Beaufort Street has (finally) welcomed David Barber’s slice of northern Italy. Russell Quinn reports.
IT took more than two years and plenty of negotiating with the Town of Vincent for David Barber to bring his northern Italian vision to Mount Lawley.
Barolo on Beaufort, a new presence on the burgeoning Beaufort Street strip after opening about two months ago, is Mr Barber’s latest venture since he sold Soto Espresso in September 2007.
Having successfully run Soto for more than four years, which meant working 119 hours a week (7am-midnight, seven days a week), Mr Barber says he was exhausted and in need of a change, hinting he always wanted run a licensed restaurant.
Interestingly, it was a search for a change in lifestyle (and a penchant for good food and wine) that inspired him to enter the hospitality game in the first place, following nine years working offshore on drilling rigs in the Timor Sea.
“My theory was, if I could survive in hospitality I could survive in any business,” he says.
“And as a consumer I love hospitality; I love consuming food, wine, coffee and wanted to do it (hospitality) well.”
In early 2008, Mr Barber took a trip to Italy, looking for inspiration for his next project and some invaluable market research.
He visited Barolo, in the famed Piedmont region in northern Italy, and immediately fell in love with the culture, the wine and the food.
It’s not surprising the food tickled his fancy considering he says it’s the birthplace of risotto and many other great dishes that feature on Barolo’s menu.
“The eye opener was the wine. Being in Italy I didn’t understand the depth of the wine industry over there,” Mr Barber told Gusto.
He returned with a clear idea of what he wanted to offer the people of Perth – a genuine Italian restaurant.
“We’re getting back to basics as far as the recipes we utilise, the service style, the simplicity of the experience really,” Mr Barber says.
“And that is reflected in the price point.”
However, he recognised a need for more thorough marketing research, beyond his customer service experience at Soto, to ensure the public would embrace Barolo.
“I sat down and looked at travel rates for people in Perth, who was going overseas, how many were going, what their destinations were and how that compared from 2007 to 2003,” he says.
“The kind of people it (Beaufort Street) seems to have attracted and held are educated and well-travelled, they know products and they know service standards.”
Mr Barber scoured Perth for an appropriate site but finally returned to Beaufort Street, citing the close-knit community and discerning clientele as the key to success despite encountering obstacles with the local government.
Bringing some silent partners onboard and exhibiting patience with the council (which he says need to better balance the needs of local residents and businesses) kept the project moving.
The doors finally opened after a $750,000 fit-out of the old Domain furniture store which included a massive Cabrini artwork by Melbourne artist, Damien Cazaly, 1929 Frank Art lighting fixtures from New York, and a lovingly restored 1963 Faema E61 coffee machine costing $12,000, which Mr Barber describes as a “beautiful testament to man’s engineering”.