I’ve been going to the Fraser Park restaurant for close to 20 years, so I should know its name by now.
I think I’ve finally got it right but in the past I’ve called it Fraser Foreshore Restaurant, Fraser Hill Restaurant, Fraser View. Other inventions, variations and, like I said, my wife and I have been going every Saturday for the two decades since Anton and the Heggen family started it in 1997.
The name is on a weather beaten banner outside and printed menus inside. I’ve come to know the family, too, No excuses but I still slip up.
It has been most Saturdays with few exceptions. Fraser Park is closed during statutory holidays such as Christmas or Labour Day if they fall on Saturday and there was a few summer months two years ago when Kerry, my wife, was working part time at a gardening centre. Otherwise, we were there and still are.
It’s become a ritual. I was looking for a place near the Fraser Foreshore Park where I would walk our dog at the time, Rosie. I accidentally found a restaurant where I could have a coffee while I could be seen by Rosie, who was suffering from separation anxiety.
I told Kerry about my discovery, she subsequently liked it and we’ve been going ever since.
There have been changes, naturally, but apart from a big one that happened about three years ago, these have been gradual.
Anton did his training as a butcher in Frankfort while Sylvia is Filipino. She brought her two daughters from a previous marriage, married Anton and sired two tall boys. The German and Filipino cultures blend in a unique way that subverts any stereotypes. When we first met her, Sylvia held down two jobs. Now she devotes her time to cooking in the kitchen and is getting known for her soups. The menu is rooted in Anton’s German heritage, breakfast being a specialty.
Initially, I was attracted by its informality but what soon sold me on Fraser Park was that Anton was a music freak.
He had a piano at the front and anybody could sit at it and hammer away. The first person we met who took advantage of this open invitation was Robbie, who had been in the band led by The Mighty Sparrow, a prolific calypso superstar. Never did find out how he came up from the Caribbean.
After Robbie, came an acoustic guitarist who would play classical and folk instrumentals for about 30 minutes.
A bread delivery guy who would strap on the resident accordion and inevitably give us Never On A Sunday. A country singer once, an older man and his wife who also played accordion once. There is no public address system. Probably the pay was no more than a beer and breakfast.
Anton installed a drum kit to accompany falteringly the jazz on the house sound system. Then came his two sons, Anthony and Jonathan, who had formed a band and would circle their amps around the drums and whose biggest moment was George Benson’s Breezin.’ Both Anthony and Jonathan tried their hand at piano and became accomplished. When last heard, Jonathan was offering something like impressionist jazz, which suited my Saturday mood. Beside the piano, accordion and drums there was a never-used upright bass and a trumpet. For kids, there also was a variety of percussion instruments.
As such, Fraser Park reflected its personality, a sense of humour and Anton’s inventiveness and ambition. When he came down with cancer, three years ago, Anton was forced to step back while wife Sylvia also had to shift her priorities. Daughters, Maricel and Leilani stepped up to buy the place and made some necessary and overdue changes. Eventually, all but the piano disappeared to make more room, which has turned out to be a relief.
Maricel, Leilani and their staff, including Marie, Angela and Melissa, are very nice and always considerate. Whereas most customers stand in line to place an order, we head for the nearest available space, they serve us a complimentary soup and take our order. This is a nice perk for which I’m grateful – the affect of that stroke means, among other things, I’m vulnerable – and an example of how well they take care of us.
Ever nosy and still ambitious, Anton pops in once in a while to intrude on the establishment that was his for 17 years. He is still rediscovering his curiosity and drive, but this is Maricel’s and Leilani’s restaurant now and we like it as much as ever.
It’s open around 6:30 am and closes at 2pm. It’s, uh, funky not fancy, but is usually packed because the food is piled on yet is cheap. A sandwich that would be 13 bucks anywhere else is five or six. Breakfast is a specialty but there also is a variety of soups. Anton might be an accredited butcher but Maricel is a vegetarian whose only intrusion to a bulging menu is a veggie wrap.
I’m fond of telling people that if they’re in a hurry, don’t go.
Similarly, if they expect table service they’re in the wrong place.
But, if they want a big breakfast at a cheap price and if they have a lot of time and don’t mind sharing space with a crowd, the Fraser Park Restaurant at 4663 Byrne Road teems with endearing character.