It’s a good time to be a merrymaker in Perth. The CBD has become a drinking and dining hotspot with the arrival of a Cuban pop-up, a dumpling joint and a German beer hall; Northbridge’s small-bar reign continues with the long-awaited opening of Lucky Chan’s; West Perth (of all places) has scored a vodka distillery; and yet another coffee roaster has opened in Freo. Foodies have never had it so good.
In the year it’s been open, widely lauded restaurant St Michael 6003 has become synonymous with dainty, inspired, and exquisitely delicious food. But the fine dining establishment is out to prove that it’s more than just a place for a fancypants dinner. It is now open for brunch on Fridays and Sundays- a bold move, considering its location opposite brekkie hotspot The Beaufort Street Merchant. But don’t think for a second that the menu has gone mainstream. There’s sweetcorn pancakes topped with crispy-breast quail, doughnuts with milk jam and peanut parfait, and housemade granola with coconut sorbet. 483 Beaufort Street, Highgate.
May Street Larder
When news broke that Olympic swimmer-turned-restaurateur Eamon Sullivan was opening his third venue, most speculated that it would be another stunning oceanside venue like Bib & Tucker or, at the very least, strategically located in a dense urban space, a la Louis Baxters. Not quite. The new May Street Larder can be found on Canning Highway in East Freo, in a single-storey venue overlooking a carpark and a Pizza Hut. Bizarre, right? Wrong. Eamon and his trusty head chef Scott Bridger obviously don’t need spectacular views or a busy location to attract guests. Amazing food, consistently great service, and modern-meets-rustic decor are more than enough, thank you very much. Breakfast comprises trusty regulars and must-try-before-you-die novelty dishes like the Soul Sandwich: fried chicken between two polenta waffles drizzled with chilli maple syrup. But while brekkie is a la carte, lunch sees the countertop fill with a buffet-style assortment of gourmet sandwiches, salads, pastas, pies and quiches – whatever Scott whips up that day. And speaking of whip, May Street Larder serves the gorgeous soft-serve CocoWhip, the guilt-free equivalent of ice-cream with the sugar equivalent of a jellybean per serve. ‘Course, if you’ve just polished off a plate of waffles and fried chicken, calories might not be of high concern to you. 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle.
Vegan on Wheels
Banana Rawpublic’s Courtney and Todd have spent the last few months setting up their vegan kitchen on wheels, which will be 100 per cent raw vegan. “A lot of people perceive raw vegan food to be the stuff that other people don’t want, but that’s not the case,” says Todd. “Raw vegan food isn’t scary – it’s not going to attack you, and you certainly don’t just live off salads. It’s actually delicious, and looks amazing. A lot of the time we make things people don’t even realise is raw vegan.” Along with their sweet treats like raw chocolate brownies, Turkish Delight slices and bliss balls, Courtney says juices, smoothies, wraps, salads and their otherworldly falafel and hummus will be on the menu. “We’ve also got a lot of Australian bush herbs that we’re going to try to incorporate in the near future, like lemon myrtle and Kakadu plum,” she says. “We want to try and get these herbs into our menu because they’re an unrecognised superfood that’s local to us.”– Lily Yeang
Freo’s love affair with coffee continues, with the arrival of Gesha in February. Similarities to South Freo’s Di Bella Roasting House abound – breezy warehouse dining room, polished concrete floors, ample courtyard, and coffee roasted on site. But unlike Di Bella – a company based in the eastern states – Gesha is independently and locally owned. There’s Daniel, who looks after the running of the restaurant side of the business, while Carlo, originally from Lucca, takes care of the coffee roasting (and, if you’re lucky, can often be found chatting with customers and offering Tuscan cantucci while waxing lyrical about il bel paese). Breakfast is the most popular meal. The usual suspects – eggs on toast, baked beans and bruschetta – sit alongside adventurous alternatives like the Breakfast Salad (perfect for the carb-averse) and the spicy Gesha Hot Dog. Clever music choices drown out the constant rumble of traffic outside, though there’s little hope of that abating – Gesha is that good. 59 Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle.
The Flour Factory is a carnivore’s paradise. The butchery of epic proportions boasts black pudding, hotdogs, duck terrines, veal tongue and – for fans of belly cuts – pancetta, lambcetta and house-smoked maple belly bacon. Charcuterie boards are the go at the restaurant, though choosing from the imported jamon, prosciutto and fuet is no easy task. That’s not to mention all those lovely cheeses. It’s the kind of grazy food that goes perfectly with a stiff drink. Our advice? Order a flight of fortified wines – sherry, vermouth or aperitivo – and learn a thing or two about the underappreciated tipple. Better yet, drink said fortified at the venue’s aptly named rooftop bar, The Sherry. The Flour Factory is the third venue that owner Andy Freeman (of Varnish on King and Darlings Supper Club fame) has opened in the last two years. Here’s hoping this overachiever doesn’t take the breather he’s due for. 16 Queen Street, Perth.
