Considering the number of pivots, swivels, sidesteps, reboots and change-ups local hospitality operators have had to do this year, you could argue that every restaurant, bar and cafe in Western Australia has reopened as a new venue in 2020.
While it’s important to acknowledge the hard graft of every operator still trading, it’s something else altogether to open a food-based business in this, the year of an unprecedented pandemic. So here, we take stock of the year’s new openings of note. Analysed as a whole, this year’s freshman group paints a telling picture of where the dining scene in Western Australia is at in 2020. It’s a scene where casual continues to rule, but there’s still place for special-occasion dining (and special-occasion drinking).
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 a key motif, from crayfish noodles lifted by katsuobushi (smoked bonito), to the tsukemono (pickles) that kick off set menus. Saturday afternoon high tea is the latest way for diners to test the kitchen’s mettle.
Northbridge Dining Room
Farewell, Young Love Mess Hall; hello, Northbridge Dining Room and Wine Store, a double-act that puts of-the-moment wines and strong neighbourhood vibes front and centre. Chef Chris Howard (formerly from up the road at Panama Social) seems to be enjoying his new gig, as evinced by imaginative remixes such as hasselback celeriac – a riff on the classic baked potato – and pickled mussels and clams shrouded in sheets of thinly shaved octopus terrine (as polished a Mediterranean-style seafood salad as you’ll find anywhere on William Street).
After winning over Perth with the gratifying flavours of food truck Eat No Evil, Ben Foss decided the next thing to do would be to get together some friends and open a bricks and mortar venue. The result is La Cabana, a casual, dog-friendly taqueria in South Freo that’s landing bold blows for Aus-Mexican cooking. Here’s a pork and pineapple taco dressed with a native strawberry and saltbush sauce. There’s beef rib enlivened with a mole, a traditional Mexican marinade, made here with wattleseed. From the bar: wine, local beers, tequila and mezcal.
As is the case with the mothership Bread in Common in Fremantle, little about Coogee Common could be considered common. Not its sprawling garden, not the warmth of the renovated Coogee Hotel space, and not the produce-driven cooking of chef Nathaniel Murray, an alum of Melbourne fine diner Vue du Monde. Salads enjoy greens from the garden, and a mead is fermented using honey produced on-site. Pork pappardelle with brocolli raab is a good example of the the kitchen’s canny way with flavour, while barbequed fish cheeks with a lemongrass spice rub speak to Coogee Common’s no-waste cooking.
What’s better than scoring one of the state’s best burgers from a food truck? Hearing that said food truck now has a permanent home. The menu at chef Cooper Deville’s new eatery will be familiar to Burger Bones regulars and includes the self-taught chef’s lauded cheeseburger and Dirt Box starring bourbon maple-bacon and black-cherry barbeque sauce. Chilli fiends should head straight for the Habanero snack patty. Veggie and bun-less burgers are also on hand.
Best described as re-openings rather than openings, the recent reboots of Post at State Buildings and William Street’s No Mafia suggests Perth’s love of Italian food – and, in particular, pasta – is as strong as ever. Handmade gnocchi from Perth restaurant matriarch Ada Scaffidi is a feature of the new menu at Post, while No Mafia’s migration to the former Los Bravos space on William Street translates to more space and the introduction of house-made pastas to the menu.