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The coffee-led revolution on Beaufort Street in Highgate shows no sign of slowing down, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

SEVERAL cafe and restaurant developments under way on Beaufort Street in Highgate will add to a list of high-calibre operations in what surely must be Perth’s freshest cafe strip.

New developments include the opening of new cafe Soto, a hospitality lease for the Domain Furniture Store, and speculation that a new cafe will open opposite Jackson’s Restaurant. 

The Domain Furniture site, located at 499 Beaufort Street, opposite Sienna’s and Keturah Day Spa, has been leased to the operators of Maya Masala and Chutney Mary’s in Subiaco.

And while those operators are trying to secure a tavern licence for the Subiaco based Chutney Mary’s, industry speculation is that an Indian restaurant will more than likely surface on the Highgate corner.

That restaurant will overlook the newest completion to the Beaufort strip, Soto. The funky cafe sits on the same block as Must Winebar and faces out onto stalwarts of the area, Sienna’s and the Queens Tavern.

Just down the road is fine dining outlet Jackson’s and chic night time bar Luxe.

The owner of Jackson’s Restaurant, Neal Jackson, also believes another new cafe will open in Highgate.

“I also believe there is a cafe opening up across the road from me. It used to be a book store but they have just moved out,” he says.

And there is strong interest in the area from hospitality operators, according to Ron Farris Real Estate managing director Ron Farris, who leased the Domain Furniture site.

He says interest in the site is extremely strong. There have been 75 enquires, 90 per cent of which were hospitality based, according to Mr Farris.

“We had lots of enquires. There is not much else around there and its very popular now. That’s why this site generated a lot of interest,” he says.

“There will be extensive development of the site. They intend to put a very high quality cafe in there.”

As for the newly opened cafe, Soto, its owner and front-of-house gal Lorena Tai says the establishment is aiming to provide high quality local produce, coffee and service and add to what is now a restaurant/cafe strip.

“Our biggest push is the coffee. We use Essenza, which is brewed in Mount Lawley and its beautiful coffee,” she says.

“This is local produce but global flavours. Most of our suppliers are a couple of streets away. We get produce from Vince at Mondo’s and bread from Kingsley at New Norcia and our coffee is roasted a few streets away.”

Soto is Indonesian for soup but its meaning has nothing to do with the cafe’s operation, Ms Tai says.

“I just like the sound of it but there is no association from it to what we do,” she says.

Ms Tai, a former manager at Cino to Go, says she wants to reinvent coffee culture in Perth.

“Cino established a niche and people understood and appreciated coffee. We want to go back to those roots and provide genuine service and the intimacy involved. We want to know our clients,” she says.

The former Ian Kay Furniture Store has joined its Must Wine Bar counterpart by adopting a very modern yet classic approach to its fit-out.

Along its alfresco strip are table tops … but with no legs. Ms Tai, in all her wisdom, has solved wonky table issues.

“There is no pavement that is completely straight,” she says.

Which is why the table tops are mounted onto the half wall of the front of the cafe and work like the desk tops found on chairs in a university lecture theatre. They are stable yet can be manoeuvred out of the way when necessary.

Soto is very much an industrial looking cafe with bare floors, dark wood and rustic features.

“I like the industrial look. I wanted this to have a relaxed casualness,” Ms Tai says.

“It’s very simple and it’s for everyone. We want to create an Oxford Street [feel] here. There are lot of fabulous food places.”

Other local operators also have noticed an increase in foot traffic.

Jackson’s Restaurant’s Neal Jackson says there has been a marked increase in business in the area.

“Business is good and it’s strong,” he says. “There are more and more people walking along the street at night, and whilst they might not eat at my restaurant all the time, it gives me the opportunity to expose my restaurant and what we do so that the next time they are out they may come in. It’s an opportunity to attract new people.”

Must Winebar executive chef and director Russell Blaikie says many proprietors are benefiting from increased focus on the area.

“What’s happening on our little sub-strip is things like on Saturday nights you will see the butcher from Elmars barbequing sausages outside the store because they’ve realised how many people are around,” he says.

However, while business is good for Mr Jackson’s quality food and wine in the evenings, there is a definite lack of business trade for lunches, he says.

“I don’t think the lunch trade is here. Business people won’t travel for lunch; they tend to stay where they are. The Queens does quite well and so will Soto, but the proper restaurant lunch is diminishing,” Mr Jackson says.

“People don’t spend the time and the money on lunch any more. I’ve recently made the decision to close Friday lunches. It has been in decline for the last two years. I’ve decided I will probably do them in November and December to pick up the Christmas trade.”

While there has been an increase in new eateries, there have been no car parking developments, which is of a concern to many Highgate operators.

Mr Jackson says parking becomes more of an issue when the Perth Glory soccer matches are being played.

“They don’t let people other than residents park on most of the streets and they police that quite strongly,” he says. “You see residential streets half full of cars with plenty of bays that could be used.”

Mr Jackson says while there is a large parking facility a few blocks up from his restaurant, more unpaid parking is needed in the area.

“There is an empty car yard opposite me. The council could put parking on that but I guess there are the costs of doing that. Also, people don’t want to pay for parking,” he says.

Mr Blaikie says the current car park located 150 metres further up the road was not being utilised to capacity.

“A lot of our customers complain about the parking but the car park three blocks up remains virtually empty,” he says.

“Most people drive up and down the side streets and they are usually successful.”

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