You know how some bars and restaurants have an open kitchen? The new Pirate Life Perth has an open brewery consisting of three raised tanks and walkways that allows guests to observe – and talk to – head brewer Jackson Purser as he goes about his work. Having brewing equipment front and centre, rather than squirrelled away, is just one of the ways that management behind Pirate Life wants to distinguish the inner-city brewpub from its peers across Western Australia.
“A lot of breweries have a similar look and feel,” says Andy Freeman, patriarch of the Sneaker & Jeans group that is partnering with Pirate Life to open its west coast expansion in the former Sony Centre. “[There’s] a big open warehouse with the tanks out the back and pizzas and burgers on the menu. You know what you’re going to get. That’s not what we do.”
This concept of brewery-as-entertainment isn’t the only surprise that guests might unearth when Pirate Life opens this week. There are the private dining rooms – one in the basement with views of the brew tanks and another on the mezzanine floor overlooking the bar. There’s artwork galore, from subtle accents care of street art collective Blank Walls, to a colourful peacock triptych painted by Mike Maka: a nod to the sprawling mural he painted at Pirate Life’s Adelaide headquarters. Neon signs are dotted throughout. The women’s bathrooms feature a brightly lit make-up station, complete with stools. There’s a lot of Instagram-style here, certainly, but there’s also substance.
Guests can hook into well-made cocktails (Freeman: “these are the best drinks we’ve done”) and a 120-bottle wine list. The venue’s 16 beer taps will include a selection of core Pirate Life beers alongside limited-edition beers brewed in Adelaide as well as in the brewery underfoot. Yes, there will be scope to push the boat out, but Purser is just as likely to brew a clean, crisp lager as something experimental.
“We don’t want to be the Willy Wonka of brewing,” says Purser. “The plan is to do and learn things here that we can pass on to Adelaide so they can apply it to the beers that they do.”
The other aspect of Pirate Life is the food with Charlie Vargas (last seen in the kitchen at Sneaker & Jeans venue The Flour Factory) overseeing the kitchen. Two different food offerings will initially be available in the space. The first is an all-day menu in the bar that includes sandwiches (lobster, chicken club, cheese kranksy) and upmarket pub comfort (fried calamari in lieu of fish and chips, crudites and seasonal veg).
The second is the steakhouse-style menu in Toma, a 50-seat dining room very much in the Sneakers & Jeans polished-casual style. A wood-burning, parilla-style grill is fuelled with banksia and jarrah timber and used to cook veg and proteins including various cuts of Australian beef. (The restaurant’s name, incidentally, is short for tomahawk, as in the plus-sized Flintstones-esque cut that’s been turning heads in food circles over the past two decades.) Beef tartare, grilled lobster tails and wood-roasted veg round off a concise, promising menu.
In short, despite its opening being delayed 11 months, phase one of Pirate Life Perth suggests the wait will have been worth it. Additional phases will see the unveiling of new stages including a basement bar and an al fresco venue.