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It’s all hush hush around Altos, at least as far as the upcoming renovations are concened, while Michael Forde’s new food centre store has been put on hold, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

STEPHEN Scaffidi is not selling his Subiaco darling, Altos, but that doesn’t mean significant changes are not taking place. The restaurant, which normally closes for two weeks over Christmas, will shut for five weeks this year to allow enough time for some major renovations.

While at this stage Stephen and his team are remaining tight lipped about what changes we can expect, Stephen did say the renovations would be “extensive and people should be prepared for the new-look Altos next year”.

Stephen and the Altos team are celebrating their sixth birthday this week, and while he says the past year may have had its challenges, next year looks to be a brighter year.

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There’s plenty of choice in the food stakes for those heading down to the South West for the Margaret River Wine Festival. The owners of Mojo’s Restaurant and Cafe in Bunbury have slowly been working at making this place a stylish must visit for both those in the local area and for those travelling through. Juliana Frisina and Noel Brunning sold their boutique coffee business, Benesse Coffee House, to concentrate on making the most of the Victoria Street restaurant. They have recently secured the services of former Cape Vale Winery chef David Balczun. Also worth a look are the following 2002 Gold Plate Award winners. The Bay Cottage in Dunsborough won a Gold Plate Award this year in the unlicensed dining category. The Hidden Valley in Pemberton won the Ray Perry family dining award and Cape Lavender Gardens in Metricup won the cafe restaurant award. A new restaurant at Margarets Beach Resort will be open for business during the festival. The restaurant and function centre, Embiar, officially opens on November 9. Assured Hospitality Group executive chef Bert Lozey has created the a la carte menu. The menu won’t be “over the top” but will be “easy, modern, approachable food that reflects a belief in freshness, taste, and good presentation”.

Former Newton House sous chef Matthew Egan will be Embiar’s full time executive chef. Oh, and why call it Embiar? It is pronounced emm-bee-arr and was the result of a competition. The winning entry is simply the phonetics of the first letters in the words Margarets Beach Resort.

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Many have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of a new food centre store by innovative chef Michael Forde. Sadly, Gusto has to inform our salivating readers that we all may be waiting a little longer. Michael has been in negotiations for several months with the landlords of the Blueberries site in Dalkeith. But the deal fell through last week after cost estimates for the renovations, which included more seating room (requiring the construction of additional toilets and disabled access), reached $100,000 before the fit out, tables and chairs.

Michael is still keen on his food centre idea, which will incorporate a restaurant, food classes and sales of his eclectic produce. But for the moment it is back to the drawing board.

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Some people might think making 100 litres of ice-cream and packing it into small containers every week for brand-name marketing would be a time consuming, and perhaps messy, way to do it. However for Star Anise owner David Coomer, the foray into the art of boxing ice-cream is proving a good investment. His little Chinese boxed ice-creams can be found at The Essential Ingredient and at The Boatshed Markets. The 10 ice-cream flavours, including liquorice and roasted coconut, have proved popular with consumers. David says production proved problematic several weeks ago when his ice-cream making machine went bust, but the recent purchase of an Italian ice-cream machine has eased the pressure. For those who know David well, look out for his favourite sweets featuring in new ice-cream flavours. He’s currently experimenting on a musk stick flavour. David’s restaurant, Star Anise, celebrates its fourth birthday this Sunday.

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Several WA restaurants brought home national awards from the recent Restaurant and Catering Australia Off the Plate 2002 Awards. The Red Herring in Fremantle won the best tourism restaurant, Scarborough’s Peppermill Restaurant won the best BYO restaurant, and the Subiaco Hotel won the best pub/tavern/club restaurant award. Other winners include NWC Facilities Management, which won the industrial/institutional caterer of the year, and Minesite Catering, which won the best site caterer award.

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Rumours of Little Creatures opening a brewery on the other side of the country are perhaps a bit presumptuous.

While the brewery has been receiving praise from many in the east, including the recent win at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards for Boutique Beer of the Year, the local brewer is not building a brewery on the east coast. It has, however, sent some of its own little creatures to Sydney and Victoria to keep an ear to the ground and work on sales, according the Little Creatures general manager, brewery, Franklin Lucarotti.

“Emma O’Reilly has based herself in Sydney to work on sales and relationship building. Miles Hull went to Victoria about six months ago to do a similar thing,” Mr Lucarotti said.

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Howard Park Wines’ Howard Park Chardonnay was recently awarded boutique white wine of the year at the recent Australian Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA). Retailers, restaurateurs and trade from across Australia judge the awards.

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Xandau has appointed Natasha Mooney as the senior winemaker for the Adelaide Hills winery. Natasha has had extensive wine making experience in the Barossa Valley.

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