03/04/2007 - 22:00

Intimate dining on the menu at Matilda Bay

03/04/2007 - 22:00

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Matilda Bay Restaurant owner and general manager Warwick Lavis is in the midst of a $2 million overhaul of what many consider one of Perth’s best riverside restaurants.

Intimate dining on the menu at Matilda Bay

Matilda Bay Restaurant owner and general manager Warwick Lavis is in the midst of a $2 million overhaul of what many consider one of Perth’s best riverside restaurants.

A new, enclosed courtyard area adjoining the Crawley restaurant is the most visible sign that change is under way, but by the end of the year the entire venue will have a markedly different look and feel.

Mr Lavis told Gusto that the restaurant will become more intimate and cosy, featuring leather banquette seats, while the ground floor Catalina Room function room will be converted into a lounge-cum-wine bar. There are also plans for a 22-seat corporate dining room.

“In the ’90s, everything was open with lots of free space, but now we find people want a bit more security so that it is cosy and intimate,” Mr Lavis says.

It’s been more than a decade since Matilda Bay underwent a revamp.

“We have been here since 1984 and every 10 years or so you have to say ‘are you in or are you out?’ If you’re in, you have to spend money,” Mr Lavis says.

The renovation is about half complete and includes new toilet facilities and a new $30,000 cool room, something that will allow the chefs to do their own renovation of the menu.

“The cool room means we can start using dry aged beef,” Mr Lavis says.

“When I first started in this industry that is what we used to do, but now everything is cryovaced [vacuum packed] but I think its going back to dry aging,” he says.

“It’s more expensive to do because there is less weight loss when you cryovac. But the market is changing and there is more awareness about quality food.

“And there is part of the market willing to pay a bit extra to know that they are getting something guaranteed to melt in their mouth.

“People are not eating huge slabs of meat; what they are eating are smaller sized meals of much better quality.”

Mr Lavis added that the menu would also incorporate simply prepared fresh produce, possibly organic, and there would be less emphasis on sauces.

“It’s a continual evolution,” he says. “Ten years ago, we bought a rotisserie from France that we still use. We can cook duck in it so the fat just drips out; we put whole fish in there vertically, and we will continue to do those types of things.

Mr Lavis says the chefs are currently experimenting with different cuts of meat and cooking styles and, after the significant renovations to the restaurant later this year, they will add their top dishes to the menu.

The main restaurant will be closed for a four-week period during June and July so the major renovations can be completed.

A team of young architects from Six Degrees in Melbourne has designed the new look for Matilda Bay and Mr Lavis hopes the changes will attract a slightly younger market (30 to 45 years) to the Crawley restaurant.

“I think we are still seen as a bit of a formal place to go,” Mr Lavis says.

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