50; and a 450-gram beef rib eye, roast pumpkin goats cheese and thyme stack with sun-dried tomato cream and jus for $39.50.

Mr Black has started introducing daily specials and is providing some training in the kitchen.

“I’m starting to train them in taste and flavours because a lot of people cook for how something should look on a plate, but it should be about the flavours,” Mr Black says.

“We want to make full use of the fantastic produce WA has.”

On the day Gusto spoke to Mr Black, the specials board had an ocean trout with pickled cucumber, which is done to order. The dish is served with sautéed potatoes and a coriander, tomato, red onion and spring onion dressing.

Mr Black and his wife Merete – who works front-of-house at Shenton Park’s Star Anise – emigrated to WA in November.

“We moved here for the lifestyle,” Mr Black says.

“There’s the weather, but also the crime rate in the UK is high and the house prices are just so expensive. People here think that it is expensive, but you get a lot more for your money.”

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