Brendan Pratt is the co-owner of south-west newcomer Coffee Heads, which opened in July, but he is still best known for his stint as former head chef at Vasse Felix, one of Western Australia’s most celebrated fine diners. “My recent working life has been spent creating food where the price point isn’t going to really affect business as much,” admits Pratt. “[At Coffee Heads] we’re trying to provide high quality … and still make it affordable for people.”
A chef of such calibre opening a drive-through coffee and sandwich shop with the team behind Margaret River Roasting Co certainly turned some heads. But the promise of a sandwich with a fine-dining pedigree was always going to be a delicious proposition. Especially when you don’t have to get out of the car to eat it.
While many items on the menu – from the toasties to breakfast rolls, cookies and doughnuts – are worth a stop, the roast chicken roll is a standout for me. Such is the way with drive-throughs, it’s destined to be devoured on the move, or perhaps in a car park while scrolling Instagram. But stop a moment and consider this $15 winner. It’s a true great of the chicken roll canon.
Let’s talk bread. In some ways it’s as important as the filling and while we wouldn’t encourage eating while driving, it’s going to happen. The fermented potato bun – baked in collaboration with local Busselton bakery Rise & Co – is the ideal vessel. It has a soft bounce, so there’s no two handed tearing required, and while there’s a hint of sweetness it’s balanced by a sourness from the potato. Top marks for the practical realties of eating on the move.
The chicken is pasture-raised and supplied by Dirty Clean Food, which connects restaurants and home consumers with fresh produce from an ever-growing band of regenerative farmers. Coffee Heads is next to a local Maccas and a newly built Chicken Treat. Without being judge-y it’s great to have choice. Here, each chook is marinated in a generous amount of garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and smoked paprika, then roasted, picked and tossed through the juices from the roasting tray. “Oh, and then we make a gravy out of the chicken bones, and a little bit of that goes back into the meat too,” adds Pratt.
To top it off, there’s extra lemon juice, a white pepper and onion relish, Kewpie mayo and a celeriac and apple remoulade. The mayo is store-bought due to fluctuating egg prices and availability. “I’d rather make the chicken gravy,” Pratt says. The remoulade will change seasonally, and could be kohlrabi or cabbage. The chicken alone would mark out this roll, but it’s the trademark-Pratt moves, adding layers of technique that push it that bit further.
And, is if to prove that point, one more element you’ll find across the menu is a few black pepper and sea salt Proper Crisps on the side. It’s sparked something of a debate between Pratt and Coffee Heads co-owner Isaac Kara: to eat them on the side, as Pratt intended, or in the roll, as is Kara’s way? You decide.
4 Birak Lane, Vasse