New Fremantle dining and bar precinct The Old Synagogue is home to four very different venues. Its flagship eatery, Tonic & Ginger, is a modern Asian restaurant created by the group’s head chef Leigh Power, formerly of Sweetwater Rooftop Bar and Melbourne’s Gingerboy.
“This is what I love to do. I love Asian food. It gets the fire in my belly going,” says Power. “We’re trying to take it to the next level from where we were at Sweetwater. I’ve got a few staffers that have followed me across from Sweetwater, which is nice.”
The heritage building – WA’s first synagogue, which has been vacant for almost 20 years – has been revitalised by Ross Drennan and Drew Flanagan of Nokturnl Events, whose portfolio includes Oktoberfest in the Gardens and New Year’s Eve festival Foreshore.
The two-level restaurant has a striking fit-out; the highlight is a web of hand-blown lights suspended from the lofty ceiling. It’s an elegant room with an appropriately cathedral-like feeling. Exposed brickwork and black metal structures reinforce the merging of old and new.
In line with the other Old Synagogue venues, the focus at Tonic & Ginger is on quality and value for money. The “feed me” menu option is just $54 per person, and is available to solo diners. “We don’t want them to feel they have to take a second mortgage just to go out to dinner,” says Power.
He describes the food as mostly Southeast Asian with nuances of Chinese, Szechuan, Japanese and Indonesian. The menu is separated into bites, grazing plates and feasting-size dishes. Plates range from dumplings and beef tataki to whole-fried baby snapper and togarashi spiced rump cap. Most of the menu is gluten free.
Broadsheet can confirm the signature red duck curry is as fragrant as advertised, and likely to become a go-to dish for repeat diners. Other highlights include the salt and pepper oysters, satay pork ribs and lime-cured scallop salad. Depending on where you stand on the burn factor of Long Chim’s famously brutal Chiang Mai-style larb, the comparatively muted chilli content in Tonic & Ginger’s duck larb will either inspire disappointment or relief.
Heading up the bar is Ben Tua, former bar manager of Mechanics’ Institute and Power’s former Sweetwater colleague. There are Asian beers (both on-tap and bottled), a largely Australian-focused wine list and Japanese whisky if you fancy something a little stronger.
Power has plenty to do at The Old Synagogue – three different venues are serviced from one central kitchen, which is also pumping out pizzas and elevated pub grub for The Arbor, and small plates such as patatas bravas and WA snapper ceviche for Mr Chapple.
“It’s a learning curve, I don’t know how many chefs have done this before,” he says. “There are about 65 dishes in total. We’ll iron out the kinks and then nail it. I’m totally confident we’ll be able to punch it out then keep pushing.”
Tonic & Ginger
92 South Terrace, Fremantle
Mon to Thu 5.30pm–10pm
Fri to Sun 12pm–10pm