Jackson hangs up pans after 48 years

Putting his feet up: Neal Jackson. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Neal Jackson did a double shift on Friday, cooking lunch and dinner at his iconic Jackson's Restaurant in Highgate.

When he announced his retirement yesterday, he knew he had done the right thing. "I'm still getting over Friday," the 64-year-old said.

"My knees and legs are still hurting.

"Retirement has been in the pipeline for some time.

"The time is right. The decision has been made."

Jackson, whose restaurant has consistently been in the top two or three fine diners in Perth since it opened 15 years ago, brought degustation dining to WA and has seen multi-course chef's menus take off in the State.

"I thought everyone was over degustations, so I stopped doing it this year," Jackson said. "There were howls of protest from our customers, so we're going to bring degustation back for the last few months."

Jackson expects the plush Beaufort Street restaurant will sell some time in the first half of next year.

"We're going to have fun next year," he said. "We'll open for just four nights a week, so I can relax a little."

Jackson has been cooking for 48 years - 42 of those in WA. He migrated from Britain in 1971, odd-jobbing at a string of restaurants around WA before opening his first restaurant, the Anchor and Hope Inn at Donnybrook in 1981.

It was his Bunbury restaurant Louisa's that brought him a legion of fans, many of whom would drive from Perth to eat his dishes.

In 1998, he opened Jackson's with an already "rusted-on customer base".

Jackson's was Perth's number one "special night out" destination for much of its life. In recent years it began to face competition from a raft of new big-dollar restaurants also aiming for the high-end diner.

Regulars will remember Jackson for his rack of Amelia Park lamb with confit lamb belly and shank shepherds pie and his famous Turkish delight souffle with rose petal ice cream.

Jackson said the end of Jackson's era would not be the end of his career.

"I have some terrific opportunities in China and now that my business partner (Peter Walsh) has bought (Busselton restaurant) Newtown House, I'll help him get it off the ground over the coming months," he said.

Jackson said he had seen enormous change in his 42 years in WA.

"The produce is so good now," he said. "Forty years ago, if you wanted mushrooms they came in a tin. Now there's an endless array of fresh mushrooms.

"But the biggest change has been the public's awareness of food.

"People have so much knowledge now and an international palate."