“I don’t think you can call yourself a pub unless you have Guinness on tap and you can sit at the bar.” “Midori Splices are delicious and underrated. Everyone needs to try one.” “Alize [a French liqueur] needs to be used more. Same with banana liqueurs.”
Veteran bartender Dimitri Rtshiladze, owner of CBD cocktail bar Foxtrot Unicorn as well as Fremantle wine bar Nieuw Ruin, has plenty of opinions on drinks and what makes a good bar. Following last Wednesday’s opening of Edward & Ida’s in Northbridge, Rtshiladze now has the chance to show Perth drinkers his thoughts and beliefs, rather than just tell us about them.
Taking over the William Street storefront that was once home to Hong Kong cafe Hongkies Kitchen, Edward & Ida’s follows the same retro-leaning styling as Rtshiladze’s existing venues. An entire wall is crowded with vintage mirrors and framed posters. Retro tin drinks trays are mounted behind the bar. A handsome timber staircase descends into what Rtshiladze describes as a “weird cocktail bar”, a 40-seat parlour filled with taxidermy, a broken TV set and a king’s ransom worth of miniature alcohol bottles.
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“I had it described as ‘a bit much for me’, which I took as a great compliment,” jokes Rtshiladze about the bar in the basement. But while Edward & Ida’s leans hard into all things yesteryear, management have also given plenty of thought to the wants of modern-day pubgoers. A handsome timber bar occupies much of the front room, its counter punctuated by those all-important stools. A former car park behind the building has been turned into a dog-friendly courtyard, complete with a fireplace. (Rtshiladze: “People in Northbridge like having that wintry vibe as well as being able to sit outside.”) Service under venue manager Adam Mitchell and his crew is relaxed.
The booze side of things is strong, as you’d expect from a group stacked with drinks-making talent – Rtshiladze and operations manager Shirley Yeung are both heavily respected local bartenders while bar manager Ben Louthean is back in Perth after fine-tuning his craft in Scotland. Upstairs, the cocktail list celebrates the classics, both modern and time-honoured: think Bloody Marys, reengineered Midori Splices, plus The French Pearl, a sort-of Southside spiked with pastis that was invented at legendary New York cocktail bar Pegu Club by the equally legendary bartender, Audrey Saunders. Downstairs the drinks veer a little further off-piste with shiso leaf, tamarind, coconut milk and house-made doughnut bitters among the ingredient lists. You already know about Edward & Ida’s stance on Guinness, but there’s other packaged and tap beer in case stout isn’t your thing. Intriguingly, by-the-glass wine options are almost exclusively chardonnay and pinot noir: thrilling news for devotees of the famed French wine region, Burgundy.
Is all this talk of drinking working up an appetite? Excellent, because young gun Blaze Young has turned in an excellent opening menu that, like Edward & Ida’s itself, is informed by both old-school and new-school thinking. There’s a Scotch egg, albeit one where the pork mince caking the fudgy-centred egg has been sharpened with curry spice. The Fillet-O-Fish gets a bougie makeover with flaky Patagonian toothfish and a properly chunky tartare, while golden crunchy puff pastry and a fruity brown sauce (both house-made) inject something special into the sausage roll. Ploughman plates and fancy pies should appease the purists. It’s a spread that works in many different settings.
“The brief was [we wanted it] to be a local watering hole where you can saunter in and eat a couple of times a week as well as make a night of it with friends,” says Young. “I tried to make a menu that could cater to both. All the food straddles the line between being a perfect meal for one or something that you can share with others.”
Welcome to the neighbourhood, Edward & Ida’s. You, me and the Northbridge community are all going to get on just fine.