In just over three years Perth has embraced Restaurant Amusé, the brainchild of Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy. Russell Quinn reports.
Establishing a new restaurant, let alone a fine dining one, is no easy feat.
There are many elements to consider from securing a site, conducting renovations and employing the right staff to building relationships with suppliers, ensuring fresh produce is readily available and, of course, marketing the business in order to attract the appropriate clientele.
Developing that offering into a highly regarded, award-winning eatery comes with a whole new set of challenges.
But the owner-operators of Restaurant Amusé – arguably Perth’s finest fine-dining restaurant – Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy appear to do it with ease.
And Mr Troy’s glowing reputation has seen an explosion of hopeful kitchen staffers apply for non-existent jobs.
Interestingly he allows a couple of extras in the kitchen on ‘stage’ conditions. Pronounced ‘starj’ (from the French term ‘stagiere’ meaning training), it’s like an internship where employees work for free to gain experiencet, which is exactly how Mr Troy got his start at Neil Jackson’s popular restaurant many years ago.
Despite winning countless awards in the past 36 months, the pair seem to take it all in stride, remaining as down-to-earth and approachable as the day they opened.
And after launching in East Perth just over three years ago, the friendly couple continues to live and breathe their popular degustation-focused creation.
“We always wanted to do degustation only, that was the concept,” Mrs Troy says.
“We didn’t have a big budget, there’s no big (financial) backers on us, so we got the chance to evolve ourselves and take it in the direction we wanted to.
“It’s Hads’ and I deciding what we do each day and growing and evolving.”
Mr Troy suggests that after overcoming initial hurdles including sourcing quality produce and the granting of a restaurant licence, the business has proved a success.
“It was good to start humbly and build,” he says.
“It’s exceeded all expectations.”
Being independent has meant unconditional freedom in terms of amending Amusé, such as limiting the menu to a single 10-course degustation option in July 2008, but it’s also meant that they personally felt the squeeze when belt tightening was required, especially in the early days.
“When times were tough we just didn’t get paid,” Mr Troy explains. “As long as staff were paid and accounts were paid it didn’t really matter.”
The couple says they didn’t receive a return from the business for 18 months, eventually managing to purchase a desperately needed company car, but there were a few things that saved them financially.
“The fact that we only did degustation meant that we knew how many covers we had, so we could staff it accordingly,” Mrs Troy explains.
“And the same with produce,” Mr Troy says.
They also reside out the back of Amusé in a rented house that adjoins the restaurant, which has helped lower overheads.
Apart from living on site, the pair has invested plenty of time and energy into personally conducting four separate renovations, which cost them nothing except for some free meals for friends and family.
“A lot of it has been DIY, dodgy or not,” Mrs Troy says.
“Especially in our first 12 months, the amount of people we fed with thank-you’s, and that was necessary as no-one else was sitting at the tables.”
Mr Troy recalls bringing in friends to make up numbers in the dining room.
“We’ve had many a night of rent-a-crowd, just so other guests that are here don’t feel bad,” he says.
“We’ve done that a fair few times.”