New westie food ventures of the ritzy nature always generate a great deal of speculation, excitement and curiosity – and that is certainly the case at present with regards to the revamp headed our way at Harts Hotel in Middle Foostcray and Harley & Rose, soon to be up and running at the former location of Ovest in West Footscray.
In both cases, CTS has decided not pursue these stories as both establishments have already generated coverage.
So I know what you know.
But that doesn’t stop me and my friends thinking about what is happening and the dynamics at play.
Sometimes that interest becomes amusement and bemusement.
Last week’s story in The Age, for example, started with the words “Footscray: it’s the suburb that just won’t quit its upward trajectory”, while that same opening paragraph concluded with “Now, serious food is coming in hot”.
The story finished with “Upwards the west”.
For goodness sakes, who or what defines, in this context, what “upward trajectory, “serious food” and “upwards the west” mean?
Is it solely down to celebrity foodie names like McConnell, Builders Arms and Cutler and Co?
That often seems to be the case when it comes coverage of westie food happenings in non-western Melbourne media of various levels and varieties.
Or is just about the sleek/chic/hipster/trendy/groovy look and feel of such places that drives such coverage and proclamations of progress? And even if the food is in no way adventurous or new?
A combination of both, I’m guessing.
And the very use of words and concepts such as upwards and trajectory in a food context themselves bespeak a mindset that is narrow and competitive.
I’d argue that, depending on rather different criteria, that there is serious food happening every day of the week in the west – and not just the inner west, either.
Even if it mostly falls outside your world view.
In regards to the same story, two pals have pointed out to me – without prompting – that phrases such as “panzanella with local vinegar” and “a coiffed traditional pub menu” read like hipster parody.
Though that may be attributable to The Age and its writer, rather than those behind these businesses.
As ever with such happenings, I am interested to discover whether these joints will be merely in the west – or OF the west.
Some launches from the recent and not-so-recent past illustrate how some folks have gone about getting the locals onside.
When The Plough was relaunched a few years back, the publicists and management ambled up and down Victoria and Charles streets, inviting the local Seddon businesses and their staff to the opening night party.
Likewise, when the Calombaris empire made its move into Williamstown at Hellenic Hotel, local traders and notables, western suburbs media – and, yes, this blogger – were well represented at the launch festivities.
Just this week, a new Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant opened in Cairnlea.
Unfortunately, Bennie and I were unable to attend the opening night on Tuesday.
We would love to have been there.
Because the eatery concerned, Kim Huong, did it in style by throwing a full-on banquet involving the likes of roast pork, fish coleslaw, abalone, scallops and barramundi.
At no charge.
For whoever in the community was interested in attending.
Way to go – now THAT’S a good way to build engagement with the locals.
Let’s imagine, in a parallel universe, this scenario …
In which a flash new eatery in the western suburbs is opening, but with a buzz built solely around foodie star power and with publicists/marketing crew with few or no contacts in – or knowledge of – the west.
Opening night sees a parade of the habitual red carpet/bubbly hordes front up for one of their very rare visits to the western suburbs, which are usually only for just such events.
As a friend opined to me: “They’d have a great first week; I’d check to see where they’re at in six months.”
The simple truth is – as it currently stands – drawing people to the west across the Maribyrnong remains a very uphill battle.
So non-celeb, regulation westies will be your bread and butter – whether you like it or not.
And in the inner west, and in West Footscray in particular, that means lots and lots young families.
My guess – informed by speaking with countless people, food industry types in the west and sometimes idiotically forensic analysis of Facebook community pages – is that for many such folk, eating out is a once-a-month deal, and even that’s a stretch for some.
Winning regular, local clientele is a tricky business – but can be done.
Not for a minute am I advocating wall-to-wall karaoke and $15 parmas.
But what won’t wash, either, are high prices, beautiful plating and small serves that leave punters seriously out of pocket and looking for a kebab.
It’s also been put to me this week that apartment arisings in the inner west – including those of the multi-storey kind on the banks of the Maribyrnong, but also others of less magnitude – are creating an instant population with disposable income (some of the DINK variety) ready to burn on flash eating and perhaps even fine dining.
The inner west may get there some day – and maybe quite soon.
But not yet.
See you at Harley & Rose?
But we’d need to see the menu – and prices – first.