Stewart van Raalte and friend Lloyd Merridith
There will be a spare seat at many of the city’s famous lunchtime haunts with the death this week of Perth identity Stewart “Scruffy” van Raalte.
Van Raalte, who proudly carried the self-titled sobriquet of Sir Lunchalot, dined out every lunchtime in the city, regularly holding court at the Romany, Royal India, Perugino and many other eateries where his arrival was usually met with an almost regal acknowledgement by the owners and staff.
Van Raalte died in Sir Charles Gairdner hospital this week, aged 74, five weeks after heart surgery.
He is survived by his wife Charlie and children Greer and Elle. His grandfather was the famous artist and etcher Henri van Raalte and he only recently visited the site where his father died in a Lancaster bomber in England during World War II.
For more than 30 years van Raalte owned Pennant House in East Perth, making flags and buntings. He liked to tell people that he was a vexillologist, mostly to see the confused look on their faces.
Before that he started a number of Perth restaurants such as the Spanish Onion in Highgate and the Stoned Crow in North Fremantle.
He ran a wine bar in Barrack Street under the old gallon licence system, and even he admitted more than once that some of the liquor practices he adopted at the time may not have been in strict adherence to the law.
Recently he also became involved in a small wine venture based on a wine which was called The Monarch, and used as the label an etching of a tree known as the Monarch created by his grandfather. The van Raalte link was reinforced by the fact that the label design, using that old etching and the name was created by Stewart’s daughter Elle.
Van Raalte was a founding member and subsequently a president of the Perth Wine Press Club, the first in Australia and wrote about wine and restaurants for many Perth newspapers and magazines.
For all who knew him he was known as Scruffy, the origins of which are now lost in the eons of time and very long lunches.
His eclectic group of friends included people from every walk of life - sportspeople, politicians, businessmen, wine people, doctors and lawyers, and at some stage each would have shared a table and been the target of his irreverence, which was relentless.
Lunch is just not going to be the same. Farewell Scruff.