Most childhood memories of school are tinged with tales of wedgies, monkey bar marathons, and playground bullying. A new small bar on the outskirts of Perth’s CBD aims to purge those painful memories, and replace them with ones filled with “cocktails, cuisine and fun!”.
The Classroom in North Perth is the brainchild of self confessed “dinosaurs in the hospitality industry” Daniel Sterpini and Adam Keanes. Dan recently took time out of his super busy schedule to chat to Small Barfly about his new venture.
Thanks for your time Dan – you and Adam have run a successful (cocktail-canape pairing) catering company – Cocktail Gastronomy – for a number of years. Would it be fair to say that The Classroom is a ‘retail outlet’ for your (private party) creative endevours?
“You could probably say that. Adam and I are a couple of dinosaurs in the hospitality industry so really it was about time we had a retail outlet.”
“There is a bit of Cocktail Gastronomy in The Classroom but not through the matching of cocktails and cuisine (however that won’t stop us from maybe doing that later). We are currently looking at a dish reinventing the “hot and cold breakfast” – a collaboration between the kitchen and bar.”
The small bar scene has exploded around Australia over the last few years, with over 60 small bar licences being issued in WA alone. How will The Classroom differentiate itself from the other players in a rapidly growing market?
“True, it has exploded. We are setup in a brilliant location. There are other taverns within walking distance from us but nothing that really fills the gap between a live music venue and a TAB establishment. Our beverages are more premium and our cocktails are spectacular. The food we provide is also worth a trip in itself.”
“We are also a destination venue being a themed bar which is always a drawcard for people that would like to go somewhere different and revisit the school days of yesteryear. Kind of a “fountain of youth” kind of feeling.”
“As briefly mentioned before, our food offering is also quite special. We made sure that the food we offered was going to be of the highest quality – not the traditional bar food normally on offer. It is not a “money maker” for us but a necessity to complement the beverage menu. We receive a lot of fantastic reviews on the cuisine side of the business.”
From inception, to launch, how long did it take to develop The Classroom, and were there any specific challenges you’d care to share?
“From finding the location to launch it took 14 months. We were actually looking for a site suitable for “Cocktail Gastronomy” when we stumbled across our current location. Cocktail Gastronomy is all about matching cocktails with cuisine and as such is fun and educational. We used the “fun and education” concept to come up with the idea/theme for The Classroom.”
“Major challenges were getting the planning, building and liquor license approvals (so basically all of them). Not one step of this process was fluid or easy.”
“Other challenges included finding the decor for the fitout. Recycling old school furniture and product was not easy. Locating them was difficult because now everything is “vintage” and thus a collectable. Also many items had to be retrofitted/modernised to be used in a modern adult environment.”
You mentioned that one of your major challenges was liquor license approval. It looked like the Town of Vincent gave you guys some grief when you first applied for your licence. How did you sort this out, and do you have any advice for up-and-coming players in dealing with council.
“This is true. Parking was the major issue and we ended up using a consultant to assist with this. It was an expensive exercise getting around the parking issue (over $35k) and unfortunately necessary. However we did have the support of a few of the local councillors and all of the local community – no one objected.”
“One thing that helped was holding an open day prior to the lodgement of the planning application. Here we invited all the local community to view our plans and talk to the owners. This allowed us to dissolve the negative connotations people may have had with a liquor license. Once everyone realised what we were achieving we had them all behind us.”
Dan you’re heading up the ‘canteen’ side of things, what sort of gastronomical delights can we expect (some lunchbox/brown-bag specials perhaps)
“I could waffle on for hours here. We have taken a modern twist on the old school canteen classics. eg our sausage rolls are made with french pastry, free range pork, braised fennel and apple and is served with a spicy apricot chutney.”
“We do a modern twist with the PB+J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) by making our own peanut butter and morello cherry jelly and sandwiching that in brioche. Then caramelising it and serving it with a baby malt shake aerated using lecithin.”
“We are not a molecular gastronomy venue but we do love dabbling with new techniques and flavours and having fun working alongside a talented bar team.”
You’ve long held a passion for cocktails and this is reflected in your ART, HISTORY & SCIENCE (cocktail) themes. How important is it for your ‘mixologists’ share this passion, and be well versed in all aspects of beverage service, history, and education.
“Extremely important! We recruit well. New and existing staff are thoroughly trained and involved in the development of new cocktails, including the kitchen brigade. All staff are encouraged to contribute and share new ideas and learnings. Cocktails are without doubt our biggest revenue driver.”
One of the great things of The Classroom’s ethos is that it be hired out as an educational venue for cocktail, wine and coffee masterclasses. Could you elaborate on how the venue is designed to cater for these types of classes, and what sort of interest you’ve had.
“Due to demand we have now extended our opening hours to: Tuesday – Friday 4pm to late and Saturday/Sunday 11am to late. This still leaves Monday nights for private classes. Here we intend to hold cocktail masterclasses for the public and also lend our venue to industry educators who might like to utilise our venue for their own classes. Eg wine education nights, cooking classes, beer school, there are endless opportunities here day and night. We are still quite new and gaining interest before we release some sort of Monday night “school roster” to the public.”
I recently read that The Classroom would be allowing ‘Parents and Citizens’ committees of local schools to sell fundraising cakes from the premises. How this will work, and what sort of ‘return’ the P&C groups could look to get back on their wares.
“We came across a food safety issue here so unfortunately the cakes will no longer be provided. However we will still assist the P&C in any way possible that does not include the promotion of alcohol for obvious reasons. For example, we may supply a chef for a fundraiser or allow them to utilise our venue in some way. Supporting the local community is extremely important to us. It is how we can show our gratitude of their support.”
With craft beer growing to form an integral part of food and beverage pairings in recent years, what does your beer selection look like, and do you have any tasty ales on tap?
“We do. Of our complete beer selection I would say that only two are commercial which are our tap beers ie Coopers Pale Ale (just won best beer on tap 4 years in a row) and Sapporo of which is surprisingly our biggest seller.”
“We have a range of boutique beers and ciders by the bottle too. To name a few: 4 Pines; Cricketers Arms; Feral; Kosciuszko; The Hills and Napoleone ciders and gluten free beers.”
If you had to pick three things that patrons will come to know The Classroom for, what would they be?
“Cocktails, cuisine and fun!”
The Classroom – North Perth
1/356 Charles Street,
Ph:(08) 9444 7729
Sat & Sun: 11:00am-Late
Gourmet Canteen Food from $9Cocktails:
Extensive cocktail list from $18Wine:
Glass from $8; Bottles from $39