It’s the little details that make all the difference at Parkers Steakhouse – right down to the way the seats are positioned.
With each dish cooked to order, majority of the menu gluten free and beef put through a rigorous selection process, Parkers is giving customers a taste of what steak should be.
“The specs with the meat are so stringent, it even goes back to when the cow is alive,” owner Douglas Unsworth says. “We only accept meat from cows that are between three and three-and-a-half years old – so there’s no yearling beef.”
Then I only get centre cut meat. They are always the same size and the same look, so every time you come in the cuts look the same.”
When the perfect cut of beef is selected from Clover Valley Fine Foods, it is then dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days and wet aged for approximately nine days.
Essentially the process makes the beef undergo a tenderising process due to its own natural enzymes. As a result the beef is tender, more flavoursome and a raw steak will see no blood on the plate when cut.
As each customer orders a steak, only 16 are cooked at once (while the chefs have the capacity to cook 40) to ensure quality and accuracy is delivered with every single meal – whether it’s medium rare or well done.
On the question of the best way for steak to be cooked, Douglas admits that how you like your steak is a “completely personal preference” and no judgement or pressure will be placed on customers’ orders.
Further freedom of choice for customers comes with non-beef options of chicken, vegetarian, Atlantic salmon, pork belly and lamb cutlets on the menu.
“You’ve got to cater to everybody,” Douglas says. “I always say to them, ‘I don’t put the veggie meal on because of the vegetarian, I put it on for the partners of the vegetarians so they get the opportunity to come here and get a steak’.”
The décor echoes the same sentiment, with Douglas opting for a rustic setting with bluestone bricks a large feature of the Geelong venue and one that is carried through to the Drysdale venue. Wooden tables and chairs sit in clusters throughout the space and the heritage of the building is highlighted by the earthy colour palette.
Each choice made is one that aids the customer comfortability, also taking
cues from steakhouses in Calgary, Canada.
“I chose to go this way – nice and rustic – as the building suited it and it allows everybody and anybody to come in. You’re not going to ostracise certain groups,” he says.
“I remember one night coming in we had a table of six guys from a notorious biker group. Sitting beside them at the time was the mayor and some overseas guests and they were sitting at tables right beside each other.
“When I saw that, I thought this is exactly what I want. The fact that everybody and anybody can come in here and not be thinking that you’re out of place.”
Over the 12 years of the Geelong CBD venue and six years for the Drysdale venue, Douglas has amassed a loyal customer base of hundreds (he admits, maybe even thousands) that come in regularly to enjoy the quality cooked steak.
Recently, Parkers has separated from the Squires Loft franchise, meaning the two locations are now 100% family owned and independent. The change also allows Douglas to make alterations of his own with the venue, with new serving ware already noticeable in the two venues.
Having worked in hospitality since he was 17, working his way through major hotel chains and steakhouses in Canada before moving to Australia and working in Melbourne and Hotham, Douglas has wanted nothing more than to open his own venue.
“I’ve done nothing but work in hospitality my whole life,” Douglas says. “I started when I was 17 and I’ve done nothing but.”
I worked for other people and twice I nearly opened a restaurant. I’m glad I didn’t because I was too young and I don’t know whether I would have had the sort of dedication to it. I just don’t think it would have worked.”
In Douglas’ time at Shorts Place in the CBD, he has seen many businesses come and go. Ahead of the curve, he was one of the first venues to inhabit the laneway space, and is five years ahead of the boom in Drysdale for hospitality as well.
With such an insight for business and with a wealth of hospitality business, Douglas and his team will keep serving quality steaks for as long as possible.
Where: 2 Shorts Place, Geelong
Phone: 03 5221 8485
Where: 7 Palmerstone Street, Drysdale
Phone: 03 5251 5551
Written for and published in On Pako Magazine. Image by E&D Magazine.