Between his time at Sydney fine-dining powerhouse Quay and Print Hall in Perth, Dan Wegener has compiled some of Australia’s most awarded wine lists. For his next venture, the Perth sommelier is going casual.
Enter Wine Rooms by Harvey Leigh’s, a sleek wine bar and bistro at the old Enrique’s site on Beaufort Street. Whereas its predecessor was all stylised Spanish food and drink, Wine Rooms is taking inspiration from the earthy food and drink traditions of Southern France.
“A Provençal farmhouse is what we’re trying to emulate,” says Wegener. “The food direction is going to be very accessible and rustic and not fancy small portions or overworked. It’s good, hearty French cooking without the ponce.”
Breakfast, for instance, might consist of organic local ham with soft eggs and garlicky Provence-style beans, or cured salmon rillettes on brioche. For lunch and dinner, the menu expands to include slow-cooked lamb shoulder, salmon gravalax and the vegetarian-friendly likes of smoked beetroot. “Bread with condiments” (charcuterie, cheese, pickles) will be available for those simply in the market for something to play nice with their wine. The appointment of young Provence-born chef and product of various French Michelin-starred kitchens Loic Sorbier is a promising sign for the food.
“He has that focus that we’re looking for and I can push him to go better,” says Wegener. “We’re going to be able to push each other.”
Considering Wegener’s track record as a sommelier, the drinking is as big a draw as the eating. Experienced sommelier Matthew Bell, late of Rockpool and a colleague of Wegener at Print Hall, has come aboard to run the wine program. The back room of the 55-seat venue has been transformed into “La Cave”, a wine-centric space replete with a reclaimed, boardroom-style table and photographs of industry luminaries on the wall.
Elsewhere, customers are welcome to browse through the bookshelf of wine and food titles and all the bottles on (well-stocked) riddling racks are available to drink-in and takeaway. Although the list has a strong bias towards wines from Champagne and Burgundy, Wegener describes the composition of his cellar as “balanced”. Wines by the glass will be available in both 75ml and the more commonly-seen 150ml pours.
The name of the venue, meanwhile, is one with plenty of significance for Wegener and wife and co-owner, Katie.
"Harvey Leigh is the name of our son," says Wegener. He's going to be a fair bit of inspiration for us, largely because he's going to be here a lot."
Initially, Wine Rooms will serve dinner on Fridays and Saturdays with extended night trading on the cards. The opening of Wine Rooms is stage one of a bigger overhaul of the site by its new owners. Come spring, the former Beaufort Street Local will be reopened as Harvey Leigh’s Public House.
Wine Rooms by Harvey Leigh’s
484 Beaufort Str, Highgate
Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 7am-4pm
Friday & Saturday 7am-1am