He may have a familiar family name but John Mead’s determined to do things his way, from an understated vibe to fur on the walls, as Julie-anne Sprague discovered.
A CHILD-HOOD spent in and around the kitchens of his father, Warren’s, restaurants provided John Mead with a solid grounding in the business. And it is this experience that he, along with wife, Maria, are using to forge a new brand in the Perth hospitality scene.
Their East Perth restaurant, Cream, celebrates its second anniversary this May.
“We set out to create a space that wasn’t hard-wood floors and a clanging vibe,” Mr Mead says.
“That’s why we went so much the other way, with fur walls, carpet and suede.”
Being off the beaten track is no problem for Mr Mead – the restaurant is located on Regal Place, just off Royal Street in East Perth – in fact it’s a challenge he has embraced.
“Initially we wanted to be underground and that has worked really well for us in some respects,” he says.
“We get a lot of people here from word of mouth and that’s a good thing we don’t get the fly-by nighters we get genuine people.”
And it’s the awareness of the pair’s good food and good service at Cream that places them in good stead for future plans to move outside of East Perth.
Cream was awarded the Restaurant and Caterers Industry Association ‘best new restaurant and best non-formal restaurant’ at the 2003 awards.
Maria manages the floor and left a career in stockbroking to help her husband with his project.
“We were planning on going to Europe and it was crazy. I was 32 at the time but we’d had enough of Perth so we were going to jump on a plane and go to Italy and do something adventurous, and we’re not that adventurous,” Mr Mead says.
“A few weeks later we were walking past this site and thought we should take a look. We got the caretaker to show us around and we went home.
“By 4am the following morning I had decided, and I said we should make some money before we went [to Europe].”
Two years later and the pair is not any closer to flying to Europe.
Instead they’re keen to build up the restaurant’s profile.
Creating the off-the-strip restaurant like the successful hotspots in Melbourne hasn’t panned out as Mr Mead thought it would.
But that doesn’t mean business isn’t good; it’s just not terribly local.
“There are not that many locals coming here. We’d get one table, maybe,” he says.
“Most of our customers are coming from Leederville and Mount Lawley.”
Mr Mead says the success the restaurant has achieved is the result of its high service levels, satisfying food, and a casual vibe.
“I’ve tried to create something where people will feel comfortable eating a second time that week,” he says.
“If you go to occasional fine dinings you have a great meal but you don’t want to eat it again for six months because it was so rich.”
Mr Mead was also keen to create something that attracted people who wanted to dine in a relaxed atmosphere without all the fuss.
Setting up a restaurant that was nothing like what his father (Warren) was operating was also important, he says.
Mr Mead said he was not close to his father but did spend a great deal of time growing up working at his dad’s restaurants.
“I worked on and off for him for about 15 years. We’re not close now,” he says.
Mr Mead isn’t planning to take that trip to Europe anytime soon. It’s still on the cards but he and Maria want to create more success in Perth before jet-setting around the globe.
“We’re happy with what we’ve done and it’s been a very successful two years,” Mr Mead told Gusto.
We’ve achieved a lot and our reputation is our biggest achievement.”
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