North Freo is going from strength to strength, and it’s due mostly to the single-handed efforts of Hamish Fleming and Siobhan Blumann, owners of the suburb’s popular Flipside and Mrs Brown Bar. The couple’s latest offering is the gorgeous new Propeller. With fantastic pizza (we love the buffalo mozzarella) and a huge courtyard complete with stripy umbrellas, a giant mural and a royal blue shipping container-turned-cafe, it’s little wonder it’s become the latest must-visit venue in the port city. 222 Queen Victoria Street, North Fremantle.
Pop quiz: What is a hippocampus? (a) The scientific name for seahorse; (b) The part of
the brain that stores pleasurable memories;
(c) A new distillery in West Perth; or (d) All of the above. Giant gold star for anyone who chose (d).
Hippocampus Metropolitan Distillery, in a converted warehouse opposite the Gordon Street Garage, is run by a crack team of hospitality veterans – many ex-Little Creatures – and is helmed by Alex Poulsen, former head brewer at Cheeky Monkey Brewery in Margaret River. The team has just released its first product, a super-smooth vodka that’s bursting with vanilla and fruit, and designed to be drunk neat or mixed into a martini.
Its secret is multiple distillings in a custom-made copper still from Germany’s oldest manufacturer, Carl, the kind used in London to make the very popular Sipsmith Gin. “Copper’s really important because it takes away all the impurities from the spirit,” says Hippocampus’ Sarah Blomkamp. “It was really amazing to get one, because the manufacturer only makes 25 a year. In fact, we’re the only ones who have one in Australia, aside from Four Pillars over in Melbourne.”
So what makes Hippocampus unique? For starters, its unwavering dedication to artisanal techniques and local produce. Most distillers purchase a base spirit – kind of like a stock for soup – and build upon it, but Hippocampus makes its own. “When you look down the history of how to make vodka, it’s always been made using whatever’s most readily available and native to that country,” says Sarah. “We are using wheat from a biodynamic farm three hours east of Perth. It’s created the perfect drinking vodka we were after.”
Hippocampus hopes to expand into other spirits, but until then, you’ll find the vodka at Ezra Pound, The Standard, Clarences, 399 Bar, The Odd Fellow Bar, and Bar Lafayette.
Theo + Co
Gone are the days of schlepping all the way to Mundaring for Little Caesars. Early February saw owner/head chef Theo Kalogeracos open Theo + Co in East Victoria Park with the exact same pizza as Little Caesars – same dough, same toppings, same amazing Sticky Fingers dessert pizza. Why fix what isn’t broken?
But don’t expect Theo + Co to be a carbon copy of shoebox-sized Little Caesars. The venue has a vibe all its own, thanks to its huge dining room, open kitchen, booking system and clever little decor details that pay respect to the building’s former life as a cycle shop, like pedals on stools and a bike wheel-turned-docket-holder. Then there’s the most glaring difference: the name. Why not keep the famous moniker? Theo got burnt last time he did that, and reckons taking on a business partner and expanding to Leederville and Innaloo four years ago damaged the brand.
“Looking back now, Mundaring was very special,” says Theo. “People used to wait an hour in line just to get in. It was just an iconic shop, but it lost that because I opened the other two. I thought grandeur would feel satisfying and it didn’t because the quality dropped.”
Theo has since cut ties with his business partner and kept only his Mundaring shop. “Mundaring is 60 by 60 metres – it’s a shithole! – and I love it,” laughs Theo. “I’ve realised that’s gotta stay the way it is. It’s being run by an amazing team, which gave me the freedom to look for a bigger venue that could be all its own.”
Theo was immediately taken with Victoria Park. “People are so community-orientated in Vic Park,” he says. “I’m shocked. I mean, I come from the Hills where we have bushfires and emergencies and people really do give a shit about each other. But I came down here and was welcomed with open arms. The locals just love it. Plus, we’ve employed 18 staff from Vic Park, which is great because it creates a real sense of community and family in the shop. We’ve always had local staff in Mundaring, too, and in 19 years we’ve had three marriages and two kids come out of it. Ha – we’ll see if that happens here!” 838 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park.
Best new eateries at 140 Perth
Move aside Jamie’s Italian. 140 Perth’s newest gastronomical offerings are causing some serious buzz. Joining the ranks of The Aviary, Koko Black and Jamie’s Italian are some serious gems, like colourful pop-up Cuban joint Cocina Bandito, serving excellent barbecue prawn tacos, roast pork-belly sandwiches and killer guacamole – from the lovable team behind The Classroom, Cocktail Gastronomy and Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodlebar. Next door is Brotzeit, a German-themed, Singapore-founded beer hall, (one of 14 such bars across eight countries). Then there’s Bam Bam Boo, an Asian restaurant that opened with the audacious claim of becoming Perth’s ‘Mecca for dumplings’. The order-it-yourself tablet system is a bit clunky, but the vibe is fun and fast-paced. Also worth checking out are the temporary food trollies in Globe Lane, like the hotdog-slinging Wassup Dog, Delish Ice with their icy poles, and The Juicist, serving – you guessed it – organic, cold-pressed juice. Cnr William Street and Murray Street Mall, Perth.
