Casual. That’s the word Ben Tua and Leigh Power keep reaching for when talking about their upcoming venue, Sweetwater Rooftop Bar. Considering Sweetwater is part of East Fremantle’s new $90m Richmond Quarter development, casual might seem like an odd fit for the luxury precinct, but the pair believes accessibility rather than exclusivity will win the day.
“Sweetwater isn’t going to be a black-tie venue,” says Tua, formerly the bar manager at Mechanics' Institute. “It’s going to be very approachable: something that everyone in Fremantle can enjoy.”
While Tua assures us the view from six storeys up is something else, he insists Sweetwater will be about more than just photo ops. As you’d expect from one of the city’s most decorated bartenders, cocktails will be a strength. Expect the liberal use of amaro (bitter Italian liqueurs such as Montenegro and Averna) as well as bright, fresh flavours (“refreshing, that’s my key word,” says Tua).
Despite its brevity, the one-page wine list covers plenty of ground. The offer of gamay from Beaujolais and Loire Valley chenin blanc alongside wines from renegade local vignerons such as Si Vintners and La Violetta all but guarantees wine drinkers are in for a good (and interesting) time.
The venue itself is equally conducive to merriment. Stone, timber and other natural building materials will give the space an organic feel while half of the area will be outdoor. Although Sweetwater will have a small, dedicated restaurant area, food will be available all day throughout the venue.
As he did while he was head chef at Melbourne’s Gingerboy, Power has drawn influence for his menu from throughout Asia. Eaters can expect a collection of small plates (think fried chicken and filled baos) as well as larger dishes such as grilled fish wrapped in banana leaf and served with a yellow curry. Handmade dumplings will be a permanent menu item and Power plans to offer a yum cha set menu in future, complete with upscale sesame prawn toast. Like Tua, he’s just as committed to keeping things relaxed
“We don’t want white table cloths and linen,” says Power. “That style of dining has waned in the last couple of years. We want Sweetwater to be a destination, but we also want to make it a place for locals and to be a big part of Freo.”
The kicker? The Sweetwater experience isn’t limited to the bar – takeaway alcohol sales are also available, and that includes some of the cocktails.
“If you really like what you’ve been drinking, we’ll make you a batch to go home with,” says Tua. “We’ll even make you some Bloody Marys to help with your hangover in the morning.”
Sweetwater Rooftop Bar is at Richmond Quarter, 147 Canning Hwy, East Fremantle and opens in July.