27/11/2007 - 22:00

More than just a bar on Barrack St

27/11/2007 - 22:00

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Between the facade of the heritage-listed Railway Hotel and the relatively new Medina Executive Plaza hotel and apartments on Barrack Street in Perth sits the unassuming alfresco area of the modern bar and restaurant Bar 138 on Barrack.

More than just a bar on Barrack St

Between the facade of the heritage-listed Railway Hotel and the relatively new Medina Executive Plaza hotel and apartments on Barrack Street in Perth sits the unassuming alfresco area of the modern bar and restaurant Bar 138 on Barrack.

It’s on the main strip, and while tucked away, the bright yellow wall, red chairs and funky bar catch the eye of busy workers heading in and out of the city centre.

It may not have the trendiest address in town – between the TAB and tourism retailers that dot the Barrack Street strip between Murray and Wellington streets – but the owners of Bar 138 have deliberately avoided going seriously upmarket just to gain attention.

Instead of looking to attract consumers from the hipper west end, executive chef Christina Zaharopoulos is serving up staple favourites that lure nearby office workers to pop in regularly for lunch or after-work drinks.

On the all-day menu is Caesar salad with chicken ($17.50), 138 BLT ($14.50), steak sandwich ($16.50) and the 138 chicken burger ($15.50).

“It is ridiculous the amount of chicken burgers I make,” Ms Zaharopoulos says.

But as the name suggests, Bar 138 is more bar than restaurant.

It’s headed up by Matt Clarke, who owns the business with Anita Carver.

Mr Clarke says he’s done enough up-market bar work, including working at Onyx Bar in West Perth, and was after something more down-to-earth.

Bar 138 needed to be welcoming for everyone, he says, which meant taking a big step away from being pretentious to be in vogue.

“I wanted to do something more relaxed and for the every day so that everyone from the receptionist to the managing director can walk in here and have a drink and a meal and feel comfortable,” Mr Clarke says.

“Plus, we are within a hotel so we have to appeal to the business traveller and the families, so we wanted something laid back.”

Bar 138 is essentially a bar for city workers offering good meals and pub prices.

Busy office dwellers can even pre-order their meals.

Mr Clarke and Ms Carver lease the restaurant space from Medina.

Being a modern venue that has a relaxed ambiance is about offering a broad menu, competitive prices as well as some subtle differences, Mr Clarke says.

“Our staff wear jeans because in most other bars they wear the black pants,” he says.

Bar 138 has been open for about 18 months and Mr Clarke anticipates the business will continue to get busier as the retail strip evolves.

He also says the $270 million 26-storey Equus apartment and retail development, just one block up between Murray and Hay streets, would be good for the business.

The development is expected to be completed in three years.

“They’ll be more residents around that can use us as a local,” Mr Clarke says.

“There is also a liquor licence as part of the development so there will be something else near to here, which is good for the area.”

Ms Zaharopoulos has worked at Bar 138 for about a year after stints heading up the kitchen for several of restaurateur Davide Bianchi’s  businesses, including Onyx Bar and Savoia, which is now Black Tom’s Oyster Bar.

She also operated three restaurants located in Kuala Lumpur and Bang-kok but returned to Perth after the terrorist attacks in US on September 11 2001 cut tourist numbers and stripped her restaurants of customers.

While Ms Zaharopoulos misses constructing up-market structured meals, she understands the food market well enough to produce welcoming food for the locals and leave the fancy food until she gets home to her kitchen.

“The office worker does not want to spend more than $20 for lunch so we stick to that, but we don’t substitute on the quality,” she says.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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