03/02/2011 - 00:00

Mid-week dining on menu at Clarences

03/02/2011 - 00:00


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Clarences bar in Mount Lawley is aiming to liven up the mid-week dining scene. Natalie Gerritsen reports.

Mid-week dining on menu at Clarences

NESTLED in a narrow shop front next to Lawley’s bakery on Beaufort Street, Clarences bar is establishing itself as a mid-week favourite halfway between Mount Lawley’s two biggest bars – the Flying Scotsman and the Queens.

Owned by a collective of six young retail and hospitality operatives, Clarences is an accessible, comfortable addition to the often-painfully-cool small bar scene.

Opening just before Christmas in 2009, Clarences’ owners say it has already established a loyal and diverse clientele.

Lloyd Smith and Jeremy Prus handle the day-to-day running of the venue, and Mr Prus says the fit-out was designed to be welcoming, rather than deliberately slick and intimidating.

“It’s a neighborhood bar, a community bar,” Mr Prus told Gusto. “That was a big thing we wanted, for everyone to feel comfortable here, not just a certain demographic or certain market.

“We have a really great young crew that come here, all the way up to quote-unquote oldies. We don’t want anyone to walk in and feel intimidated, it’s really accessible and we try to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.”

Six months of refurbishment created a space Mr Prus describes as old world meets new world, where wood and brick dominate and dimly-lit booths give the illusion of privacy, even during the day.

The bar’s best feature is the open-air, timber-decked courtyard out the back, providing plenty of space to enjoy the summer weather. Mr Prus and Mr Smith say Clarences is always full to capacity on Friday and Saturday nights.

Having reached their maximum patronage during busy times, the team at Clarences is focused on ways to increase trade during the week.

Mid-week specials like parmigiana (parmi) and pint night, have attracted a regular following.

“Traditionally weekends are always flat-out busy, but we prefer to focus on weeknight trade,” Mr Prus says.

“So we’re really trying to push Monday to Thursday, people coming out for a drink, or to dine.

“Our pint and parmi night has built a real cult following and we get lots of locals and regulars come down for that.

“We’re going to change up our mid-week specials seasonally, like we used to, in winter, do shanks and shiraz on Tuesday.

“Now the weather’s not so cold we’re launching an empanadas, samosas and beer night.”

As well as boosting trade during the week, Mr Smith says the specials are about thanking the people who have helped Clarences succeed in its first year.

“The whole idea behind having these cheap nights was to give something back to our regulars,” he says.

“We definitely want to keep that going.”

Outside those specials, Clarences’ menu echoes its design – welcoming, simple and accessible with lots of plates to share.

The bar is open for dinner seven nights a week and lunch from Friday to Sunday.

Mr Prus said the decision to not open for lunch mid-week was an easy one.

“We just felt for us, lunch trade wasn’t going to be something we wanted to focus on,” he says.

“People don’t really think about going for lunch at a bar during the week.”

Head chef Justin Peters is a recent addition to the business, bringing experience gained working for Little World Beverages director Nic Trimboli at both Duende and Il Lido.

Mr Peters now owns popular brunch spot West End Deli in West Perth.

Also working behind the scenes of Clarences are Sal Pizzata and Matt Thomas, the owners of sneaker and street wear retailer Highs and Lows, and Leederville nightclub The Manor.

Mr Prus and Mr Smith have worked in hospitality their whole post-school career, abandoning their original trades – Mr Prus a chef, Mr Smith a plumber – to step on to the restaurant floor.

The bar may have been open for just over a year, but it was in the planning stages for much longer than that.

Two of Clarences’ other partners first spotted the building coming up for lease in 2007 and quickly secured the premises.

Then came two years of red tape; Clarences was one of the first of a crop of venues to apply for the government’s new small bar licence, and it was a long process.

“It was pretty difficult,” Mr Prus says.

“I think it was around six months before that the law had commenced, so they hadn’t approved any small bar licences yet.

“It took forever.”

For the immediate future, Clarences’ owners just want to focus on building the brand and continuing to entice people through the door mid-week.

“We just want to keep trading and keep all our regular customers happy and get new customers in,” Mr Smith says.



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