Like plants? Get ready for garden envy. Got a soft spot for mid-century furniture? Get ready for armchair envy. Enjoy eating delicious things? Get ready for why-don’t-the-chefs-at-my-local-cook-like-this envy. After a two-year makeover by serial restaurateur Nic Trimboli, property developer Adrian Fini and Bread in Common general manager Scott Brannigan, the former Coogee Hotel reopens today as Coogee Common – and things look very promising.
For those that enjoy Bread in Common’s earthy brand of dining, Coogee Common will be an easy sell. Both restaurants are big; housed in restored, historic spaces; and care deeply about produce and producers. The 200-person Coogee Common takes this thoughtful approach to ingredients one step further with a serious kitchen garden growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and honey. (“Bees roam freely here” reads a sweet hand-painted sign near the front door.)
Brannigan, the son of a farmer, has long understood the lot of growers, but spending the last two years planning and planting a garden (prior to the opening of Coogee Common, the produce was being used at Bread in Common) has been eye-opening.
“It’s a reality check to how precious food is and how much people throw away because they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ll just get some more’,” he says. “I tell all our young chefs that they have to make every bit count. We have to make sure we get through each week [and] season without running out of something in the garden. We have to treat everything with respect.”
Early signs suggest the kitchen is nailing that make-every-bit-count mantra. The “today’s garden pick” starter might feature dainty radishes and shaved carrots dressed in lemon and olive oil, served with whipped tahini and dukkah. Horseradish from the garden lends bite to rye crackers with Manjimup trout rillettes and trout roe. Spicy leaves of broccoli rabe – a mustard-like brassica – plus pulled charcoal-roasted lamb and fat ribbons of pappardelle equals pasta happiness.
“Our food is all about the garden,” says Brannigan. “It’s almost like a MacGyver menu out of the garden.”
In addition to the dining room menu, a smaller “pickings” menu is served in the pub. There are snacks – such as marinated olives and lupins; sliced, cured meats; and vegan and non-vegetarian share plates – and a daily counter meal. Jams, chutneys and sauces are available to take away from the farm shop. Nightly garden tours – including dinner, a welcome drink and a guided walk around the property – can be booked, and set and tasting menus are also available.
West Australian names feature prominently in the wine list compiled by State Buildings wine director Emma Farrelly, and the drinks menu also includes gin distilled by Brannigan using leftover Bread in Common bread. An amaro (made with plants from the garden) and a coffee liqueur are also in development.
While Brannigan and Trimboli have been spearheading the project, Brannigan is quick to acknowledge the project has been a team effort. Former Vue de Monde chef Nathaniel Murray is in the kitchen. Restaurant manager Joel Peach, a long-time part of Clint Nolan’s Lavish Habits group (Joe’s Juice Joint, Alabama Song, Henry Summer) will be the other major public face of the operation.
Less visible but equally pivotal to the Coogee Common story is Brannigan’s wife, Susan Brannigan. In addition to painting the beautiful map of the property that hangs in the public bar, she also set up the farm shop and styled the space – not an easy task considering most of the pieces are vintage. (Some of the furniture comes from Trimboli’s mother-in-law’s old home.) In another neat twist, potter Harry Wykman, the property’s original gardener, is behind the crockery. Community, for both Brannigan and Coogee Common, is a big part of the story.
“People have been popping in to say hello and they just seem very pumped and super proud of it, as are we,” says Brannigan, who moved into the area a year ago. “Now that we’ve opened, it’s important just to listen to the community and their feedback. We’re not going to get everything right. We just need to take on board what the community wants.”
371 Cockburn Road, Coogee
Daily 11.30am – late