Busselton Pavilion: New gastropub, distillery and wine shop the latest addition to booming seaside city


Busselton-raised comedian Brodi Snook once joked that the 1841m-long jetty is the top tourist destination in the seaside city because it’s the furthest you can get away from town without actually leaving.

Now the joke is on anyone that still considers Busso “sleepy”. The town is bustling with the population booming by four per cent each year and tourism also on the rise thanks to direct flights from Melbourne.

Flights from Sydney to Busselton Margaret River Airport are due to begin in March, with connections to South-East Asia rumoured to follow.

The Hilton Garden Inn Busselton has welcomed its first guests and there’s talk of a second hotel chain to further boost accommodation options for a city that attracted close to half-a-million domestic travellers in 2022, according to Tourism WA.

Camera IconBusselton Jetty at dawn. Credit: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Hospitality, meanwhile, has been going gangbusters with Shelter Brewing Co. opening in late 2020 and Rocky Ridge’s taproom sating craft beer lovers alongside The Fire Station.

STM - Albertas Busselton - Venus clams, house marinara sauce w chilli d’arbol, crispy salchi bosque & toasted Goodies grain bread
Camera IconFood at the acclaimed Alberta’s: Venus clams, house marinara sauce w chilli d’arbol, crispy salchi bosque & toasted Goodies grain bread Credit: Instagram/Instagram

Two former key staff at Copenhagen’s legendary Noma restaurant opened upmarket café Alberta’s on the main drag, not far from much-loved Burger Bones, French creperie Bistro Breton and recently launched Middle Eastern restaurant Inara.

One of the final, and biggest, pieces in the puzzle is Busselton Pavilion, the 500-capacity gastropub with a bottle shop, distillery, restaurant and alfresco area due to open January 17.

Tourism WA managing director Carolyn Turnbull describes Busselton as the “gateway” to the South West, adding that most travellers visit the region for food and wine.

“The Pavilion will be a fantastic addition to Busselton’s diverse hospitality scene, contributing to the city’s charm and offering a unique new precinct for residents and visitors,” Turnbull says.

The Pav, as Busseltonians will surely anoint the venue, is the latest project for John Parker, whose Parker Group owns The Standard in Northbridge, The Royal in Perth and Dandelion at Karrinyup Shopping Centre.

A New Zealander by birth and publican by heritage, Parker says he was approached by Australian Unity, the landlords of Busselton Central Shopping Centre — the gastropub dominates the north-east corner of the retail complex.

Over a beer at the Rocky Ridge taphouse, the affable 49-year-old father of three boys, aged 10-17, says he was looking for a new pub outside of Perth but was thinking of opening something in Melbourne.

Rocky Ridge’s Hamish Coates pours a Rock Juice V8.5. Top: The new-look core range.
Camera IconRocky Ridge’s Hamish Coates pours a Rock Juice V8.5. Credit: Sarah Kelly

The better weather and more relaxed lifestyle of the South West, plus the direct flights and airport expansion, suggested Busselton could become a food hub akin to Victoria’s Yarra Valley, NSW’s Hunter or the Adelaide Hills.

“I love Melbourne,” Parker says after an exclusive tour of the 1000sqm venue. “I love to visit but I don’t want to spend more than a few days there because the weather is s…house. I like coming down south.”

With a little innovation and a strong food and beverage offering, the canny operator says the Pavilion can be at the forefront of Busso’s emerging nighttime economy. He adds that the venue will put “locals first” but cater to tourists.

“We’re calling it a gastropub because food is very important,” Parker adds. “And we call it a pub because it’s relaxed.

“All the locals I’ve met have been super friendly and very relaxed and been so welcoming — it’s great.”

Busselton Pavilion is certainly light and bright, with a large island bar dominating the main indoor area that flows around to the restaurant zone, private dining room, mezzanine level and a corner destined to host a pool table.

The exterior of Busselton Pavilion, opening January 17.
Camera IconThe exterior of Busselton Pavilion, opening January 17. Credit: Duncan Wright

The large kitchen features a French-made Rotisol rotisserie, while another corner will be home to the German-made Carl Still that is still en route from Europe. In the meantime, they’ll use spirits made at Dandelion for cocktails.

