It’s been a strong year for niche openings in Perth. A Spanish surf-rock-themed tapas bar. A late-night Japanese whisky bar. A “nuovo Italo-Australian” hangout. Following the opening of Helm last week, the city has its first – to my knowledge, at least – bar and restaurant inspired by a “liner lounge”.
The prospect might sound odd on paper, but in the flesh, Helm – thankfully – is less Love Boat-kitsch and more Freo-breezy. Expansive top-to-bottom windows and discrete blond-timber furniture help accentuate the space’s impressive harbour views. Running off the side of the main dining room: a small outdoor area filled with summery cane chairs and couches. For those that remember when this space was Creatures Next Door or The Loft, it’s out with the cosy and in with the cool. It’s a setting that verily screams “summer”, doubly so if you’ve got something from the handy drinks list in reach. (Wines are sold by the glass, bottle and half-litre carafe while craft and larger-volume tap beers are dispensed by the schooner.)
Early signs are promising for the food. Matthew Powell – among the more notable entries on his CV: Il Lido, Little Creatures, George Calombaris’s St Katherine and Chez Max, a London restaurant owned by Marco Pierre White – keeps the eating bright and accessible. Here’s a puree of house-made ricotta showered with minty peas. There goes a crudo of lush Fremantle albacore tuna sharpened with fennel seeds and fine shavings of horseradish. Everywhere you look there’s house focaccia with airy, cultured butter (“The bread, PS, is unlimited,” whispered my talkative waitress while covering her mouth with her hand). The kitchen’s also done a reasonable line in things cooked over fire. Basically, the menu has plenty of building blocks for a really good long lunch. There’s also a page of bar snacks inside the drinks list where you’ll find a bunch of good options for entrées or meals-for-one: prawn sliders, say, or an excellent golf ball-sized Scotch quail egg.