04/09/2007 - 22:00

Ultimate makeover at Matilda Bay

04/09/2007 - 22:00

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Riverside eatery Matilda Bay Restaurant has recently undergone a $2 million makeover designed to make the expansive venue a more intimate place to wine and dine, both for its existing customers and for a somewhat younger, sophisticated corporate crowd.

Ultimate makeover at Matilda Bay

Riverside eatery Matilda Bay Restaurant has recently undergone a $2 million makeover designed to make the expansive venue a more intimate place to wine and dine, both for its existing customers and for a somewhat younger, sophisticated corporate crowd.

Matilda Bay Restaurant owner Warwick Lavis was keen to bring in Melbourne-based designers to create the restaurant’s new look and feel because the Victorian city, considered Australia’s food capital, is Mr Lavis’ favourite place to indulge his appetite for good food venues.

He travels to Melbourne at least three or four times a year.

“I really like Perth and I love living here, but for food and wine I really enjoy going to Melbourne,” Mr Lavis says.

Mr Lavis appointed Six Degrees to redevelop the restaurant because there wasn’t a Perth designer he believed to be a specialist in hospitality projects.

The ground-level restaurant is now split into the main restaurant, a private dining room, a cosy wine bar and the Catalina 50-seat function room.

The 140-seat Roe Function room remains upstairs.

Previously, the ground floor was a single open space, with restaurant patrons provided with uninterrupted views across the bar and into the function room, and vice versa.

But Mr Lavis reckons the days of big open spaces have passed.

“In the 1990s it was all about open space, which was lovely and beautiful, but people want security now,” Mr Lavis says.

The main 150-seat restaurant incorporates funky wood panels and some plush-yet-neutral-toned bench seats. There’s also a section that can be partitioned using wooden sliding doors, with a modern cut-out design that creates a semi-private room catering for up to 16 people.

Meanwhile, the private wine room is pitched squarely at the corporate sector.

“The mining guys all know each other and do the deals over lunch, but they also like to be able to close things off a bit,” Mr Lavis says.

“I think it has a little to do with doing business with the Chinese and people in Asia who really like having the privacy. It is also a very prestigious thing, having the private room, and the Asian market like that.”

Mr Lavis adds that creating the wine bar space provides an extra element to the business for a younger crowd that wants to mingle, enjoy a meal and then maybe mingle some more.

“It’s all about informality; a lot of the people coming through now were not brought up sitting at the dinner table,” he says.

“They don’t like to be seated for more than three hours, so this way they can start at the bar or finish their meal and then go to the bar.”

Mr Lavis is still working through various government approvals to get a licence to operate the bar separately to the restaurant. For now, guests will be able to enjoy a glass of wine if they intend to also consume a meal.

He hopes the wine bar will become a drawcard in its own right, with visitors popping in to enjoy a glass of champagne and the view, and also checking out the restaurant for the next time they’re heading out for a meal.

But the redevelopment work is far from finished.

Mr Lavis is progressing with plans to redevelop the Matilda Bay Tearooms, which are situated a little closer to the city along the riverfront, yet within view of the restaurant.

He is seeking various government approvals to redevelop the tearooms into a bistro-style restaurant that will act as a cellar door for his Ferguson Valley wine label, Pepperilly Estate.

Mr Lavis wants to eventually increase production of the wine from its current 3,500 cases a year to 6,000 cases a year, mainly through the sale of the wine through the renovated tearooms.

Approvals for the development are expected in about a year, with the new look tearooms to open in about 18 months.

The menu is likely to be more like pub fare, while Matilda Bay Restaurant will continue to serve up more refined, top-notch quality cuisine, including its aged beef, cured salmon and Queensland Wagyu steak, which fetches $75 a serve.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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