Were you bummed when Beaufort Street stalwart Little Saigon closed last year after more than a decade? Yeah, us too. Not to worry – the space has been resurrected as Junkboat Vietnamese by owner and head chef Bruce Nguyen. It pays homage to Bruce’s roots – when he was a child, his father actually built a junkboat, and the family escaped Vietnam as refugees to Hong Kong before making their way to Australia. “I wanted to bring back all the food I ate as a kid, so I took a few trips back to Vietnam to better understand the street-food scene,” he says. “The cuisine is so varied from the north to the south, so we just chose the best of each region.” The menu features Vietnamese staples like pho, rice paper rolls and banh mi, along with Junkboat’s signature dish: bun bo hue, a spicy beef and pork noodle soup. So how is Junkboat unique? Bruce reckons it boils down (heh) to the fact that the sauces, broths and pastes are all made in house. “The smell of the fish sauce we make is really strong. I’m sure our neighbours will complain one day!” 489 Beaufort Street, Highgate.
There’s good reason new North Beach cafe Tropico is one of Perth’s most Instagrammed cafes: quirky LA-style decor, beautifully presented food and a clientele almost exclusively made up of gorgeous twenty-something girls who spend their meal comparing Mimco accessories and composing the perfect flat lay. Lucky for the rest of us, the food is so tasty it makes ignoring them pretty darn easy. 105 Flora Terrace, North Beach.
We love an eatery with a sense of humour, and when the food, wine, ambience, and service are also excellent, well then, we’ve just found our new local hangout.
Northbridge’s newly opened No Mafia, started by the owners of Victoria Park staple The Precinct, is themed around food and wine from, you guessed it, the southern Italian regions of Sicily, Calabria, Puglia, and so on. Much of the attention in the wine world goes to the regions of the north, however the southern half of Italy boasts bountiful sunshine, volcanic soils, excellent value for money, and a plethora of fun-to-pronounce native grape varieties like falanghina, frappato, and susumaniello. Here in Oz, you’ll find an increasing number of gluggable wines made from these hearty, sunshine-loving varieties.
Not sure where to start? We asked No Mafia co-owner Emma Ferguson to reveal her favourites.
Grape Vermentino, in particular from Sardinia.
Perfect for A warm autumn’s day with salty fish and other seafood.
Wine No Mafia’s house white. Winemaker Brad Wehr (Amato Vino) has made a vermentino for us from Margaret River. It’s dry, fresh and zippy.
Drink with The in-house pickled Fremantle sardines.
Grape Nerello Mascalese, the native wine of Mount Etna.
Tastes like Really minerally, light, chalky and can show expressions of Burgundy (which is surprising considering the altitude and climate difference). Volcanic soil adds to the complexity.
Wine Cottanera ‘Barbazzale’.
Drink with The seared local tuna loin with chef’s foraged beach banana salad.
Grape Aglianico, in particular, Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata.
Tastes like Some of the bigger, juicier, spicy grape varieties coming out of warmer climates in Australia.
Wine ‘Liscone’ Cantine Madonna Delle Grazie.
Drink with The Sicilian baked ricotta.
189 William Street, Northbridge.
– Christina Pickard
Noodles Out The Wazoo
If you walk down Equus Retail Arcade in the city, you might notice a man bouncing up and down atop a large bamboo stick. It’s not a public act of sexual depravity; it’s Ian Chin, kneading dough. Noodle dough, to be precise. “You can’t really do it by hand,” says the co-owner of Perth’s Noodle Forum, who, with head chef Erich Wong, can spend up to five hours a day sitting on the bamboo stick. “We knead it and fold it repeatedly about 10 or 12 times so it goes from a really soft, pliable pasta dough to becoming this almost eraser-like texture where it’s really tough. That high intensity, powerful kneading creates this strong elasticity, which is the signature bite of our noodle.” It’s one that has queues of people lining up outside every day just waiting to try it. We can’t get enough of the restaurant’s BBQ Pork Noodle, which comes with a char sui-style barbecue pork that practically melts in your mouth – nothing like the dry, dyed red meat associated with many Chinese restaurant meat cabinets. Hot tip: get there before 12pm for a better chance of grabbing a seat – spots fill up fast! Equus Retail Arcade, 580 Hay Street, Perth.
– Lily Yeang