It’s been quite a year hasn’t it? While 2020 has thrown up more than its fair share of challenges and food trends, there’s also been a surprising amount of good news, at least out west.

While Perth wasn’t without its Covid-related casualties – one of them, thankfully, was only temporary – the back-half of 2020 was filled with plenty of restaurant openings and reopenings. In alphabetical order, here are our picksfrom one of the more memorable years in recent dining history.

Acqua e Sale
At this newcomer, twin brothers Fabio and Michele Concas and Fabio’s partner Ina Pasilyte pay homage to the brothers’ Italian island home, Sardinia. It’s a love letter to classic Sardinian cooking, with dishes such as bitey all-semolina gnochetti sardi with a sausage and saffron sugo; elegant sails of pane carasau flatbread; and culurgiones, dumplings filled with potato, sheep’s ricotta and mint. A neighbourhood Italian joint to be reckoned with, and undoubtedly one of 2020’s most promising debuts.

Bad Love Burger Co
It’d be a gross understatement to say that that the opening of Smashburger BBQ’s permanent HQ – and rebrand to Bad Love Burger Co – has been popular. Since opening in November, the lines have been constant – punters are happy to queue for Tristan Chambers’s famous smashed-patty burgers, but they’re also flocking to the Harrogate Street venue for the fried chicken specimens, too.

Burger Bones
Also from the department of Good Burger News: food truck Burger Bones now has a permanent home in Busselton. The menu at the new eatery headed up by self-taught chef Cooper Deville will be familiar to Burger Bones regulars – it includes the lauded cheeseburger and the Dirt Box burger (with bourbon maple-bacon and black-cherry barbeque sauce). Chilli fiends should head straight for the habanero steak patty. Veggie and bun-less burgers are also available.

Coogee Common
As is the case with the mothership Bread in Common in Fremantle, little about spin-off Coogee Common could be considered common: not its sprawling kitchen garden, the warmth of the renovated Coogee Hotel space, or the cooking of chef Nathaniel Murray (an alum of Melbourne fine diner Vue de Monde). The garden’s produce is presented in a neat tart of the day; side salads showcase garden produce (as well a dressing made with mead fermented from estate honey); and wood-roasted chicken gets a tick for comfort and flavour. The “pickings” menu, which focuses on share platters and small dishes (such as tempura sweet potato vines, and pickled sardines sharpened with horseradish) reimagines bar dining through Coogee Common’s grow-it-yourself lens.

Ethos Deli & Dining Room
New York comes to East Fremantle by way of Ethos, the Young George crew’s homage to the Big Apple’s Jewish and Eastern European delis. By day, it’s all about gloriously tender pastrami, oversized Coney Island hotdogs, hearty knishes and all the other elements of our wildest Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters fantasies. After dark, chef Melissa Palinkas explores her Germanic-Hungarian roots with gutsy, big-flavoured plates: think lamb tartare with borscht, and Wagyu beef with dill pickle and bitey mustard leaf.

Fleur
While there’s something pleasingly everyman about the elevated approach to counter meals at The Royal, Fleur – the pub’s polished 45-seat dining room – is where chef Chase Weber and co. do their best work. Japanese influences are key to the five-course set menu, whether it’s the tsukemono (pickles) that kick off the meal or the crayfish noodles lifted by katsuobushi (smoked bonito). For those after a less structured experience, consider the seafood-focused bar menu, where you can hook into small plates such as lobster toast, tempura-fried Akoya oysters and tartlets freighting salmon roe or caviar.

La Cabana
You’ll be spending a lot of time here this summer. After winning over Perth with the gratifying flavours of food truck Eat No Evil, Ben Foss decided the logical thing to do would be to open a bricks-and-mortar venue with some friends. The result is this casual, dog-friendly taqueria in South Freo that’s landing bold blows for Aus-Mex cooking. Here’s a pork-and-pineapple taco dressed with a native strawberry and saltbush sauce. There’s beef rib enlivened with a mole made with wattleseed. To: wine, local beers, tequila and mezcal.

Mother
Goodbye Raw Kitchen, hello Mother: this buzzy Freo reboot makes a compelling argument that plant-based dining doesn’t just have to be virtuous, it can also be fun. It helps, of course, that this former warehouse now serves natural wine, while the kitchen continues to bang out satisfying eats in the vein of cauliflower burgers, corn tacos and oven-roasted celeriac with a walnut pesto. “For us, the focus is to make the food an experience on par with any other restaurant experience,” co-founder Emma Daly told Broadsheet in October. “It just so happens to be plant-based.”

Nasi Bali
This year, many Aussies scrapped holidays to Bali. While no one knows when we’ll be able to travel to the Island of the Gods again, this homely diner in Kenwick will help sate those Balinese food cravings. You’ll find plenty of Balinese staples on the menu, including ayam betutu and bebek betutu (braised chicken and duck respectively) and sambal matah (a spicy salsa), but most punters at this 20-person eatery are here for the babi guling, a deep dive into porky deliciousness featuring roast pork belly, house-made pork sausage and steamed pork. Delicious, or as they say in Indonesia, “enak”.

North Bird Restaurant, Wine Store and Bar
This restaurant-wine shop double-act puts of-the-moment wines and strong neighbourhood vibes front and centre. The menu – best described as “things that go great with wine” – runs the gamut from cakey focaccia and a sharp and bitey first-run olive oil to a half-chicken schnitty and house-made pig’s-head ham. Best of all, once you’ve finished in the dining room, you can wander over to the shop to buy bottles of your new favourite drops to take home.

Short Order Burger Co
This outfit is a constant presence in Perth’s “who does the best burger?” discourse. With the opening of his new Fremantle HQ, owner Simon Kony has the perfect pulpit from which to preach his burger gospel. The menu is the same as at Short Order’s CBD outpost, but there’s a new falafel-esque vegetarian option, and diners can also enjoy some booze (local wines and a Rocky Ridge Brewing lager) with their ‘burgs.