Restaurant Reviews

Perth's best restaurants right now

The best in the west list, as reviewed for our 2020 Restaurant Guide, is dominated by faithful favourites who continue to push the boundaries.

Propeller
It's a given that the bread baked at this converted warehouse is very good, from the olive-studded ciabatta to rye and crusty white loaves. And while the baked stuff is an event in its own right, it plays incredibly nicely with the rest of the kitchen's cooking. Local produce might be all the rage, but a commitment to Western Australian farmers and an urban farm project in nearby Coogee speaks to an operation doing things right. Here's a set of kangaroo skewers showered with pomegranate seeds and fresh chilli. There's a dish of plump Fremantle sardines with pickled shallot and tomato. This connection to seasonal and waste-conscious deliciousness isn't so rigid that this mess hall-style diner doesn't have room for signatures (even if its famous lamb ribs might occasionally land on the dry side). Service, especially when it comes to bigger groups, can occasionally falter, but thoughtful drink choices – including plenty of house-made non-alcoholic options – great condiments and comforting sweets, like a chocolate délice with mint ice-cream, make forgiveness easy. A standard-bearer for the new "Fremantle casual".
43 Pakenham St, Fremantle, Perth, WA, breadincommon.com.au
How does the CBD love this tavern hiding in plain sight beneath St Georges Terrace? Let us count the ways. It loves it on a Friday when suits crowd the smart-casual public bar for end-of-week knock-offs and crisp, elegant and hugely underrated pizza – some of the city's best. It loves it through the day and night when the dedicated enoteca offers a quiet perch to recharge and explore one of Perth's best stockpiles of European wine, available for drink-in or takeaway pleasure. But most of all, it loves it whenever the occasion calls for spirited Italian dining. Alexandra Haynes eschews the confines of regionality and tradition in favour of a cosmopolitan menu rooted in deliciousness. Sweet summery tomatoes are crowned with thick pucks of pickled cucumber, shichimi togarashi and shavings of dried beef; grilled octopus is played off against vinegary braised witlof; and tagliatelle correctly sauced with an oxtail ragù spiked with cocoa is typical of the gutsy, house-made pasta on offer. Attentive staff patrol the entire venue and know when to swoop with comforting Italianate sweets (a tumbler of tiramisù, perhaps) or to reload glasses.
Lower ground floor, 77 St Georges Tce, Perth, WA, lallarookh.com.au
Lalla Rookh Photo: Jessica Wyld
Lulu La Delizia is a neighbourhood star that's equal parts comfort and polish. One where soul-feeding meatballs and slabs of tiramisù rub shoulders with gin-cured kingfish and saffron spaghettini that tastes of a sun-drenched holiday. Joel Valvasori-Pereza knows his way around eggs and flour, but his pasta – deftly made and al dente in texture – is by no means the only draw. The cosy laneway space, complete with white-tiled kitchen, lace curtains and classic timber accents, has the homely pulse of an Italian family dining table. A crack team of lively waitstaff manoeuvre around the maze of bentwood chairs, delivering textbook Negronis, anchovy toasts and plenty of fun. They might steer diners towards the agnolotti – tidy silverbeet-green rectangular parcels filled with smoked ricotta, cut through with pickled sultanas and enriched with a sage-butter sauce – or a citrus-spiked panna cotta with candied fruit and walnuts for extra bite. Match it with juicy organic barbera from the dynamic and concise wine list with a strong Australian and Italian current and leave smiling. Three cheers for Lulu.
5/97 Rokeby Rd, Subiaco, Perth, WA, lululadelizia.com.au
What's not to love about a place where you can swim in the ocean as an apéritif? A liberal attitude towards sandy feet and wet bathers is just one reason why Perth has fallen hard for this beachside address styled on the neighbourhood bars of Europe. While personable floor staff and a focus on new-wave wines contribute towards Madalena's appeal, most are lured here by the West's most essential seafood cooking. Butterflied Rottnest Island herring with pickled cucumber; golden red emperor wings accented with white pepper and a crudo of razor prawns and silken tofu in a ginger dressing speak to the kitchen's imagination and close working relationship with enthusiastic local fishmongers Fins. The $40 fish, frites and salad weekend lunch special for two revels in the value, both on the wallet and palate, of less celebrated species such as nannygai and flounder. Chef and Andrew McConnell alumus Adam Rees is no one-trick ponyfish, though. Roasted, dehydrated and fried squash with almond cream and buckwheat demonstrates respect for vegetarians. Slivers of just-set lemon tart – and another dip in the sea – make for the sweetest goodbye.
