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WHILE work is frantically under way at Chris Taylor’s newest venture, the Bluewater Grill at Point Heathcote, months of incremental changes to modernise Fraser’s Restaurant will be completed in the next few weeks.

New chairs and tables have been in use for some months, however more recent changes include new lighting, a new-look bar, an extended outdoor area, new paint and carpet, plus new fittings. And not a day of business was lost to do it all.

Mr Taylor says the revamp was a result of an ageing establishment.

Fraser’s Restaurant will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in November.

“We’ve come out of that stage of wrought iron and painted table tops. It was getting tired and it was in need of repair,” Mr Taylor says.

“What we’ve done is make clever use of space and it is much cleaner and crisper.”

He admits that, while the small additions such as ashtrays and vases can be expensive, they add a polished look. And popping off to Bali for six days isn’t such a bad way to shop for them either (Mr Taylor has just returned from the island – his first visit that did not directly involve work).

He says the renovation has cost “a lot” but it is well and truly worth it. The outdoor area cost about $70,000 and includes new drainage, an outdoor waiters’ station, and room for a few more seats.

And during October’s Rugby World Cup and throughout December the rooftop will have a purpose-built circular marquee to help cater to increasing demand for function space.

Next month the Bluewater Grill function room will be ready for business and already wedding bookings are strong, Mr Taylor says. The restaurant is on schedule to open in October.

Evans and Tate wine maker Virginia Wilcock has decided to take up a position as group winemaker Australian Wine Holdings, a position vacated by consultant John Griffiths. Ms Wilcock tells Gusto she is excited by the role, which is a step up in responsibility and will provide a challenge at the more boutique end of the market.

AWH owns Chestnut Grove, Hayshed Hill, Alexandra Bridge and Bunker Bay.

Ms Wilcock’s connection with AWH managing director Mike Calneggia goes back to the days when she worked at Selwyn Wines, the contract wine maker he sold into Evans & Tate as part of the company’s 2000 listing.

Her partner, Mike Gadd, is a co-owner of Margaret River bar and restaurant Wino’s.

The fate of two proposed Subiaco tavern developments is still being decided by government agencies.

Both the Bailey at Centro and the Centro Wine and Coffee House have had long battles to get their plans approved.

Sonja Gastevich, the publican seeking a liquor licence for the proposed Bailey at Centro development, is still waiting for an outcome of application lodged more than a year ago. The matter was referred to the Liquor Licensing Court after a number of parties (both commercial and residential) opposed the licence application. The matter has been heard at the Liquor Licensing Court but as yet no decision has been announced.

And Murray Kimber’s plans to convert Indian restaurant Chutney Mary’s into the Centro Wine and Coffee House is still held up on town planning clearance. The City of Subiaco has denied town planning approval for the development, however Murray Kimber has fought that decision in front of the Town Planning Appeal Board in April. As yet, though, the board has not reached a decision. 

According to Howard Park Denmark cellar door manager Vera Hook there is a growing number of visitors heading to the region who are seeking a new food and wine experience.

It is a view shared by regional food promoter Don Hancey.

"What I have noticed is that the Great Southern region used to think of themselves as the poor cousin to Margaret River, but in the past four to five years that has started to changed," Mr Hancey says.

Notable wineries operating in the Denmark area include Howard Park, West Cape Howe, Karriview Wines, and Somerset Hill.

The Great Southern host a wine festival every year. So if there ever were an opportune time to visit this spot it would be September, particularly September 26. This is the day when West Cape Howe winery puts on its acclaimed Culinary Inquisition, all part of the annual Great Southern Wine Festival.

West Cape Howe is already n the process of preparing for this event.

It will include master classes from food and wine industry guest speakers, including the larger than life Vince Garreffa of Mondo butchers, and Must Winebar executive chef Russell Blaikie, who will showcase some regional produce. And there’ll be plenty of West Cape Howe wines.

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