When Joel Rees got the keys to a South Freo taqueria in the middle of the year, the plan was to reopen the space as a boteco, an informal neighbourhood bar modelled after the places he and wife Dani hung out in while living in Brazil. Fast forward five months, add the arrival of brother and chef Adam Rees, and plans have changed.
Introducing Madalena’s Bar, an 80-seat bar slash restaurant serving natural wine and seafood. While the soon-to-open venue is a step up from the tiny, football-screening, corner spots dotted throughout Brazil, Madalena’s is still a boteco in spirit and inspiration.
“We’re trying to tap into the vibe of that place where you don’t have to think too much,” says Joel, who named the bar after the suburb he met his wife. (Joel and his wife also own popular food truck Comida do Sul, although he stresses that the bar is a separate entity to the Brazilian food truck). “There isn’t a seafood bar in Perth. We’re next to the ocean and there’s lots of seafood suppliers here, so we decided we’d open one.”
The setting certainly says fun in the sun, not least because guests can spy South Fremantle beach from the front door (Joel: “People can come in with wet boardies, sandy feet and no shoes”). 20 of the bar’s 80-seat capacity is out on the sidewalk while the interiors are equally breezy: hello polished aggregate concrete flooring, mismatched bentwood tables and chairs and sand-coloured walls. A handsome horseshoe-shaped marble bar ticks the boxes for form and function while giant windows opening onto South Terrace bring the outdoors in (and vice versa).
Although the bar will serve beers and vermouths, new-wave wines are its calling card. James Whineray and Lucy Byrnes of North Fremantle wine store Wise Child will work with the Rees brothers on the list with the opening by-the-glass selection – six whites and rosés; two reds – calibrated for summer drinking. The bottle selection will run to 20 reds and 20 whites with the selections comprising Australian and European cuvées.
In the kitchen, Adam, a survivor of Ace Pizza and recently returned to Perth after two years with the Andrew McConnell empire in Melbourne, is on the pans and overseeing Madalena’s seafood menu. He’s also on the shucking knife (there’s a raw bar stocking oysters, clams and periwinkles on ice) and the charcoal-burning hibachi grill that he built himself. While seafood is the focus, Adam promises the tight menu will always include options for vegetarians and vegans (cucumber and purslane punched up with mint and seeds, perhaps) and carnivores (ox tongue with chilli, say). Parties of one will be another focus, as will be celebrating the entire seafood kingdom.
“I’m really into solo dining, so I definitely want to accommodate for that,” he says. “While there’s going to be lots of nice premium seafood, I’ll also be using a lot of bycatch. It’s more cost effective and exciting for me, especially with [respected seafood distributor] Fins Seafood so nearby. They’re keeping all the fish that people used to throw back.”
Madalena’s Bar opens early 2019 at 405 South Terrace, South Fremantle and will initially trade evenings between Wednesday and Sunday with weekend day trade to follow.