Happy for their business to be a bit ‘undefinable’, the owners of a West Perth deli are working to lift their profile. Emily Morgan reports.
WEST End Deli sits comfortably in the cracks between a host of classifications.
It’s in a suburb that feels like Leederville, could be North Perth but on the map is west of the CBD.
It serves a mean breakfast, or brunch, but started as a lunchtime destination and now serves dinner three times a week.
Don’t forget the table of cakes and muffins for morning tea, which turns into a bread station holding up West End’s homemade baguettes for the tablecloth evenings.
Owners Justin and Christine Peters like to refer to West End as a bistro, and while the development of a deli is a work in progress, don’t be mistaken – they are quite sure of what they are doing.
Mr Peters is West End’s head chef and refers to his bistro as a “spontaneous evolution” led by customers.
West End was a Monday-to-Friday operation when it opened three years ago.
“All I was doing was cooking some pretty simple lunch and some bits and pieces. Six months later breakfast became the next layer, weekends were the next layer after that, 18 months after that we started dinners,” Mr Peters says.
The decor is a combination of concrete floors, homely wooden furnishings and eclectic light fittings incorporated into chairs, which evolved in a similar manner to the bistro’s opening hours.
Mrs Peters says the bistro’s interior design has developed as the couple collected furniture and items over time.
“Sometimes I walk in and I think, ‘look at where we have come’. There were all different coloured walls, a deli with cigarettes and chewing gum [when they took over the business]. Slowly we stripped off the vinyl bit by bit,” she says.
Mr Peter says this has led to a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve.
“It adds a sense of authenticity to it. Cooking is very much the same sort of thing. It doesn’t matter how well you plan your dish, very often something will come out of left field,” he says.
“That is the thing that has helped West End Deli the most, you see us for all that we are, as raw as West End can be.”
The couple say their staff has been integral to the success of the business, with a majority of the 22 employees committed to a career in hospitality.
Mr Peters says this has made all the difference, and West End Deli doesn’t have the staffing problems felt by many in Perth’s hospitality industry.
“We always seem to attract hospitality professionals. This is their career, they are not doing anything alongside this,” he said, careful to point out West End also has casual and part-time staff who are students.
“When you have a team focused on hospitality being their career, you find everything else tends to fall in line a lot easier.”
Mrs Peters believes her husband’s experience in the industry, namely at Leederville’s Duende, has helped to attract the right staff, while he says it is more attributable to the team’s similar goals.
“You attract like-minded people. I am adamant that you cannot be a key member of my team unless restaurants are your focus,” Mr Peters told Gusto.
Developing close connections within the industry led to Mr Peters being asked to take over the kitchen of Mount Lawley small bar Clarences, which had been run by nearby Cantina.
Those relationships have prevailed, with West End sourcing some staff from Clarences or Cantina when available.
“Clarences is very much the same, they are about bringing staff together who are serious about hospitality. Therein is the constant,” Mr Peters says.
The next layer for West End Deli is, all going to plan, a liquor licence and a facelift.
For the owners, a liquor licence is about extending West End’s profile again, but Mr Peters is cautious of taking the character of BYO away from the bistro’s loyal clientele.
“It is a great brunch spot, it works as a BYO bistro, but to give it that real complete experience and credibility from the restaurant side of things; adding aesthetic touches and a wine list will make it feel more complete,” he says.
The focus will be on offering pre-dinner drinks, cocktails, aperitifs and pre-dinner bubbly.
Avoiding too extensive a wine list is important to Mr Peters, who says he would want to complement the formula that is already in place.
“West End’s dinners have been built on BYO and I am not going to lose that,” he says.
“That will keep West End Deli authentic. It would be very easy to layer the dining room, plush it up, give it a fantastic wine list, and then almost lose what it is to start trying to play the restaurant.”