Traditionally, beer is Fremantle’s poison of choice, but wine is fast gaining ground. The arrival of new sommelier Lisa Chambers at Bread in Common has sharpened the buzzy bakery-restaurant’s wine game; Madalena’s does a fine line in new-wave plonk, and local bottlos Wise Child Wine Store and Old Bridge Cellars rate among the state’s best wine shops.

The latest reason for winos in the port city to cheer: the opening of Nieuw Ruin, the much anticipated spin-off from the Foxtrot Unicorn crew and a serious contender for the title of Freo’s best place to drink wine.

If you’ve ever wondered what a 300-bottle wine list looks like in the flesh, wonder no more. Bottles are everywhere inside the former Mister Finch site. Chubby bottles of pet-nat sit broad shoulder to broad shoulder on shelving above a handsome dark timber table. Magnums are attractively arranged around a fireplace. Half-litre bottles from cult northern Italian producer Radikon – a benchmark for skin-contact, orange winemaking – elicit low whistles. By the bar, a fridge keeps all the cool stuff, well, cool. In short, the wine is as much a design feature of Nieuw Ruin as the framed interwar real estate maps, vintage crockery and other ephemera that beautify this transformed, welcoming cottage.

“We just wanted a good little hang-out joint where we could drink good booze,” says owner Dimitri Rtshiladze. “That’s pretty much what we want everything we do to be. But I hope it’s relatable, interesting and constantly evolving so that it’s interesting for people.”

While wine is the focus, cocktails are, as you’d expect, another focal point, as is the food. Chef Blaze Young’s (last seen at Madalena’s) contribution to the party is a battery of gently tweaked small plates that draw broadly from the European continent.

“Elegance and simplicity is what I’m trying to achieve here,” says Young. “It’s just really simple homestyle cooking but keeping things elegant.”

There’s an appealing English vibe to the menu which features crumbed pig’s head with mustard, rabbit and pork pie, curried fries and Eccles cake to finish, but it’s not all St John-by-numbers. Crisps with tarama and smoked trout caviar is textbook wine bar snacking, and sourdough flatbread is partnered with a laver butter. Young also offers homages to key figures in her life, from one of her former head chefs Alia Glorie (those devilled duck livers from Glorie’s Billie H era) to the Russian heritage of Rtshiladze via the salted monkfish “under a fur coat” – the colloquial name of the Russian and Eastern European dish shuba that features herring, beetroot, vegetables and mayonnaise. (The vegetables, when arranged over the fish, look like a fur coat). Joining Young in the kitchen is sous chef Jiordan McCamish, previously of the bustling Si Paradiso.

Although there are plans to add chef’s-menu options in future, casual snacking will be the vibe during the first few months. After that? The direction of Nieuw Ruin is up for discussion.

“I think the good thing about keeping it nice and fluid is we’ll eventually be able to take it in the direction that we want to,” says Rtshiladze. “We might want to try something for a month or do more fine-dining-style food service on Fridays and Saturdays: everyone’s got the autonomy to throw those sorts of ideas around. We just want to eat good food.”

Nieuw Ruin
12 Norfolk Street, Fremantle

Tue to Thu 4pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–late