It’s telling, I think, that many of these newcomers could have been included in our recent wrap of 2023’s best new eating options, such is the quality of food you can find on (certain) bar menus. But at its heart, a good bar is a place where the focus is on what’s in your glass, whether that be beer brewed on-site, a sharply made cocktail, or – unsurprisingly – a thoughtfully chosen glass of vino. These six debutants reiterate the truism that, when it comes to drinks out west, that glass is undoubtedly half-full.
Bar Vino, Mount Lawley
“When’s the bar opening?” For four years, Willing Coffee owners Veronique and Tim Willing fielded this question. With the opening of Bar Vino in May, they finally had an answer for guests, turning their popular Central Avenue cafe into a wine bar. While Bar Vino is a community-minded space, there’s also some fine-diner in its DNA with Jed Gerrard (Wildflower and Hearth) consulting on the Mediterranean menu and bar manager Mathieu Fichot – also a Wildflower and Hearth alum – overseeing the list of 150 wines.
When veteran bartender James Connolly told the world he was opening a neighbourhood (wine) bar in Bassendean, drinkers expected great things. Now that Bertie is finally open, could it be possible that our man has surpassed these lofty expectations? The wine selection is handy, but it’s supported by well-made cocktails and good beers, plus a sharp menu from Anthony Yuill (Shadow Wine Bar, Vue de Monde) riffing on the comforting British dining theme: think Scotch eggs, steak and chips plus roasted capsicums in tikka masala.
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A former member of the food and beverage teams at QT Perth and Crown Perth, Michael Ribaudo understands the finer points of hotel dining and drinking – which makes him the perfect general manager for Folly, a rooftop bar on the 18th storey of Quest East Perth. While the views are one of Folly’s major draws, those photo ops are supplemented by classic cocktails and crowd-pleasing plates such as crumbed snapper sandwiches and Korean fried cauliflower with gochujang.
Patio Bar, Fremantle
“We want to build a community-driven, beating heart, social connection kind of place,” says Kim Isaac. In Patio, the Freo bar Isaac opened with fellow locals Max Kordyl and Rhela Belton in December, they’ve hit the nail on the head. Taking over the former home of the beloved X-Wray Cafe, Patio is a study in giving punters what they want. The drinks list favours small players in the wine and beer space, while the Mediterranean-leaning menu (meatballs, focaccia, fried whiting) is designed to comfort rather than challenge. Non-alcoholic options star and most of the menu is gluten-free: another nod to Patio’s consideration for all.
Rhum Burgundy, Margaret River
No, this cocktail bar on Margaret River’s main street doesn’t smell of rich mahogany. What the name does reflect, however, is management’s focus on sharp cocktails (rhum, as you know, is the French spelling of rum) as well as wines. Local vignerons and imports make the cellar appealing to both visitors and local winemakers alike, while gun drinks maker Billy Phillips (formerly of Morries) is on shaking and stirring duties. Rum, unsurprisingly, is the focus, which means Daiquiris and Mojitos feel pretty much essential, although barrel-aged Negronis and a Margarita-taco mashup speak to Phillips’s adventurous streak.
Vin Populi, Fremantle
If the name – or the CV of owners Emma Ferguson and Daniel Morris (Balthazar, No Mafia) – didn’t give it away, vino is the calling card of this easygoing wine bar in Freo’s west end, with each day’s offerings listed on chalkboard menus by style (“local orange”, “Marg River chardy”, “natural red”). But wine is only part of the story. Just as pivotal to Vin Populi’s appeal is its menu of Italian comfort cooking. Handmade pastas such as tagliatelle wet with shredded ossobuco anchor the carte, supplemented by porchetta, mushroom risotto and roast lamb to share.
Additional reporting by Jono Outred, Clare Ryan and Briony Whitton