When Linda Peyton and Kylie Mullane took a leap into the unknown by refurbishing a beloved local icon, they could never have believed their efforts would bring them to the point of state recognition so soon.
“We’re just two local girls trying their best to create a great experience for people,” Linda told The Examiner Newspapers.
After a soft launch in May last year, the pair of pals quickly brought the restaurant into the spotlight, culminating in the business being named a finalist in four separate Gold Plate Award categories last week.
“Getting one was awesome. And then when we found out we got a second one, and then a third, then a fourth…we just couldn’t believe it,” Kylie said.
“It’s a nice validation that we’re on the right path,” Linda said.
Bistro By The Dam will compete for best in state in October at the Catering Institute of Australia’s annual Gold Plate Awards in the categories of Best Licenced Café, Best New Restaurant, Best Tourism Restaurant – Metro, and Best Coffee Shop.
They know they’re up against some stiff competition, with Mandurah café Wood and Stone looking for back-to-back wins and the much-loved Sandalford Winery also named as a finalist in the Tourism Restaurant – Metro category.
“Do we dare hope? It’d be great if we won even one. But I think being finalists is such a great achievement,” Linda said.
Linda and Kylie are no strangers to the hospitality industry, having worked together for years at the Jarrahdale Tavern.
Linda eventually returned to her career as a high-flying consultant until a run of family health issues caused her to question her life trajectory.
On her first day of unemployment and after vowing to her husband that she “needed six months off to reset after the last six months” she sat down with a coffee and a local paper and read that the owners of the café by the Serpentine Dam were stepping away from the business.
The temptation was too strong to ignore, so she made a few calls.
“I knew I could never run it without Kylie, so I took a six-pack of cider to Kylie’s house and said ‘I’ve just been to Café by the Dam’,” Linda said.
“And I didn’t even let her finish – I said yes straight away,” said Kylie, who’d only just finished up at the Tavern.
“I said, if there was any resistance then we’d let it go, but if every step falls into place, then it’s meant to be,” Linda said.
And it was.
In spite of challenging financial times around Australia, and Google Maps misdirecting diners to the local monastery instead, the business has blossomed.
“It’s in a great location – it’s a day-trippers’ paradise – so we knew it was going to go well,” Linda said.
But it could also be said the ethos the pair has brought to the business is just as responsible for this rising star.
“Our big philosophy is using local produce and supporting local business,” Linda said.
“If we can’t find what we need in SJ, we’ll source it from the Peel region.”
The restaurant uses and stocks Jarrahdale’s Tarralea Grove olive oils, beans from Baldivis coffee roaster Brother of Mine, and wines from Millbrook, Silver Lakes and Drakesbrook.
Kylie innovates in the kitchen to cater to a range of dietary requirements, to cut down on costs and to minimise waste.
And the pair have hooked up with local farms to offload scraps for animal feed, while bottles and cans are donated to local community groups to benefit from the Containers for Change initiative.
They are also active on social media and partner with business networks in an effort to promote their local area.
With four shiny gold plaques on the wall the proof is in the pudding that these initiatives are making an impact.
Gold Plate Awards winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner at Crown on October 30.