Hadiqa in Hibernian Place is the latest addition to Perth bar-mogul Andy Freeman's portfolio that includes The Flour Factory, Varnish on King and Caballitos. Enter the bar and the expanse of greenery, wicker chairs and intricately decorated tiles screams Morocco, however the original concept was a little more generic.
“We decided on Middle Eastern, which was confusing,” says Hadiqa executive chef, Danny Sanchez. “Somebody said Greek, somebody said Lebanese. We were going to go to Turkey but there was a travel ban, we tried to go to Lebanon but it was dangerous. So I went to Morocco.”
Sanchez spent a month eating and photographing his way around Morocco, spending more time than planned in the mountains after being stranded by unexpected snowfall.
“It was a good thing, because we had to spend time with the families who lived in the area,” he says. “I learned a lot about why they cook the way they do. That was more important than the flavours.”
Bread is an integral part of the Moroccan eating experience, a concept that Sanchez intends to bring to Hadiqa. “Over there you eat bread with everything,” he says. “It’s a social event. You sit down with someone, drink mint tea and share bread. It creates a sense of community.”
Sanchez says that the Hadiqa menu is 60 percent complete, having been compiled just three days before opening. He doesn’t expect the final menu to be “full-on Moroccan”, with Lebanese and Greek influences to be introduced. Waiting in the wings to take over the Hadiqa kitchen is head chef Simon Bow, who conducted his own research by travelling to Greece. In line with Sanchez’s Moroccan discoveries, simplicity is key.
“At Varnish and The Flour Factory we had a lot to hide behind: 20 components on the plate, pretty flowers, the smears, the gimmicks,” says Sanchez. “Hadiqa is about getting good quality produce and doing pretty much nothing to it. You’re not going backwards with simple food, you’re actually moving forward because you need to nail the one thing you’re putting on the plate.”
Hadiqa’s chip-filled kebabs have proven to be an early customer favourite.
“When we were riding buses, at every stop there was a guy cooking keftas,” says Sanchez. “There would be a lamb hanging. One guy would put it through the mincer, squeeze it, add some salt and give it to the other guy who would put it on the grill. Little bit of cumin, little bit of olive oil. Drink your tea, eat your lamb. Tastiest meal ever.”
While in Morocco, Sanchez ordered 300 kilograms of hand-painted plates and tagines for Hadiqa. Two-thirds of them are still in transit.
“On our first night I had this beautiful venue, a massive kitchen and no plates,” he says. “We had to downsize the menu, rethink the whole thing, borrow plates from the Flour Factory and make it happen. I’m glad it happened that way. I will always tell the story about how I opened Hadiqa without plates.”
Top Floor, Hibernian Place
40 Irwin St, Perth
Mon - Fri: 12pm - late