If there’s one thing that we know about WA dining, it’s that it moves on and evolves each year. What was new just last year may now feel like a rusted on go-to, and for those that are always seeking something new to dovetail into their dining rotation, the search continues.  

Between the launch of each guide, we have a state wide eye on new openings, and while we often talk about “guide season,” we’re always looking, forming an opinion and bringing you the lowdown on the best openings. You can get the latest via our new openings section but here’s a few of the places that have really struck a chord with us.*

As new openings go, Gibney has been in the spotlight from day one.  The restaurant site described by owner George Kailis as “a dining unicorn,” is impressive on paper but even more so in real life. With head chef James Cole Bowen, the restaurant manages to use French cookery as an anchor point, while still being eclectic in its ideation. There are elements of a classic brasserie-grill whilst maintaining an essential element of being West Australian. The drinks and desserts are equally impressive, and we covered much of that in an expansive feature on opening, and an interview with Group Sommelier Nina Throsby.

In Fremantle, Kenny McHardy’s new wine bar Shirley’s has all the quality you’d expect from a chef who has made his name on quality produce. At this vino-centric venue, food matters. Think bite-sized dishes inspired by recipes from McHardy’s past, and a more relaxed affair than the fire-based sharing dishes that the chef was known for at his previous joint, Manuka Woodfire Kitchen.

At new Highgate opening Lo’, Tomas Bidois does the thing everyone who’s been on a life-changing trip does: rave about it. Except he’s letting his food do the talking, with a menu sporting fried green tomatoes and devilled egg hash browns. Lo’ is a nod to the Lowcountry of South Carolina, low and slow cooking and low fuss. Take the sirloin steak, a slice of southern barbecue culture but rather than yams you’ll find something tailored to the West Australian season, like Jerusalem artichokes drizzled in honey. Collard greens are swapped for woodfired Brussels sprouts. Butter is comfort and you’ll find comfort in deep-fried chicken cradled between the halves of a buttery biscuit (an American biscuit, mind you) with a quenelle of miso maple butter.

At South Bird Hot Chicken, spice-doused fried chicken is the main event, but a considered drinks list, quality tunes and a diner style setup collude for a unique take on a Nashville classic. Touted as ‘Northbridges first dedicated Nashville Hot Chicken diner’, South Bird takes over where North Bird Wine Store left off, with a modest touch up, including diner style booth seating, polished wood details and a focus on good tunes. The menu is a brief but all-star offering. The breading is thick and so crunchy that its audible with every bite. Sandwiched between soft, warm white bread with slaw and mayo means messy faces and fingers.


Heading south, at de’sendent in Margaret River, Evan Hayter, and his small team, work from an open kitchen with chefs serving part of the ten-or-so course set menu that is by Hayter’s own admission “snack heavy.” But then, who doesn’t love snacks? Expect riffs on a crab salad with toasted brioche, good butter and whatever crab is in season within local waters. Hayter may be dry ageing dhufish landed at Augusta, or fresh western rock lobster. The message here is expect the best, Hayter always having an eye out for what’s local, in season, and the best expression of the region.

Busselton Pavilion is many things, from modern pub to distillery, and wine shop but the immediate draw is the work of Parker Group culinary director Brendan Pratt (formerly of Vasse Felix and drive through startup Coffee Heads) and head chef Jacob de Caen, who have steered the menu away from pizza and more basic pub fare. Think, beef tongue with roti and pickled onion, and flash roasted squid from Geographe Bay basted with house-made XO sauce. They don’t forget those with a more conservative palate – there’s also room on the menu for a rib-eye and pork schnitzel.

Additional reporting: Jono Outred, Ange Yang

All images: supplied

Back to News & Articles