It has been a big year for foodies in Perth with a few famous names moving on and some new trends emerging on the local scene, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.


OF the many stories Gusto has followed this year the events surrounding the ownership and sale of LinQ restaurant was one of the most intriguing.

In February, Gusto investigated LinQ’s ownership and discovered that Andrew Vlahov was named alongside Linda Mead as a director in the company that owned the restaurant, Celestial Assets. Phone calls to both parties revealed that the pair had been in business some time before, but that Andrew had no financial interest in LinQ. It seems that Andrew and Linda were directors in the company at the time Linda ran Mead’s Fish House, with Celestial Assets set up for Wildcats catering purposes.

That partnership ended but it seemed that, in an oversight, ASIC didn’t receive notification. While that little sideline had Gusto intrigued it was the bigger story about the LinQ’s finances that proved an industry talking point. Rumours about the restaurant’s finances were on everyone’s lips earlier this year, although in early May Linda was quick to deny the rumours about her restaurant being under tight trading terms, partners selling out of the business, or the possibility that receivers could be appointed.

However, it wasn’t long before Linda called it quits, selling the restaurant to ex-husband, Warren Mead. She also left a bucket of debts. Linda sold the restaurant for $400,000, a figure $300,000 shy of what she had invested, reportedly leaving staff and suppliers out of pocket. Celestial Assets’ outstanding creditors’ claims at the end of October were $540,000.

Warren has since adopted an oyster focus for both the South Perth restaurant and his Mosman Bay Restaurant, Mead’s Mosman Bay. His two restaurants are now known as The Oyster Bar at LinQ and The Oyster Bar Mead’s Mosman Bay.

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The Silver Dollar Restaurant graced Perth’s dining scene for decades and its demise this year was also the result of some interesting deals. Michael Burokas and Chris Lyons operated the restaurant for about 12 months before they ran into financial trouble and filed for bankruptcy. They sold the lease of the restaurant to Chris Thomas and have since got out of bankruptcy. Mr Thomas then set about getting a restaurant manager, a head chef, and ordering interior furnishings. But it seemed the impending launch became a little too much and Mr Thomas skipped town. The lease was subsequently put back on the market and was taken up by Jonathan Huang, with the premises now known as the Vegetarian Eating House.

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Zafferano opened in March and has won praise from Perth’s dining community. Owner Albasio Le Pegna has since concentrated all his efforts on the restaurant after selling his Subiaco restaurant, Funtastico, last month.

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Campo De Fiori shut its doors in early March. Yvette and Duncan Barker bought the restaurant from Umberto Tinelli in November 2000 for about $700,000. It’s believed they sold the restaurant for $500,000 to new owners Hans Lang and Marianne Kempf. The Ardross restaurant is now known as Gala Restaurant and is enjoying a strong trade.

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On a celebratory note, many new establishments have made their mark on Perth’s dining scene this year. If you haven’t tried them yet, perhaps pencil them in for the New Year.

Gwenael Lesle and Phillippe Kordics opened Bouchon Bistro. Gwenael left his post as Friends head chef to embark on the new French bistro in Wembley. Stuart Bell has worked at Friends as head chef for much of this year and has kept this restaurant’s reputation for fine food well and truly alive.

Umberto Tinelli’s latest venture, Il Principe Gran Café, opened in June, with Vincenzo Soresi in charge of the kitchen. The restaurant has been known to be booked out for Saturday dinners several weeks in advance. To make sure you’re doing business there next year, perhaps call and book now.

Davide Bianchi’s latest venture, Onyx, opened with a huge VIP party earlier this year and has continued to keep an esteemed presence in West Perth.

Two new establishments opened on St Georges Terrace in 2002. La Via café opened in May and has been doing a bustling trade serving good food and coffee at 181 St Georges Terrace, while Rosso Espresso at number 89 opened just over two months ago.

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Several new caterers entered the market this year. Michael Forde Food, headed up by the talented chef Michael Forde, has been serving exquisite tastings to numerous corporate events. Urban Pantry was opened by Chris Young and is a concept that has become in vogue – a store providing cafe food, catering, and cooking classes. Nothing like having your fingers in a few pies. Robert Almond is doing a similar thing at Robert Duval Foods.

Subiaco Square became more of a focal point with two new restaurant openings this year. Blue Mussel Restaurant and Panache Gourmet Food and Wine have added increased flavour to the “new Subi”.

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Workers in the CBD celebrated Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group’s revamp of The City Hotel. After purchasing the hotel from Judy McEvoy, the ALH group spent months renovating. Out of the ashes sprang the Belgian Beer Café Westende.

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Zen Sea, the groovy seafood retail outlet, opened in June. Former B Restaurant head chef Stuart Ferguson has since teamed up with owner Jaime Steven to make delicious prepared seafood ready to take home and be easily cooked.

Several restaurants also changed hands, most recently the purchase of Funtastico by Kerry Tangeny and Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group’s purchase of Black Tom’s. Other changes in ownership included: C Restaurant manager Patrick Shaw and head chef Darren King became partners in the restaurant after Phil and Pete Clements sold their share. Pete has since gone on to invent, manufacture and distribute the Arctik Jug, a jug that promises to keep beverages cold, right to the last drop; Domenic and Basilia Iasenza purchased the lease at Gucce. Domenic was formerly the head chef at Funtastico before taking up the chance to work with his wife in their own operation; The Plum Restaurant underwent renovations, an ownership change, and a name change this year. It’s now got an alfresco area, is known as NV Café, and head chef Darryl Anglesey now owns 100 per cent of the restaurant. Jenny Holten sold her Shenton Park restaurant Rabbit Moon to former Highlight 33 owner Alain Khul. It’s now known as Onslow Bistro; Mezzonine’s lease was sold to Bien Nguyen and Tai Pham and is now known as Bien Fine Food. The directors of Mezzonine have taken legal action against their landlord, The Ministry for Culture and the Arts; The Wembley Hotel’s lease was taken over by Peter Mansfield and Kane Mansfield.  Former leaseholders included Murray McHenry, owner of Nedlands Park Hotel; the lease for The Lucky Shag was sold to Nathan Hodder, former bar man at The Como.

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