12/06/2007 - 22:00

Verschoore, it's all about the lifestyle

12/06/2007 - 22:00


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Tucked away next door to The Orient Hotel in Fremantle is a little restaurant that’s attracted some major international talent to the kitchen.

Verschoore, it's all about the lifestyle

Tucked away next door to The Orient Hotel in Fremantle is a little restaurant that’s attracted some major international talent to the kitchen.

French-born and trained chef Frederic Verschoore and his wife, Letitia, took ownership of the Great Mellie last month, after deciding to leave their most recent home, Tokyo, in search of a better lifestyle.

The couple spent six hectic years in Japan, following five years working at the Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong, where they met.

Mrs Verschoore worked in the hotel’s catering department when Mr Verschoore joined the team to head up Shangri-la’s French restaurant.

He later became the hotel’s executive sous chef.

Mr Verschoore left France and the three-star Michelin restaurant Troisgros, one of France’s most respected restaurants operated by third-generation chef, Michel Troisgros.

There’s a real touch of class about the Great Mellie, and while it is currently BYO, there are plans for a liquor licence that will allow the pair to develop a wine list.

The cuisine is a much more casual affair, though.

“I like fine food but it is very hard to come in and say ‘yes we will do it’ because the cost is one issue and getting the products is another. It is hard to get what I want here,” says Mr Verschoore, who’s surprised by the difficultly in accessing some of Western Australia’s quality produce.

“In Japan I had a lot of product from Western Australia.

“But now I am here and I’m told the fish is frozen and I’m so surprised because I was getting fresh product in Japan. I’ve really had to look around to find what we need.”

Mr Verschoore says he decided to leave Japan, where he was responsible for the French cuisine at Tokyo’s Royal Park Hotel, so that he and his family could escape the demands of the big-city life.

After holidaying in Perth about a year ago the couple decided it was an ideal location to set up their own business and raise their seven-year-old son.

They met Great Mellie’s previous owner while on holidays and, when the owner decided to sell the restaurant earlier this year, they took the opportunity to emigrate.

“We had a good feeling about this place,” Mr Verschoore says.

But Mrs Verschoore says they’re still trying to adapt to dropping down a few gears.

“We came from Japan where everyone thinks about work,” she says. “Here, it is totally different. People go out with their friends. We wanted to have that.”

The pair live just six minutes from work, compared with a one-hour train journey they endured to get to work each day in Tokyo.

But Mr Verschoore now finds himself in the kitchen without a brigade of hotel chefs.

“Here I am the only one in the kitchen whereas in Japan I had eight chefs under my supervision,” Mr Verschoore says.

“I am doing more simple food but it’s fresh.”

The lunch menu includes a confit of duckling leg with sautéed potatoes and field greens for $17 and a seafood bouchee, which is a delicate puff pasty shell filled with seafood, asparagus and mushroom in a cream sauce. It is also $17.

The dinner menu is concise with five main dishes to choose from, including sautéed baby squid in a red wine sauce enhanced with ink and sundried tomatoes with butternut squash puree for $28, and a Harvey Beef sirloin steak with mushroom and season vegetables for $35.

Mr Verschoore says he enjoys making use of fresh produce, which he sometimes gets from local suppliers on South Terrace.

Depending on what’s available that day determines the two ‘suggested’ dishes that change between lunch and dinner as well as each day.

Mr Verschoore’s skills would no doubt have created interest for his talent within Perth’s hotel industry.

But the French chef says it was time for him to go it alone.

“It was something that I wanted to do,” Mr Verschoore says.

Great Mellie is located at 37 High Street in Fremantle and is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner and brunch on Sundays.


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