Another year older – well it was an exciting year all round in the food and wine game – a number of excellent new places opening with more promised in coming months – and of course plenty of places shut their doors, demonstrating the competitiveness of the industry, the draw of opening a new place, and the difficulty of keeping your head above water.
Anyway, to the highlights – some brilliant new bars appeared – Tinys at QV1 turning out superb food and wine, with their attached liquor store hosting an array of top quality wines – the fabulous Spanish inspired Los Bravos from Emma and Dan of No Mafia and Balthazar – the cured Spanish Mackerel is probably my dish of the year, love it – the much anticipated natural wine emporium, Wines of While – and a shout out to the white bean dish here, too – Dan Wegener’s two adjoining spots – Harvey Leighs Public House and Harvey Leighs Wine Room, both with great food and drink and the former hosting one of the wine events of the year, Young Gun of Wine Uncut. And just as the year closed, the guys behind Tinys and Mary Street Bakery opened Panama Social – taking over the premises of the short lived brewery restaurant Cyril Mason’s (where during its short life I had the best deep fried sandwich I have had) –and with excellent South American influenced cuisine, a well put together wine list and a great fit out this promises to be a hit. Another new bar, in Leederville, also impressed in 21st Amendment with an excellent wine selection and food ordered in from surrounding outlets while a French bar The Crêperie by Hexagone in Shafto Lane does a great range of crepes with a fine selection of wine and some hard to find WA wines from small makers among them. But old favourites still hold their own and are kicking goals, none more so than No Mafia and Billie H – both at the top of the bars in the metro area.
As far as tops go, rooftops seemed to be all the rage too with the renovated Melbourne Hotel opening Aurora Rooftop Bar, while the fabulous new QT hotel at the corner of Barrack and Murray has QT Rooftop, the tallest in Perth. Andy Freeman’s new Middle Eastern place in the eye catching Hibernian Place development, Hadiqa has its own roof top area to go along with top quality food, and a few weeks ago the National Hotel in Fremantle opened up the roof with views across the port and with a beautiful use for the belvedere on top. Finally Ficus on the roof of Yagan Square opened with a flourish and to great reviews.
Doubletree by Hilton opened between Christmas and New Year in James Street and this contains a snappy new bar, James Street Bar and Kitchen while not a rooftop adds another destination in Northbridge, just in time for the Fringe.
Speaking of hotels, QT also boasts a brilliant new Italian restaurant, Santini, as well as a very inviting adjoining bar of the same name. The new Westin in the Hibernian Place development has invigorated the East-end of town and, along with Hadiqa, Arthur and Co and Garum have really lifted the food and drink offerings in the area. And with re-invigoration in mind, the Meat and Wine Company in the beautiful old Palace Hotel is a standout – a fantastic use of the old place, and good food and wine besides.
Other places that have impressed are a new Thai street food restaurant, Louder Louder, Yes Please, a late night spot at the upper end of James Street that has outstanding food and an innovative wine selection, Greek food place, Yefsi, and what is probably the best Chinese restaurant in town, the Grand Orient in the Melbourne Hotel. And I have to mention one of my favourites, the East Indonesian Manise – small place, small menu, big on flavour and value. Must have set a new direction moving from its bistro style to what could be termed more family friendly, share style – but still stunning – food, and the Standard still sets the standard for innovative food in Roe Street, along with a top notch drinks list and its welcoming garden area.
And as for garden areas, then in Perth you would be hard pressed to go past Henry Summer – fabulous spot and they hosted another of my favourite wine events, Native Wine. Outside the city, well the Rose and Crown in Guildford still has quite the best beer garden going around, although across the road, Little Vines, part of the Little Guildford Gardens of Guildford set up along with Louies Pizzeria, has a wonderful relaxing garden area at back under grape vines, with very good food and a nifty selection of local wines and beers.
Since I am talking of the Valley – then I must mention the new Italian restaurant at Pinelli Estate – again high quality food in very pleasant surrounds, Riverbank which has possibly the best food in the Valley and has improved its wines remarkably, and I have enjoyed the simple but tasty food offerings at Pandemonium Estate, and they have the added attraction of the Swan Valley Gin Company on the same site. And not to overlook an old favourite, and one of our regulars, Kappys for excellent home style Italian fare.
Outside Perth – well still loving Liberté in Albany, Due South, also in Albany, Morries and Elkamo in Margaret River, the great little Busselton bar, Fire Station, and the excellent Japanese restaurant at Fishbone Winery.
Impressive places interstate included favourites Bar Rochford and Temporada in Canberra, Aria in Brisbane, and Embla and Stomping Ground in Melbourne.
We went to some outstanding wine shows, too – the already mentioned Young Gun and Native Wine shows, as well as a couple by Fruitful Pursuit – one at Tinys and the other at the Bird – Unwined In Subiaco, top class outdoor event, Gourmet Village in Margaret River despite the rain, Wine Show by the Bay at UWA and the always brilliant Taste Champagne this year at Point Fraser at Beaumonde, where we returned to Point Bar and Grill for a most enjoyable Melbourne Cup event where the champagne again flowed freely.
Many great wines consumed – you can have a look at my Instagram account to see a lot of them – and many more likely on the cards this year.
It has, as I said at the top, been a very good year, made more so by the arrival of two little girls – Emmy Rose in March to our daughter;
and Rachel Jane in November to our son.
Happy new year, all.