Ace Pizza has reopened as Highgate Drink & Dine, and it's full of surprises.
"Ace Pizza is going to become a Mexican restaurant." That was the general sentiment around town when word got out Alex Cuccovia was closing Perth's Ace Pizza and reopening the Beaufort Street restaurant with former El Público chef and GT best new talent Sam Ward at the helm. One month later and the reality is something else entirely.
Gone are Ace's black walls and neon signage; warm timber panelling and a fresh coat of white paint now show off the room's bones to better effect. There's been a similar about-turn in the kitchen with the menu going from an homage to American-Italian cuisine to a study in whatever the hell Ward feels like cooking.
For Ward, this new gig is as much about the farmers in his black book as it is the stamps in his passport. He slathers Wagin spatchcock with Walkerwood Jamaican jerk and grills it till the result is as juicy as it is spicy. Avon Valley hogget is cast as the hero protein on the opening menu, with cuts changing daily. Addictive sada roti are perfect for scooping up generous pinches of choka, a Trinidadian riff on Indian eggplant dip.
The Mexican flourishes that brought Ward acclaim at El Público are still there, but they're lending support rather than carrying the show. A complex mole accompanies grilled saganaki cheese and petals of pickled shallot, for instance, while mullet, say, is marinated in recado verde, a spice blend from the Yucatán Peninsula.
Vegetarians are particularly well catered for; the spiced carrots are an essential order, while fried bits of batter flavoured with salt and vinegar taste like leftovers from a deluxe fish and chip shop - in the best possible way.
This isn't food that fits all that easily into a pigeonhole, but it's exactly the sort of satisfying, unencumbered cooking you'd expect to find in a neighbourhood restaurant. Get in for your taste soon.
Highgate Drink & Dine, 448 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA. Open Wed-Sun 5.30pm-10pm.