406 South Tce, South Fremantle, WA, madalenasbar.com.au
Madalena's Photo: Joel Rees
You haven't lived until you've tried Propeller's take on knafeh: warm, baked cheese with a light breadcrumb and filo crust, accompanying pear and pomegranate salad and a flash of orange blossom syrup. It's a bold breakfast choice by day, a perfectly balanced dessert by night, and testament to Kurt Sampson's ability to spin Middle Eastern flavours into some of their smartest, freshest and most versatile incarnations. He does it again with kibbeh nayeh, swapping traditional raw lamb for diced kingfish turned through a textural mix of cracked wheat and spices, accompanied by pillowy triangles of flatbread, mint leaves and red onion that bring a fun touch of DIY. There's harmony in the space itself, too, complete with lofty ceilings, cool concrete hues and a service bar made from a repurposed shipping container. Indoor plants and bentwood chairs soften the industrial edge, as do warm staff that appear and disappear as needed throughout dinner. The drinks list is geared towards vinous exploration with a healthy selection of local, classic and experimental wines from all corners. Polished, unpretentious, propeller-spinning fun.
222 Queen Victoria St, North Fremantle, Perth, WA, propellernorthfreo.com.au
Designer décor, star-studded wine list, twinkling CBD views. This is a place for special occasions, one where marble floors cut against soft olive banquettes and waitstaff open proceedings with warm house-baked sourdough. Yet for all Wildflower's man-made glamour, the food is anchored in Western Australian and indigenous ingredients. Discs of green-lip abalone bringing texture to earthy Jarrah smoked kangaroo, or sour plum, rosella and wildflower honey enlivening dry-aged Wagin duck. Elsewhere, native thyme plays against a rich, nutty sandalwood cream, twirls of kutjera bring a gentle acidity to Manjimup marron, and a mix of black barley and risotto come together harmoniously underneath whole-roasted beetroots. Dishes linger in the local realm, and there are plenty of affordable WA wines to match, but the mammoth 16-page drinks list has plenty more for those wanting to spend big or look further afield. After big-ticket Champagne? Order it at the enoteca downstairs. Want something stronger? Go for an Australian-accented Negroni made with small-batch local amaro, Maidenii vermouth and Adelaide Hills gin. A wild ride.
1 Cathedral Ave, Perth, WA, wildflowerperth.com
Wildflower
See the part in the fine print that says "Chef Sam Winfield"? The owner of the freshly minted GT Bar of the Year isn't going to like that. When it comes to preparing food, "cook" rather than "chef" is our man's word of choice. It's a distinction that points to the honest, unembellished Mediterranean food offered to guests at this intimate and wildly popular (natural) wine bar and bottle shop at the top of William Street. The country-style terrine? Chunky in texture and studded with a courageous amount of back fat. Those comforting white beans? Finished with plenty of olive oil and grated lemon zest. Everything on the left-hand side of the chalkboard menu is designed to play nice with the excellent house sourdough (even if said bread needs little more than a smudge of the room-temperature butter it's served with). Vegetable dishes, such as bitter leaves dressed with bottarga, ring with seasonal savour, while comforting pastas like polpette tortiglioni make for great solo lunching. Ask enthusiastic staff to set you up with a glass of something fitting from the bar's world-class line-up of vino and know happiness.
