Wild pop-ups. High-profile chef arrivals. Even-higher-profile chef walkouts. In 2018, the winds of change certainly made their presence felt on the local dining landscape, not least in the number of new players that entered the arena. Some of these openings, sadly, were short-lived. But others flourished, and managed to carve out their niche in Perth’s increasingly competitive, increasingly fickle market. This wrap celebrates the class of 2018’s brightest stars and what they bring to the table.
It’s telling, I think, that some of these venues featured in the Perth’s Best New Bars of 2018 wrap published last week. And while the line between places-we-eat and places-we-drink gets blurrier every year, traditional restaurants remain the diner’s best bet. Here’s a look back in hunger at the year that was.
Short Order Burger Co
“We didn’t realise that we were going to hit the ground running,” said Short Order Burger Co owner Simon Kony after trying to quietly open in the CBD in early January. He failed. “Word got around really quickly.” If Kony’s humility and uncertainty weren’t reason enough to love the guy, he also happens to sling some of WA’s finest burgers. The fact he expanded to a central address in the middle of town? The man deserves a place on everyone’s Christmas card list.
Don’t skimp on the baked-to-order bread. Or the crudité platter starring vegetables from the nearby rooftop garden. Or the roast chicken. Or the anything. The newest and biggest opening from the Mary Street Bakery team is the most compelling reason to set course for the city’s west end – or, indeed, stick around after work – and make merry at this combined bar and restaurant. Tiny’s intimate bottle shop is perfect for drink-in pleasure and takeaway inspiration.
Arguably Perth’s most anticipated opening of the year, Guy Grossi’s Roman-inspired trattoria at the Westin Perth lives up to its considerable hype. While Grossi’s name is what’s going to bring people through the door, it’s the polished cooking of head chef Mario di Natale and punchy dishes such as braised-oxtail stew and cream-free carbonara that will keep them there. Solo diners can hit the bar for porchetta sandwiches and pork-ragu pasta.
Comprising a Provencal-inspired wine bar as well as a multifunctioning new-school pub, the Harvey Leigh’s complex is Dan Wegener’s (ex Quay in Sydney and Print Hall in Perth) ode to good drinking, eating and living. Hit Wine Rooms by Harvey Leigh’s for updated French cooking and a wine list big on burgundy, champagne, alt-vino and things poured en magnum; then join the party in the main room for all-day crepes and pub comfort cooking.
Juicy Bao Bao
You know and I know that Perth offers rich pickings in the dim-sum department: what’s pleasing, though, is the growth in dumpling options beyond the Cantonese standards. Enter Juicy Bao Bao, a spin-off of beloved Authentic Bites Dumpling House. In addition to slinging outstanding versions of Shanghai’s famous xiaolongbao (steamed soup dumpling) and sheng jian bao (pan-fried pork dumpling), this homely dining room on William Street also does a fine line in claypot rice. “We wanted to offer something more authentic,” says owner Lydia Zhang of the reason for opening Juicy Bao Bao, “something that wasn’t adapted for a Western audience.” Tick and tick.
Wines of While
Yes, this game-changing wine bar on William Street is the most exciting place to pop bottles in Perth, but what owner Sam Winfield brings to the table dining-wise is equally compelling. Mediterranean comfort is the name of the game and pastas such as a slyly spiced spaghetti all’amatriciana, or conchiglie (shells) with mushroom and sausage ensure everyone’s a winner. The house sourdough, meanwhile, is one of the city’s finest breads, while those white beans are fast approaching signature-dish status.
Big Rigz Burger Co
The chef David Thompson associated with this recently opened burger joint isn’t that David Thompson of Long Chim fame, but our man does have an intense interest in hot sauce. Together with former Australian one-day cricketer Brett Dorey, he’s striking blows for better burgers in the port city. The burger itself is seamless and the grass-fed beef patty juicy and tasty in all the right places. The Buffalo- and Korean-spiced chicken wings are also worth setting course for South Freo for.
This Beaufort Street all-rounder is fast winning fans for its relaxed, Italianate approach to life. While many come here on weekends to drink and dance, the attractively priced dining is worth a detour. The high-walled, pliable pizza rates as some as the city’s best with the same dough cleverly repurposed as baked-to-order bread served with a small bowl of sweet, addictive sofrito. Roasted squid? Do it, same goes for the clever salads – that gem lettuce number jazzed up with Calabrian chilli and pecorino puts a cool Italo-Australian spin on the Caeser salad. And did we mention that weekend-only roasted crystal crab with chilli butter, aka Perth’s biggest dining bargain?.
Define “restaurant”. Admittedly this basement izakaya analogue feels more nightclub than dining room, but it’s worth braving the high-volume disco to take aim at some of the city’s punchiest “Japanese, not Japanese” cooking. Before arriving in Perth, Korean-born chef Jaeseong Park worked his way through the ranks of Momofuku’s Toronto restaurants, and his knowing way with spice and more-and-more flavour is evident across the menu. Here’s a fun take on the Bunnings sausage sizzle. There’s a small cup of great fried chicken. And boy our man’s grilled skewer game is strong, isn’t it?
“A bar and restaurant inspired by a liner lounge.” On paper, it’s not a proposition that’s going to quicken the pulse, but in the flesh, this new addition to Freo’s fishing boat harbour deserves a spot on everyone’s summer hit list. Expansive top-to-bottom windows and discrete blond-timber furniture help accentuate the space’s impressive harbour views while Matthew Powell’s cooking follows the room’s breezy lead. House-made ricotta showered with minty peas dovetails with a crudo of lush Fremantle albacore tuna sharpened with fennel seeds and shavings of horseradish. The golfball-sized Scotch quail egg on the bar-snack menu is another highlight.