New offerings at Wood and Stone Cafe on Mandurah foreshore

HOME: Joshua McMahen (pictured left with his family) manages his father's cafe in the same building his mother Martine (right) worked as a waitress at 14 years old. Photos: Supplied.
HOME: Joshua McMahen (pictured left with his family) manages his father's cafe in the same building his mother Martine (right) worked as a waitress at 14 years old. Photos: Supplied.

Martine was a free-spirited 14-year-old when she first worked as a waitress at the oldest café in town.

Fast forward 44 years.

Her husband, Mark McMahen buys the same venue and reopens it as Wood and Stone Cafe.

When the McMahen family took over the iconic venue, it ended a 30-year chapter for Janice's Coffee Pot, which had been Mandurah's oldest restaurant.

But Mandurah clientele would agree it was time for a change.

And that change has happened on a big scale - the inside has been completely revamped and the offerings include trending foods, boutique coffee and six craft beer taps.

Mark and his family worked hard to first see Wood and Stone open late last year and introduced dinner service and tapas to its menu just last week - a massive boon for the Mandurah foreshore strip which is traditionally quiet after 3pm.

REVAMPED: The inside has been completed revamped with rustic decor. Photo: Supplied.

REVAMPED: The inside has been completed revamped with rustic decor. Photo: Supplied.

Stops and starts and growth

Since opening in early December, it's been anything but smooth sailing.

"It's been pretty full on," Mark said, laughing. "The head chef went interstate for two days at Christmas and had to go into COVID quarantine for two weeks when he got back. Then the other chef fell sick for a week. Then the council took out two car bays so there were construction works.

"Of course we also had a week of COVID lockdown in the mix. From day one we haven't had any consistency, it's been stops and starts and growth but it's kept it interesting."

'Not the real fancy stuff'

The interior is earthy and industrial. Proudly placed amid the stone cladding, exposed bar and 'Mandurah' mural are old photographs of significant historical events in Mandurah.

DECOR: Graffiti mural portraying the old bridge scenery behind the word 'Mandurah,' is a feature wall piece at Wood and Stone. Photo: Supplied.

DECOR: Graffiti mural portraying the old bridge scenery behind the word 'Mandurah,' is a feature wall piece at Wood and Stone. Photo: Supplied.

When you talk to Mark, you can tell he knows Mandurah. He knows its history, he knows its people and he knows what they want.

"We're trying to do something different, not the real fancy stuff, a step up from what's common in Mandurah but not the really high-end stuff," Mark said.

"One of the things we've been told by locals over the year is there are very limited places for dinner in that area."

In a similar vein to local venues such as Bar Therapy, Brew Vino, Samudera and Flic's Kitchen - Wood and Stone is aiming to do things with a bit more class, to bring something new to Mandurah.

"We're offering something a bit different, good quality and fresh, not expensive," Mark said.

"The feedback from customers has been really good - that Mandurah has needed something like this.

"The data we're capturing shows we are getting 80 per cent return customers every day, about 20 per cent are new and it's growing and growing."

Generations in Mandurah

The new business is a family affair through and through.

Mark owns it, his son Josh moved back to Mandurah this week to manage the business and his daughter-in-law Kaela is one of the duty managers.

The family has been in the Peel region for five generations, first as a farming family in Coolup.

Mark's dad Stan went on to start the first tourist boats in Mandurah in the late 70's - the River Queen and a few years later, the Peel Princess.

GENERATIONS: Mark's dad Stan went on to start the first tourist boats in Mandurah in the late 70's - the River Queen and a few years later, the Peel Princess. Photo: Supplied.

GENERATIONS: Mark's dad Stan went on to start the first tourist boats in Mandurah in the late 70's - the River Queen and a few years later, the Peel Princess. Photo: Supplied.

Somewhere along the line there was a marriage to the Tuckey family.

"There is so much history in this building and my family has so much history in Mandurah, so it seemed like a good fit," Josh said.

'Never wanted to leave Mandurah'

Josh studied hospitality management at university and was keen to run his own venue.

"Dad and I chatted about it for years and last year he decided he was ready," Josh said.

"Dad knew a lot of people in Mandurah through landscaping who were keen for a trendy, Melbourne-style bar/cafe in Mandurah.

Meanwhile his wife, Pipa had "fallen in love with Mandurah", Cooper and Abbie had "really settled in at school and seemed to be loving it".

HOME: Josh and his family have fallen in love with Mandurah and feel at home here. Photo: Supplied.

HOME: Josh and his family have fallen in love with Mandurah and feel at home here. Photo: Supplied.

The family had been living in temporary accommodation while they waited for their newly purchased Lakelands home to settle this week.

"It's good to be back," Josh said.

"I never wanted to leave Mandurah, I only left for university and always intended to move back down here."

Too much opportunity

While Mark doesn't have the hospitality training that Josh has, he has opened and led dozens of organisations in Mandurah including Calvary Youth hostels, Exotic Eden nursery, a church and the Great Outdoors Landscaping and Trade Centre with its five affiliated businesses.

Mark also co-founded international company Vista Energy doing solar and LED upgrades, then took a redundancy in August and bought the café.

The entrepreneur said that he "can't stop because he sees too much opportunity".

Chef keen for 'own little place'

Head chef, Luke Bathis, who has plenty of awards under his belt, moved from Melbourne to set up a life close to his two children and jumped at the chance to work in a venue that was in line with his vision.

"From my experience as a chef in Melbourne, I always wanted to do my own little place, something that was very industrial," Luke said.

"It's totally what I've always wanted to do. I thought I'd bring my little touch to Mandurah - obviously it's needed, with all the works happening around the city, Mandurah needs new experiences."

SLICE OF MELBOURNE: Head chef Luke Bathis loves that the industrial touches remind him of Melbourne, where he is originally from. Photo: Supplied.

SLICE OF MELBOURNE: Head chef Luke Bathis loves that the industrial touches remind him of Melbourne, where he is originally from. Photo: Supplied.

Whiskey or rum bar

Now that they've opened for dinner and tapas, they are busy formulating plans to create an additional alfresco area.

But their dreams go even bigger - a second venue.

"We've been talking to the mayor and we're keen to look at a whiskey or rum bar in Smart Street Mall once this place is happening," Mark said.

LOOKING TO EXPAND: The family is in talks with the Mayor about potentially opening a Whiskey or rum bar in Mandurah. Photo: Supplied.

LOOKING TO EXPAND: The family is in talks with the Mayor about potentially opening a Whiskey or rum bar in Mandurah. Photo: Supplied.