Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fantales - a new restaurant venture

After depositing thirty thousand dollars in the bank I decided to go up to Byron Bay to lick my wounds and stay with Jo Mathews who  with his brother Robert had adjoining farms up in the hills in Federal behind Byron Bay. Paul Quiney was staying there and I had always harboured an idea of buying an old farm house and doing it up.

 Which nearly happened to be the case, as through  contacts I heard of a couple who had an option on a farm in Possum Creek of 150 acres with an old farm house, they wanted to divide the property in two and buy with another person as tenants in common.This was acceptable to me, as they did not want the farm house section, or the the part of the boundary which was Possum Creek which had a fifteen foot waterfall and water hole and small rainforest.

Any way this was not to be as another friend Sid Preston who had Dionysus Restaurant in Milsons Point and was now out of that and his marriage, asked me to come to Sydney to look at a site in Camperdown to see if I thought it had relevance for a another restaurant.  Which I did and ended up not proceeding with the farm in Byron but becoming involved in another restaurant project.

The site chosen was an old Pizza Parlour on the corner of Parramatta Road and Prymont Bridge Road, Camperdown, it reminded me of a medium size aircraft hangar with parking for about ten cars.The interior already had a bar and kitchen which we gutted and rebuilt and relocated the entrance from Parramatta Road to another from the car park leading into the middle of the restaurant.

To make this restaurant work  and have an impact and to get people from the north and eastern suburbs to the inner west the concept needed to be radical and different to anything in Sydney .
A South East Asian concept  was conceived and I went on a whirlwind  buying trip through Hong Kong, Manila and Bangkok , buying all the furniture,fittings, artefact's, crockery glassware and at the same time checking out restaurants and menus and recipes. I filled up  two containers, as on our estimation the site could seat about 250 people. 

The funds came from me and Sid Preston's brother in law, Sid had no funds, how I got roped into this must have had something to do with  what I was smoking at the time - dumb!! Lesson never go into a business venture unless the partnerships are equal.

 In the mid seventies there were a lot of Vietnamese refugees in Villawood Detention center and Vietnamese cooking was the flavour of the month. So we took ourselves out to Villawood and ended up interviewing most of them and employing several. Others  we employed were Asian students at University of NSW and Sydney University  which was only half a mile away. We outfitted the male floor staff in the traditional Barong Tagalog shirts I had bought in the Phillipines and the women wore their own Asian styles as their were a mix of Vietnamese, Phillipino,Thai,Chinese Malays and Indonesians.When they all came to work and changed into their outfits they looked very exotic and handsome in appearance.

As was the restaurant by the time the internal construction was completed and the interior was decked out. The lights were large glass antique Indian hurricane lamps strung around a high ceiling that I had found in a grungy back alley antique shop in Manilla.The lamps had to be electrified as they were candle powered. The colour scheme was sky blue ceiling and Pink walls, coir matting for floor coverings, beautiful  cane furniture and place settings of traditional blue and white Chinese crockery.The restaurant was set up in two sections, one section was in front of an open sided kitchen. In the centre a raised lounge cum stage was built and a white grand Piano bought and installed surrounded by large comfy cane lounges. The other section was and indoor arbour we built with a landscape mural on the far wall. At the entrance  a Pagoda style porch was designed and built which led to wide brick steps leading down inside to a waiting area, where an enormous rectangular aquarium was installed with tropical fish that died all the time from the smoke in the atmosphere.

The kiitchen was rejigged with woks and steamers and a Menu put together consisting of Asian,Szechuan and Chinese Village style cooking,which had never before done in Sydney. Our First Chef was a Chinese Malay called Hoppy Ho who ripped us off blind as all the bills were written in Chinese as the buying was done in China town and the accounts could not be reconciled as they did not understand what was being bought. Our next chefs were from Schechuan in China and this cooking was new to Sydney. Schechuan was a mountain province in Western China and their cooking was noted for the seven tastes; hot, numb,salty, fragrant,sweet,sour, bitter and proved very popular with the Asian cooking especially Vietnamese.

1 comment:

  1. Great to get the next chapter of your journey.
    The restaurant sounded beautiful,even ahead of its time.
    The menu also looks delicous albeit the chefs.