Simon Matowski’s background has always been in pubs, so when it came time for him to start his own business he knew exactly what he wanted 540 on Barkly to be.
“Nine years ago I started with a lease on a kitchen at the Mona Castle pub in Seddon,” explains Simon. “When I opened 540 on Barkly in 2014 I wanted to hark back to that casual, relaxed atmosphere and to offer pub classics done really well and at a reasonable price.”
While Simon is no longer on the pans – preferring to be front of house – West Footscray locals are still loving the steaks (only $22 on Tuesdays), chicken parma and the calamari at 540 on Barkly.
The chicken parma is particularly renowned because the whole breast is used, the fillet is cut and crumbed on-site and the chicken is grilled not fried. Even better, it’s generously sized and a bargain for $15 on Wednesday nights.
Simon’s favourite dish is actually called ‘Simon’s Chicken Breast’ and it originated from the Mona Castle menu. “It’s a stuffed chicken breast, pan-seared and finished in the oven and served with broccolini and mashed potato,” grins Simon. “It’s absolutely delicious!”
On warm days punters particularly enjoy relaxing in 540 on Barkly’s leafy beer garden, and there’s a function room upstairs that holds up to a hundred people. The main building used to be a haberdashery shop, and then a bottle shop. The old-school hairdresser next door is actually the son of the bottle-shop owner and the family have been particularly supportive during the lockdown, along with the rest of the local community.
“During lockdown, we’d still sell around eighty chicken parmas a night, because people really wanted to help us out. I feel really quite emotional thinking about how much they supported us,” smiles Simon. “Now that we’re able to have customers dining in again I really appreciate being able to have a joke with the regulars.”
“It’s enjoyable coming to work – and we’re really happy doing what we’re doing.”