Bartender Hayden Carter grew up obsessed with the bright colours and synthesizer-heavy soundtrack of Miami in the 80s.
“I loved movies like Cocktail and watching Miami Vice as a kid,” says Carter. “Even growing up, I was drawn to video games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and things like that. I’ve always loved the neon lights and pink and blue pastel colours together.”
Together with his business partner and fellow bartender Sasha Fagan, Carter is looking forward to celebrating his love of all the above – perhaps with the exception of organised crime – at Neon Palms, the pair's Northbridge bar and restaurant that's heavily influenced by the sights and sounds of 80s-era Miami.
Located in the old Panama Social site on the corner of William and Francis streets, Neon Palms, as the brief dictates, isn’t a low-key establishment. Pastel blue and pink are the home team’s colours. Panama Social’s former outdoor area has been roofed in and laid with AstroTurf. LED lighting and custom-made Neon signs give the space (and patrons) a healthy glow. The future-funk playlist is big on synthesizer grooves and snappy drums. This more-is-more aesthetic, says Carter, is all about creating an experience.
“We wanted to bring something fun to Perth,” says Carter of opening his first venue. “Especially now since no one’s been able to travel for so long. We really wanted to create an atmosphere that makes it feel like you’re somewhere else.”
Despite these loud pops of colour, Carter – a former beverage manager at the Ritz-Carlton Perth – promises there's substance to go with Neon Palms’ polyester-based style. Craft beers dominate the compact beer list, the cocktails are as colourful as the room, and the frozen slushie – a two-toned pink-on-blue layered drink – are made using fresh ingredients and “craft cocktail slushie” principles Carter picked up while working and travelling in North America.
South America, meanwhile, informs the menu. Chef Marcelo Kretzer – a graduate of kitchens such as Balthazar, Duende and Don Tapa – draws on his own Brazilian food stories (that’d be the pao de queijao, a cheese bread topped with guava) as well as those from neighbouring South American nations including Argentina (the menu features a choripan, a chorizo hot dog) and Peru (here’s to you, kingfish ceviche briefly cured in lime, chilli and seasoning, the citrus-based marinade known as leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk). Miami’s quintessential sandwich, the Cubano – a toasted sandwich freighting ham, roasted pork, cheese, mustard and pickles – is also available.
“In some ways, food has become too pretentious,” says Kretzer, a native of Blumeneau in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Growing up in a city heavily influenced by German and Italian culture, Kretzer grew up with both European as well as indigenous Brazilian food culture. “What we do here is the opposite. We don’t want it to be pretentious. We don’t want it to scare anyone. We just want to prepare simple, honest good food.”