WINNER OF: Bar of the Year 2020 in the GT Restaurant Awards
458 William St, Perth, WA, winesofwhile.com

BEST OF REGIONAL WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The dining revolution will not be televised. Mindful eaters need to drive down an unsealed road in Margaret River scrub to see (and taste) it for themselves. This off-the-grid cellar door – a warm, country-cosy space adorned with contemporary art and timber floorboards – might not boast the history of some of its neighbours, but its self-sufficient approach offers an inspiring blueprint for tomorrow. Evan Hayter doesn't just talk the sustainable restaurant talk: he walks the walk, plants the plants in a biodynamic kitchen garden, breeds trout in winter creeks and uses pigs to regenerate the land. He also has the kitchen smarts to turn this virtue into gratifying lunch menus. Misshapen carrots with a soy-cured quail's egg yolk and estate olive oil equals a stirring vegetarian tartare. Local whiting gets flash-cured by a vinaigrette made from sémillon grapes. Daikon "noodles" and pale slices of air-dried duck in dashi speaks to an interest in Japanese cooking. Estate pork stars in comforting ragù tagliatelle and great smallgoods. Snappy wines, cheerful service and tranquil bushland views from the deck feature among Arimia's other home-grown assets.
242 Quininup Rd, Yallingup, WA, arimia.com.au
Vietnam meets France meets Western Australia's sprawling Great Southern region by way of a Parisian-themed small bar inside one of the state's first licensed hotels. Liberté might be one of this country's most singular and idiosyncratic prospects, yet its spirited brand of hospitality is all too easy to fall for. Here's the plan. Either bag a seat in the bistro-inspired front room (handsome wooden bar, round zinc tables, ephemera galore) or commandeer a sofa in the Belle Époque-era parlour. Kick things off with a round of local beers, wines or well-made cocktails from bar manager and gracious host Keryn Giles, then begin your assault on the menu. Amy Hamilton believes in flavour and cooking without borders, so her Indochine steak tartare is crunched up with fried shallots, jewels of finger lime add pop to jet-black salt and pepper squid, and vegetarian potato and fennel dumplings are showered with crisp matchsticks of pommes pailles. Be it garlic-bread gougères to start, fat profiteroles filled with Vietnamese coffee ice-cream to finish, or a sassy floor team right through, Liberté has no shortage of ambassadors to make its case as a shining regional star.
160-162 Stirling Tce, Albany, WA, libertealbany.com.au
The grand reveal of Millbrook's vines, man-made lake and handsome stone cellar door is reason enough to make the one-hour drive from Perth to historic Jarrahdale. The view gets even better from the first-floor dining room. Initially, it's the wraparound vistas of the surrounding forest that strike you, but once the vegetable-forward food of Guy Jeffreys joins the party – and Millbrook is definitely a long lunch best enjoyed in numbers – the focus quickly reverts to what's happening tableside. The kitchen's choice entrée is the most direct line to the organic estate garden and might feature sweet Hungarian peppers, grilled and stuffed with rice, or thick-cut raw kingfish showered with grated horseradish and thumb-sized caigua, the Bolivian cucumbers. Despite this focus on heirloom varieties, the menu also celebrates the familiar. Dry-aged, bone-in blade steak is served with squeaky string beans and house-made potato crisps. Watermelon and chilli salt combine in an unexpected pre- dessert. Wines priced at a steal, relaxed service, and homely desserts like chocolate parfait served simply with blood plums, reinforce the accessibility of this essential destination restaurant.
Old Chestnut La, Jarrahdale, WA, millbrook.wine
Millbrook Winery.
It's the little things that make this cellar door restaurant a must on any Margaret River eating itinerary. The vibrancy of local whiting, quick-cured to order and presented on a slick of dashi-enriched cream. The give of noodle- like strands of squid, poached in butter and served in a bright broth sharpened with preserved lemon. The tangle of precision-sliced snow peas that conceal fat baked-potato gnocchi, as much an aesthetic flourish as it is about playing crunch against soft. Yet despite all this minutiae, this sleek dining room – all dark surfaces and terrazzo flooring – nails the bigger things, too. "Side dish" seems like a put-down for something as well built as a half-head of cauliflower enriched with miso butter, the steadily expanding wine range has zero weak spots, and the view of the vines and surrounding valley remains a conversation stopper – as is a glossy, chocolate-coated cube of salted caramel and chocolate mousse, the latest in Seth James's ongoing series of photo-ready desserts. A polished floor team, meanwhile, underscores Wills Domain as the complete Margaret River lunchtime package.
Cnr Brash & Abbey Farm Rds, Yallingup, WA, willsdomain.com.au