George Kailis, founding partner of beachside dining room The Shorehouse, was in a pickle. Is it possible to modernise a restaurant and turn the heads of a new generation of eaters and drinkers without upsetting regulars? The answer, it would seem, is yes: provided you go about it by introducing a lot of small changes rather than sweeping wholesale ones.
“If you want to be here in 20 years’ time – which we do – there has to be consistency and there has to be some restraint,” says Kailis of the thinking behind Shorehouse 2.0. After finalising the restaurant’s new design and direction over the summer, he closed The Shorehouse for two weeks to put his plans into effect, opening again last Wednesday. “We also have to adapt from challenges. A lot of this renovation is about adapting to changes and growing.”
My first impressions of The Shorehouse’s (subtle) new look are much like the ones from my first visit to the restaurant when it opened in late 2015: “Gee, there’s a lot of people here (especially for lunchtime on a gloomy Monday),” and “Gee, the Indian Ocean looks beautiful.” But once you pull focus from the water back to land, little details start to emerge. Splashes of black and grey paint downplay the space’s former Hamptons-inspired vibe and take The Shorehouse somewhere a little more contemporary. The bistro-style white bentwood chairs help, too. Speckled gunmetal-grey Corian tables have quietly taken up key positions around the room. The former lounge at the back of the dining room has been reborn as a bar area complete with high-top tables, stools and a vintage copper-gilded mirror. The changes, introduced by Lynette Kohler, Shorehouse’s original interior designer, are more nip-and-tuck than full-blown body lift.
Chef Pali Singh has taken a similar “softly, softly” approach to the food side of things. Regulars can still order Shorehouse classics such as the fried chicken, crab-and-prawn linguine, and croquettes, but these crowd favourites are now joined on the menu by eggplant-and-chevre ravioli with artichokes; Josper-roasted cauliflower with herbed tahini; and a winning prawn-schnitzel bun served with warrigal greens and taramasalata. The menu also features nautically themed illustrations from local artist Susan Respinger.
Best of the newcomers, though, is the build-your-own crab sandwich platter starring picked hickory-smoked mud crab meat, four split milk buns, herbed butter, mustard cress and house potato crisps. Mud crabs aren’t cheap (prices for live Darwin mud crabs are upwards of $60 a kilo) and this expense is reflected in the dish’s $120 buy-in. But when you consider the work involved in preparing mud crab, and how well crab meat and soft bread go together, the value snaps into perspective – especially since you’ll likely be sharing this platter with friends.
The Shorehouse (278 Marine Parade, Swanbourne) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.