Fremantle is enjoying a flux of exciting new venue openings this year. From burger bars, barbeque joints and craft-beer breweries to boutique accommodation and gin distilleries in hidden heritage buildings, the port city has been diversifying its offerings while retaining its boho, maritime charm. And it’s not slowing anytime soon, with new establishments such as Jetty Bar and Eats and Peggy’s slated to open this winter. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the best new venues in Freo, from the West End to South Beach.
Old Faithful Bar & BBQ
This basement bar and restaurant has reawakened a 130-year-old heritage building (originally a liquor merchant). It’s an inviting space, with exposed-brick walls and pillars, cushy leather chairs and a striking wooden bar. Owner Rob Paolucci was aiming for “a speak-easy vibe”, with multiple areas to reflect your drinking mood – be it cosy bar, open beer hall, or laneway-style seating off Pakenham Street.
Behind the bar, 32 rotating taps focus on WA craft brews, with pints starting at $8. There are ciders and seasonal specials, plus cocktails on-tap and a curated selection of whiskies, from Scottish single malts to American bourbons. Inspired by America’s Deep South, the kitchen turns out low-and-slow barbeque staples such as beef brisket, pulled pork, lamb ribs, chicken wings, mac’n’cheese and loaded fries. Meats are brined for up to 40 hours and cooked for 36 hours with house-made spices – including the venue’s own paprika.
A new bar tucked behind the Fremantle Markets, Emily Taylor is named after a 19th-century ship that brought Asian spices to Fremantle before being wrecked off the coast of Perth. Under executive chef Aldren Teo, the kitchen taps into this heritage – mixing Southeast Asian flavours with uniquely West Australian produce. Try the lobster dumplings infused with Manjimup truffle (“a modern twist on traditional hakau [Cantonese dumplings]”, says Teo); roast duck brushed in local bush honey and plattered with mandarin pancakes; Geraldton kingfish ceviche cured in a sweet-chilli coconut water; or charred Stirling Ranges beef ribs paired with crunchy sambal matah.
The dining room is set in a vast warehouse with chic industrial styling that’s as modern as the menu. Shaded by brightly coloured Chinese umbrellas, the limestone-walled courtyard is the best seat for working through the neat cocktail list: a watermelon-based Thai Mojito or tangy Saigon Collin made with ginger beer are ideal pre-meal starters. On tap there’s a dozen beers, and the wine list has bottles from old and new-world vineyards.
Short Order Burger Co
Short Order’s retro, 1950s-inspired fit-out reflects its good old-fashioned burger charm. The American-style diner began as owner Simon Kony’s side hustle pop-up before graduating to this slick standalone space opposite Fremantle Town Hall. The menu is clipped to focus on quality local produce – starting with the organic, grass-fed Blackwood Valley patties from WA’s south-west. The popular beef burgers come layered with American cheddar, smoked mozzarella, house-made pickles and a mayo-based house sauce laced with a touch of dill, while a Nashville hot chicken sandwich has become a permanent addition to the menu.
In the drinks cabinet, the Freo diner trumps its CBD outlet. Kony has joined forces with Rocky Ridge Brewing Co to create a clean and crisp custom house brew using an old draught recipe for a burger-friendly lager. There’s also biodynamic wines, boozy milkshakes and freshly batched cocktails.
Republic of Fremantle
Another new West End arrival, Republic of Fremantle opened in late 2020, taking over a vast warehouse a few doors down from Old Faithful on Pakenham Street. By the team behind nearby venues Ronnie Nights and Strange Company, the distillery and bar has lured master distiller Ollie Kitson from the UK but kept production local, making its grape-based gin and vodka with fruit from Oakover in the Swan Valley (capturing what Kitson describes as the “quintessential Australian character of a riesling”).
In the bar – designed by Fremantle-based architects Spaceagency – cocktails are designed to show off the house spirits, with classics such as Martinis and Negronis alongside twists on popular tipples: the Gin a Colada, for example, is a Pina Colada-inspired concoction with gin, pineapple, coconut sorbet and raspberry. Food comes in bite-sized, aperitivo-style morsels made with local produce intended to match the mixology. Current crowd favourites include house-made crumpets with smoked roe, tomato, crème fraiche and spring onion, and brioche prawn toast with a touch of remoulade.
Running With Thieves
The opening of Running With Thieves in late 2020 came just in time for summer. Perched metres from South Beach, the brewery caters to a post-beach crowd. There are eight beers, including IPAs, a hazy pale ale, a creamy stout and a zesty ginger beer, and a shared food menu inspired by the seaside location – with chef Santiago Ortiz Posada serving grilled Fremantle octopus; gin and beetroot cured salmon; and specials such as fresh oysters.
Co-founder Scott Douglas began his beer career at Margaret River, where he founded Black Brewing Co in 2015, before branching out with business partners Brooklyn Whelan and Pablo Frenkel on the Running With Thieves label. The trio has taken over a former Sealanes warehouse, creating a light-filled, open-plan seaside escape with a 300-capacity restaurant in a cavernous space that includes a 30-metre-long bar. “We wanted … [a] space where anyone is welcome and can interact with the brewery,” Douglas told Broadsheet in March. Beers are all made and packaged on-site, and the team has recently entered into premium spirits, with three styles of gin and a vodka distilled in copper stills behind the bar. Whisky and rum are also in the pipeline.
From 1851 to 1991, the historic, convict-built Warders’ Cottages housed prison guards from nearby Fremantle Prison. Now these quaint, heritage-listed buildings have been lovingly restored, offering boutique sleepover accommodation in the heart of Fremantle. The 11 sophisticated rooms blend old with new, preserving the original stonework and timber flooring and combining them with contemporary hand-crafted furniture. Marble bathrooms come with rainwater showerheads and luxury products by Appelles. Still and sparkling water is literally on tap, with some rooms featuring cosy kitchenettes and private terraces.
Catch the afternoon sun from a street-level terrace at Gimlet, the hotel’s tiny European-style apertivo bar, over a glass of rosé. And try its namesake cocktail – a classic blend of zesty lime, syrup and gin. Then head to Emily Taylor, the Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant tucked within the hotel’s old limestone walls.
Additional reporting by Martin Eade and Bonita Grima.