Scott Bridger and Eamon Sullivan have always run a slick hospitality operation, growing their stable steadily and with creative flair. When the duo made the decision to close May St Larder in Mount Hawthorn after just 9 months of operation, they didn’t walk away defeated – instead, they stood back, checked in with their passion points and started planning. In record time, they reinvented the venue and Pogo and Sammy’s were born. After a solid opening and positive reviews, they were forced to step down their team after just six weeks.
Q; Scott Bridger hello! I’ve been passing your new restaurant Pogo every few days and kicking myself for not getting in before the CV-19 restrictions came in. You and Eamon made a bold (and brave I might add) decision to reinvent the May St Larder Mezz space just months before opening Pogo restaurant and Sammy’s. We know you’re the Zen type, have you found a silver lining to all this yet?
Hello, 2020 has certainly been a testing one! We made the decision late last year to change the concept at the Mezz to one that made more sense for the area and a concept that we love. We have always wanted to do a venue that focused on Middle Eastern flavours and Pogo and Sammy’s was born at the end of Feb. We got six weeks of trade-in before having to temporarily close due to the C-word. The small window of trade cemented that we made the right decision though, we had so much fun designing the menu and building a great team.
Q: When restaurant closures were announced, what was the biggest challenge you faced as an owner/operator?
The biggest challenge that we faced was the unknown. We worked hard to manage forecasting and to identify potential issues that might arise, but this was this first time that everyone collectively was just- WTF just happened! Like all hospitality venues, our staff were our main concern. Eamon and I had to stand in front of all our staff after Sunday service and say that this was it for the foreseeable future. It was certainly something that I hope we will never have to do again.
For now, the biggest challenge ahead is mapping out what our industry will return to and what impact the current economic climate will have on peoples spending.
Here’s hoping that when the hospo green light is turned on that the people of Perth will embrace restaurants, bars and cafes and support an industry that will really need it.
Q: Let’s talk a bit more about Pogo. We’ve always seen a Middle Eastern influence in your cooking – what was your introduction to this particular cuisine?
It such diverse cuisine, I was blown away with the flavours and techniques when I first discovered it.
My first job on a private yacht was based in the Middle East. For two years I worked for a very wealthy Turkish Family that had their yacht based in Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
As a young chef I fell in love with Middle Eastern food markets, they are so vibrant and lively, and it gave me the basic knowledge and ingredients to experiment. Middle Eastern flavours are always well received on menus in Australia, the balance and freshness really suit our weather and climate.
Q: We really enjoy seeing WA products / producers used in international cooking styles. Who are some of the main WA producers you use in your kitchen?
We are spoilt for choice in WA. Warren Grange has given us some beautiful vegetables this year. Endeavour and Fins Seafood always come through with goods from the ocean.
The West Australian Dairy industry has really grown in the past few years also with Bookara, Dellandale and Cambray making some stunning cheeses that we love to use on our menus.
Q: Finally, what have you been up to over the last few months – how’s Iso been at home?
Isolation for us has been weirdly pleasant. We have had a month off and have been spending a lot of time in the garden and enjoying time with the kids. There is a lot to do in the garden, all our winter crops are in, the garlic is cranking, and we have made every pickle and preserve under the sun.
Unfortunately, there has been an underlying feeling that something is not right though. Our staff are ok and the financial juggle of re-opening the doors open are present every day, but it has been an experience that’s for sure.
Hopefully, there will be a lot of relaxed people coming back into hospitality with fresh offerings, sparkling clean kitchens and a little bit more care for the industry as a whole.
Scott caught up with Georgia Moore from the WAGFG.