GT 2022 WA Restaurant of the Year
Eating your greens is a breeze at this airy cellar door restaurant in the Perth Hills. While the kitchen garden isn't as conspicuous as the vines that greet guests on the drive in, it's front and centre on a menu where deftly handled proteins – juicy steamed snapper, say, or thickly sliced porchetta – play second fiddle to estate-grown produce. So "beetroot salad, half heritage chicken, calamansi marmalade" features juicy grilled bird riding shotgun to the sweetest white beets; billowing leaves of Portuguese cabbage become a de facto tortilla for spiced lamb; and bitter citrus and baby mustards sharpen deep-fried duck hearts in a cool duck à l'orange remake. And on it goes, right through to the surprising deployment of eggplant in the brownies. While Millbrook epitomises farm-to-table, lunch is priced so everyone can play. Easy-going staff, snappily priced estate wines and widescreen forest vistas remain hallmarks of one of WA's most vital food experiences.
Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale, WA, millbrook.wine
Did you hear the one about the CBD restaurant that accepts reservations, serves entrée-main-dessert and hires waitstaff that dress and act like professionals? In an age where wine bars, small plates and overly familiar service are all the rage, the modus operandi of this art deco wonderland might seem radical, but it's not: polished, old-school hospitality has been Balthazar's thing since opening day in 1998. The current menu is big on remixes of the classics; a translucent peel of pressed raw scallop and sea mullet scattered with tobiko equals new-wave carpaccio. Roast pork belly finds synergy with a clever scallop crème anglaise and char-grilled pineapple. Sandalwood nut ice-cream lends a contemporary accent to a textbook marjolaine. This is assured stuff, as is the patter of top-shelf waiters who know (and love) what they're doing, especially when it comes to helping diners make the most of the powerhouse cellar. A Perth classic that's ageing spectacularly.
6 The Esplanade, Perth, balthazar.com.au
It's a broad church that worships at this happening restaurant and bakery in Freo's West End. While some come simply for coffee and takeaway, the devout flock here for the theatre of the open kitchen and the pleasures of a menu informed by executive chef Scott Brannigan's little black book of farmers and producers. Save for the signature charred lamb ribs, dishes come and go with the growing and fishing seasons: harissa-roasted cauliflower and pomegranate with an avocado purée is a wintry joy, while tamarind-glazed mullet goes swimmingly with corn electrified by pickled onion juice. The floor staff patrolling this converted warehouse are just as sweet and sharp and revel in decoding dishes and highlights on the concise, mostly Western Australian drinks list. House-baked bread remains a key part of the Bread in Common experience, whether you're talking mopping up plates, or the dishy fruit-loaf bread and butter pud with orange-cardamom ice-cream and butterscotch.
43 Pakenham St, Fremantle, WA, breadincommon.com.au
The French word for flower seems an odd name for a pub dining room leaning this hard into Japanese cuisine. A pub dining room where juicy kangaroo and pork tsukune kick-start proceedings. Where ocean trout is sauced tableside with a smoked mussel dashi. And where sake sits comfortably on a drinks list pushing sharp cocktails and wines that are as contemporary as the art beautifying this timeless, low-lit space. (As maverick as some of the paintings might be, Fleur, like the rest of the heritage-listed Royal Hotel it resides in, is still more awe than shock.) By the time the rosy dry-aged duck, Cacao Barry chocolate sorbet, petit fromage and other Gallic flourishes do materialise – by way of optional but recommended dinner add-ons, such as a luxe rock lobster prawn toast remake – you're so under the spell of charming waitstaff that gaffs in continuity seem like the smallest of small beer.
531 Wellington St, Perth, WA, theroyalhotelperth.com.au/fleur
Team Le Rebelle clearly missed the "French food is dead" memo. Or maybe they got it and the restaurant is, in fact, a permanent wake commemorating the death of stiff, cookie-cutter bistros? For fans of Hubert, Bar Margaux, Porcine and other nouveau-French establishments, welcome home. While the mood in the cosy dining room is buoyant, serious kitchen smarts pay dividends for eaters. Golden goujons of Spanish mackerel arrive in a pot of airy sauce Américaine that's been emulsified to order. Roasting duck breast (crisp of skin, juicy of flesh) on the crown means diners get supple tenderloin as a bonus cut. Haloumi and a crottin-style goat's cheese star among the house-made fromage. Whether they're helping guests navigate the French-accented wine list or looking up track names on the rap-heavy soundtrack, engaged waitstaff are just as attentive as the chefs and embody this neo-bistro's youthful vim and ambition. Vive la révolution.
