Ursula Rose of Toast Cafe
Who: Ursula Rose
What: Toast Cafe, 21/60 Royal St, East Perth. T: 9221 0771
Must Try: Toast every which way, corn fritters or polenta toast with mushrooms, soft Italian cheese & fresh parsley
Tell us a little about Toast.
Toast is a simple little place by the water on Claisebrook Cove. 'Bashed up French seaside' was the term I kept in my head when we were trying to create a sympathetic space. We are so lucky in East Perth to have such a beautiful, riviera-like environment, but I have often found that in such a setting the expectation is that eateries must always be new new new, and that often we lose atmosphere and history in Perth because we are always knocking down and renovating rather than accepting what is.
So conversely, I had a new business in a new building, but I wanted to have a feel of old. I am sure there are many people, who, when they have trawled around European cities, have happened upon hidden, unassuming places in outstanding locations and have wanted to go again and again. It usually looks as if it has been in the same family for generations. The layers of history are there to see. Layers of decorative, culinary and eras. This idea suggested the aspects of cafe life that I have always enjoyed, so we set about junking up our pristine surroundings to create a surprise of a place that you could find by accident.To be honest, a lot of people were a bit challenged by it. But I hope that it inspires a real cafe feel - one of conviviality and familiarity and comfort and a little bit of good tension, too. Bustle, life and movement.
What's your food and drink philosophy?
Its pretty simple. If it's good, it will probably look good. For cafe food, that is, food that you can eat every day, there is no need to do much to it, when it is fresh and yummy at the start, and for me most food is, when one is appreciative. The corn fritters are just fresh shucked corn, for example. I think the success of the Toast menu lies in suggesting appealing and effective food combinations. Like Evelyn Waugh once wrote of his writing, "I put the words down and push them a bit."
What's appealing about the all day breakfast culture?
The most appealing part is that you don't have to restrict your customers. They want breakfast choices all day, so why say no? It is very satisfying to please people in this way. Also, eggs and toast are so simple that they keep the rest of the menu honest and it never strays too far from being the simple little thing that we want it to be.
Toast is obviously a main feature of the menu. How do you find so many ways to get creative with this simple concept?
What difference does good bread make? When I was a growing kid I used to get through a whole loaf of bread after school (my poor mum!) because I could never decide which favourite topping to end on, each one was so great, so I would just keep going until the loaf was done!
It is easy to come up with so many great combinations, because everything tastes better on toast. Especially with an egg or two! I’ve eaten bread from the 'worst' end of the scale to the best, and I have to say as with all appreciation of food as sustenance I have enjoyed it all. Bread is just great. But one of the wonderful things about living in Perth like other modern cities is ready access to affordable, good produce, so we all have a choice to spend what we can afford on good food. We get our bread from a family owned bakery (Tammy's - they are Jewish, that's why we are lucky to have challah!) that I think share a philosophy. Good, basic loaves that suit Toast and its good basic ways well.
Who or what inspires you? Who do you admire from here or abroad?
The idea of a bohemian life, and those who, in the past and the present, do what they can to live that way, inspires me. In real life when you are paying bills, worrying about what the world thinks of you, and buying too much stuff, it is probably hypocritical to say you want to live a bohemian life! And that is because it takes great courage to stand out from the crowd and be at the forefront of ideas that most people will only get 100 years later, and to do so without all the creature comforts. So I don't have all that courage, but my admiration is for those that do, and I try to be influenced by their thinking and ideas.
What's Perth's best kept secret?
Seafresh Innaloo. My goodness it is such a treasure trove, so much great seafood, and so much that you just don't see anywhere else.
Also, Bluebird Vintage. Debs is a friend of mine, but I do shop there an awful lot and these are the reasons why. I value the importance she places on authentic vintage items. We both get very excited about the details of well made OLD CLOTHES, like the zippers, and the gorgeous old school labels. And it’s not just clothes. When I feel like buying something, I will always stop by there, and most of the time I get to buy something better than new, definitely not throw away, and I find it suits me better than anything I would have bought anywhere else. Old stuff. Gotta love it.
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