The other entrance to the Pav will be via the South West Wine Shop, a side venue designed not only for takeaway and bottle sales (with corkage) but also tastings and masterclasses.

The enoteca is a big point of difference in a venue that has gone at least 30 per cent over budget for Parker. If that is causing him stress, the poker-faced publican is not letting on.

He does share that he consulted his Kiwi cousin Brendon Parker — a mentor figure Parker describes as “like a big brother” — before diving into the Busselton project.

“He said ‘some people get a window of opportunity in their lives. It’s not for their whole lives. I reckon you’re in that window’,” Parker recalls.

“I’m feeling like I’m in the best possible headspace. I’m feeling very clear of mind and in a good spot.”

While he is a very hands-on — he designed the bottle racks in the wine shop — Parker decided he needed to build a “very strong team” of “amazing, independent, creative people” for the Pav.

He assembled his A-team, using hospitality folks with connections to the South West as well as fresh energy and ideas.

Busselton Pavilion's : Kevin Clark, Cyndal Petty, John Parker, Brendan Pratt and Elise Godwin.
Camera IconBusselton Pavilion’s : Kevin Clark, Cyndal Petty, John Parker, Brendan Pratt and Elise Godwin. Credit: Duncan Wright

Distiller, group cocktail co-ordinator and former marine scientist Elise Godwin wants to start simple, “then grow and change with what people want”.

In addition to venue managing South Fremantle favourite Wild in the Street, she has experience in small bars, including city venue, The Halford, which Parker sold so he could concentrate on The Royal.

Godwin has roped in Kevin Clark, her mate from the Margaret River Single Malt Club who boasts 25 years’ experience behind bars and as a sales rep for giants Suntory and Diageo, as well as tonic company London Essence.

Clark is keen to make vermouth and apple brandy (the latter using Donnybrook apples), and work with the kitchen to make delicious cocktails.

“The opportunities here in the South West are huge in terms of produce,” he says.

Likewise wine director Cyndal Petty wants the South West Wine Shop to reflect the variety and quality of the region.

The dynamic Melburnian started a four-year chef’s apprenticeship when she was 15 before falling in love with “the romantic side of wine”.

Petty, who now lives “around the corner” from the venue and has international experience looking after wine lists, aims to make Busselton Pavilion’s cellar “eclectic” — a mix of smaller winemakers, some without cellar doors, and the region’s big guns.

“We want to reflect every category of what the South West does,” she says.

The final piece of Parker’s team is arguably the most vital; award-winning Parker Group creative culinary director Brendan Pratt, who will work with head chef Josh Decaen (ex-Wild Hop) to launch the Pav’s first menus.

“I’ve always admired JP’s approach to hospitality and the venues he’s created,” Pratt says during a chat in the wine shop.

After six years as head chef at Vasse Felix, he left the winery in early 2023 to open drive-thru café Coffee Heads near where he lives in Vasse.

“There was a bit of a void in my creative aspect, where I was hungry for more,” explains Pratt, before adding that local produce, and producers, will be key to the tucker at Busselton Pavilion.

Busselton Pavilion's Cyndal Petty, Brendan Pratt, Elise Godwin and John Parker.
Camera IconBusselton Pavilion’s Cyndal Petty, Brendan Pratt, Elise Godwin and John Parker. Credit: Duncan Wright

A sneak peek at the opening menu revealed whole local squid cooked on the rotisserie, alongside chicken, beef tongue and lots of seafood. There’s cheeseburgers and schnitzels alongside a marron sambo (“a bit like a lobster roll, but marron”, Pratt says), plus anchovy donuts especially for folks in the wine shop.

Godwin describes Busselton Pavilion as an “all-in-one” venue, while Clark says the pub is a “nice addition to what is already available in Busselton, an upmarket offering but still casual”.

For his part, Parker backs his team to impress locals and banks on tourism to skyrocket in the next few years. He’s getting right behind Busso.

“I imagine next summer is going to be huge,” he says. “Pumping.”



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