676 Beaufort St, Mount Lawley, WA, lerebelle.com.au
The pasta at Lulu La Delizia hits different. Whether you're marvelling at the bite of the gramigna, admiring the ornate corzetti or surrendering to the pleasures of a gutsy boar and smoked pancetta ragù, this new-wave osteria in Perth's inner west redefines the possibilities of flour power. Yet top tier carb-loading is just one of the reasons why locals and clued-up visitors hustle hard for tables. Many come to witness Joel Valvasori-Pereza reference his family's Northern Italian heritage in cool, unexpected ways; from sweet-savoury squid ink fritole dusted with fennel sugar and presented with mascarpone and salmon roe, to using poppy seeds to crunch up precision-cut raw scallops. This is a loud, high-octane ride, ably fuelled by a crack floor team that seems to be enjoying the night as much as guests, as well as a formidable Aus-talian drinks list that favours boutique beer, wine and – fittingly – potent grappa.
5/97 Rokeby Rd, Subiaco, WA, lululadelizia.com.au
Tubaq alyawm. It's Arabic for "today's dish" and its presence on the menu is one of many surprises that await eaters – as is the curiosity that some of Australia's sharpest Middle Eastern food is in a converted bus garage in boho-chic North Freo. Don't let the café-esque aesthetic fool you, Propeller is an operation of substance; from the attentive service and thoughtful drinks list to a kitchen that sweats the little things. Sometimes the food is about the familiar cooked with precision: spiced rankin cod entombed in shattering brik pastry, perhaps, or dense orange almond cake with an intense pistachio ice-cream. Other times, it's about getting a crash course in the breadth of Levantine and Maghreb flavours, such as learning that a Tunisian-style tajine maadnous is closer to an omelette than a stew, or that roast Brussels sprouts plus anchovies and pickled eggs is a fine way to win friends with salad.
222 Queen Victoria St, North Fremantle, WA, propellernorthfreo.com.au
Succulent crystal crab spiked with horseradish, piled on a golden disc of roti. Charcoal-grilled octopus with a yuzu kosho-esque blood orange and chilli paste. Pink mushrooms roasted with schmaltz and nutritional yeast: Si Paradiso, for an Italian(ish) restaurant, boasts an unusual highlight reel, which is precisely why Perth crushes so hard on this fantasy of '60s Roman cool – parquetry flooring, gilded photography, terrazzo and all. The cool kids aren't just here to dine, however. They're also here to drink and improve their understanding of lo-fi Italian-Australian vino and what constitutes a well-made cocktail. And they're also here to dance to DJs in the amphitheatre while laying waste to puffy Naples-style pizza, charry bread baked-to-order and hit with a downpour of pecorino and pepper, plus other new-school ballast. It's a scene, certainly, but Team Paradiso works hard to make sure guests feel like they're part of the party.
1/446 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA, si-paradiso.com
Is it a coincidence that some of WA's most painterly dishes are found in a restaurant overlooking an art gallery? Although Vasse Felix has long anchored discussions about Margaret River's best eating, this regional pioneer has found another gear of late. Over the past four years, chef Brendan Pratt has been refining his style, and it shows in a tight edit of plates that are more adventurous (corn custard draped with silken sheets of fazzoletti and egg yolk), more technical (apple lathed into fat, translucent straps and played off against cured scallops) and more delicious (here's to you, flatbread with beef tongue, XO sauce and black truffle) than what's cooking at garden-variety winery restaurants. While a new confidence also underpins the wining – is that a skin-contact sav blanc on the drinks list? – some aspects of the dining remain unchanged, chief among them being the floor team's winning blend of knowledge and charm.
4357 Caves Rd, Cowaramup, WA, vassefelix.com.au
If the name Wildflower suggests unruly, the reality is anything but. From the sincerity of the welcome to the parting gifts of sandalwood nut fudge and takeaway bush teas, the in-house restaurant at Como The Treasury is as polished as the rest of the hotel. Native ingredients are a recurring motif throughout your meal, from the whipped wattleseed butter served with the bread, to the jewels of finger lime adding a pop to cured snapper. Nasturtium and pickled discs of kohlrabi are played off against roasted marron; an onion soubise helps offset the heft of glossy wagyu. There might be edgier dishes and dining rooms around, but when you're drinking from a cellar this deep and being looked after by one of the city's premier floor teams, edgy seems irrelevant. A trio of sorbets (Jersey milk, rosella and chocolate) crowned with glassy shards of rosella make for a vista as pleasing as Wildflower's rooftop views of the CBD.
Como The Treasury, Lvl 4, 1 Cathedral Ave, Perth, WA, wildflowerperth.com.au