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Iconic restaurant continues to operate despite strife
Finally Elizabeth Quay is open in the Perth CBD. It is exciting having a new place to visit in the city, but it isn’t without controversy and it isn’t really finished. Costing $440 million at a time when the state government is racked with debt, it may not have been the best spend.
Initially, Elizabeth Quay was certainly a development that most Perth residents didn’t really want, but people with power did. “Perth is very dull and we need a precinct on the river like our eastern states brothers and sisters,” was a common theme that was heard in the media at the time. Of course, money talks and the development proceeded. Roads were redirected, the river scape altered, parking spaces ripped up. With office vacancy rates in the city at around 24% and rising, and Chevron delaying the onset of their new office building at the Elizabeth Quay, the bulk of the development, its towers full of office workers and luxury apartments, is yet to be built or even designed. This means little has come back into the government coffers.
It also means more uncertainty for already established businesses in the area. Some special places have suffered during the development, namely Annalaksmi.
The entirely vegetarian restaurant is unique – you eat delicious food, dine with million-dollar views of the Swan River and no bill is brought to the table when you complete your meal. Founded under the inspiration and guidance of the group’s master Swami Shantanand Saraswathi (1934-2005), Annalakshmi operates with the ethos of “Eat as you like and pay as your heart feels”. This allows the ones who can to share with the ones who can’t. At any time you can walk into the restaurant and see high class city business men and women dressed accordingly and talking shop or travelling backpackers enjoying the ambience.
I remember the restaurant’s original premises in the Perth CBD and was upset one day when I went to dine there and it had gone. “I guess not having any set prices isn’t the best way to survive as a restaurant,” I thought to myself. I was very wrong. They had moved to an incredible, sought after spot near the Barrack Street Jetty.
Annalaksmi was born under inspiring and guiding principles and the restaurant depends on volunteer cooks and workers and the patrons and their generosity. Annalakshmi certainly has bills to pay. It was 2012 when the City of Perth commenced construction on Elizabeth Quay. During construction around 250 guests were served every day at Annalaksmi, well down on its usual 600. Operating on prime real estate with rents that reflect this, times were tough and I am sure it has only survived through the generous self-giving of the group’s members.
The timelines for construction projects are huge. When the further developments do eventually start in Elizabeth Quay it will mean more excavation, more traffic problems and more parking difficulties.
I don’t have a problem with progress. Elizabeth Quay is spectacular and will, I believe, eventually bring more people to the restaurant door – the area is child and tourist friendly, and easily accessible by train and bus, but sometimes the smaller people and important groups are forgotten in situations like this. Annalakshmi’s reason for existence is spiritual not commercial. This certainly isn’t the priority of developers.
The management of Annalakshmi have been extremely happy since the Quay opened. It is probably as much as relief as it is the upturn of visitors, as large numbers of tourists and locals have flocked to the area. I sincerely hope the development interruptions are over.
Patrons can continue to support Annalakshmi in several ways. Utilise the space for special functions like birthdays, weddings and fundraisers and give accordingly. Attend when you need to meet colleagues and eat there. Dine regularly and give generously or spread the word amongst your friends. Annalaksmi is an important cultural and spiritual precinct for Perth to have and will really help visiting people experience Indian culture. Its closeness to Elizabeth Quay has added to its importance.