Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, Perth

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, Perth.

Can you still call it a sea change when a chef in the country moves to the big smoke? At any rate, Kenny McHardy's appearance on one of Fremantle's busier thoroughfares promises good things for eaters, or at least those with an appreciation for honest and punchy flavours. As the restaurant's name suggests, playing with fire is the name of the game: coriander-spiked chicken that's crisp of skin and succulent of flesh; chorizo rendered smoky and juicy over the coals - but the wood-burning oven gets used in subtler ways, too. Bathed in rice vinegar and served cold, marinated wood-roasted mussels make a brilliant first course while roast potatoes get transformed into some of the lightest gnocchi around (the accompanying, utterly satisfying osso buco, however, is not so light-on-its-feet). Food aside, cosy surrounds and a tight, all-WA drinks list are further reasons to set course for this likeable newcomer.

Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, 134 High St, Fremantle, WA, (08) 9335 3527.

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