21/01/2010 - 00:00

HOTHOUSE,summer in the city

21/01/2010 - 00:00

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Creative vision and eco-friendly design have come together in a new city establishment. Russell Quinn reports.

A PROFESSIONAL collaboration after a decade-long friendship has led to the creation of a unique eco-friendly eatery in Perth.

Greenhouse, located in the heart of the CBD on St Georges Terrace, is an environmentally conscious and partly sustainable café-cum-bar-cum-restaurant, which has been operating for just over a month.

It’s the brainchild of its co-owners: former Eminem restaurant manager and cocktail professional, Paul Aron; designer Joost Bakker (pronounced ‘Yoast’, like you’d say toast); and multiple Melbourne café owner Jason Chan.

The double-storey building was constructed using Mr Bakker’s ‘Productive Building’ system, which aims to “minimise ecological footprint through careful consideration of sourced materials, their lifecycle and the buildings operation and maintenance”, in just more than six weeks by a Melbourne-based outfit called Liquid Lines.

They also dismantled the first Greenhouse (a well-received temporary design installation assembled by Mr Bakker) and shipped it over to Perth from Melbourne’s Federation Square.

A mixture of natural and recycled materials was used, including roll formed steel coil for its frame, Dumbleyung straw bales and plywood for the insulated walls, and corrugated iron roofing.

About 4,000 strawberry pot plants cascade down the walls from the rooftop bar, which is enclosed by a herb garden, while random objects such as the tops of gas cylinders are used for door handles and glass beakers act as table vases.

Greenhouse has a 10-year lease at its current location as the focal entry point to the new enex100 building owned by Industry Super Property Trust (ISPT), one of the nation’s largest investor-owned property groups, based in Victoria.

As such, ISPT has been instrumental in assisting with the project’s delivery, as have the City of Perth, according to Mr Aron.

Mr Aron says his original business partners pulled out when approval for a similar glasshouse-styled eco-friendly restaurant in Perth was refused, at which time Mr Bakker had his Melbourne Greenhouse installation up and running.

Mr Aron, a friend and colleague of Mr Bakker for more than 10 years, says at the time he was unaware of Mr Bakker’s Melbourne Greenhouse and didn’t inform ISPT of his relationship with Mr Bakker.

“It was their (ISPT’s) idea to get Joost involved and I said yes and I didn’t tell him (Joost) and then he came into the room one day and I was there and it was pretty funny,” Mr Aron says.

“It feels good the way it panned out.”

Mr Aron and his partners split the $600,000 fit-out bill (after ISPT had constructed the $1 million base building), which blew-out considerably from early estimates.

“Because nothing like this has been built before in Perth there was a lot of consultation costs, like engineers and that,” he says.

Despite the risk, Mr Aron’s confidence in the concept has been vindicated by Greenhouse’s initial success.

“The issue for us is that it’s been too busy,’ he says.

“We thought we would build to the numbers we’ve been doing, and instead for the last month it’s been flat out.

“Matt Stone [previously involved with David Coomer at Pata Negra] and the kitchen staff have been pulling massive hours.”

Realising the potential danger of staff burnout from his time managing Eminem, Mr Aron has instituted incentives to ensure his eclectic collection of staff remain loyal.

“I do have an eclectic group of people working here and I feel a bit out of place; I think I’m the only person working here without a tattoo,” he says.

“But I’ve given the kitchen cash bonuses, I buy everyone knock-off drinks and I give everyone 50 per cent off staff drinks and staff food, there’s not many venues around that do that stuff.”

While future expansion plans include selling fresh herbs onsite and replanting the upstairs vegetable garden, Mr Aron says creating a European style cafe with “food, booze and coffee all in the one venue” has been challenging.

“There’s been a couple of times I’ve thought I’ve bitten off more than I could chew, only because of the hours I need to be here to make everything run properly; but that’s not going to last forever,” he says.

 

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