The North Fremantle newcomer is offering considered snacking and a deep wine list in breezy, beautiful digs near Leighton Beach. Here’s where to start.
Despite being close enough to Leighton Beach to feel the salty sea breeze, Al Lupo transcends preconceived ideas of beachside dining, instead transporting diners to a contemporary wine bar that would feel at home in any cosmopolitan European city.
Owners Greg Leaver and Alex Brinis set out to create a “beautiful, classy bar by the beach”, and nailed the brief. Highlights include an elegant, green marble-topped bar, the hundred-or-so European and Australian wines on offer behind it, and the upscale menu that redefines bar snacks.
WA Good Food Guide spoke to Leaver about the current pervasive pull of burrata, the cheesecake recipe his wife brought back from San Sebastián, and the new menu coming this week.
What was the vision behind Al Lupo?
Something a little bit different to your average beach bar, a bit more interest and intrigue, and a space that was able to be used day and night. But we wanted it to be unambiguously a bar. It looks like a bar, there’s wine everywhere, there’s cocktail stations, there’s lots of booze on the back bar. I think we just wanted it to have that really classy elegance, but located by the beach.
How did you and your business partner Alex Brinis approach working with chef Carlos Olivari to execute your vision and deliver a cohesive dining experience?
We wanted to have food that surprised people, and we ended up designing a bar menu which is very concise, very simple but everything is very carefully thought through. Carlos has been around for a little while and working on the concept; it wasn’t something we came up with overnight. It’s broadly Mediterranean, with a real bias toward seafood. We’re right on the beach, so it’s seafood heavy, and we make all our own bread in-house, and crackers and pickles.
With that development phase we came up with enough for three or four menus, and so we’re now in the process of evolving the menu and having a new menu out this week. The big sellers we’ll leave in and around the edges of that we’ll start adjusting.
What should I be ordering to start?
Pretty much everyone who comes in orders the scallops. We don’t do much to them, it’s just very simple Shark Bay scallops in the shell with some chilli butter.
How about for a larger meal?
There’s a beef rump that is delicious, served medium-rare, with a bit of spicy sobrasada. Each dish really is just one main ingredient and we don’t play around with it too much but just make that ingredient something special.
And seeing as it’s a bar to enjoy with friends, what’s a great dish for sharing?
Everything is good for sharing. Everyone’s selling burrata at the moment; I think we’re probably selling more burrata than anything else on the menu. We’re just doing it with some burnt peaches and some of our in-house focaccia, which we make everyday. There’s also the cucumbers; it’s an unusual grilled cucumber dish with ricotta and puffed rice and some parsley oil, and it’s such a beautiful looking dish.
And for another snack or two that I can enjoy if I don’t want to eat animals?
We have a dish that we call beans on toast. It’s a very Italian dish that my daughter had and sent me and we gave it to the chef to make. It’s basically crostini with some white beans and some fennel; it’s just a really delicious combination. And the tomato carpaccio, which is a very simple dish of really nice tomatoes, sliced thinly, and some dehydrated olives, local olive oil and a little bit of salt. So simple and fresh.
How about something to drink?
I’m drinking an Italian white wine called pecorino. It’s a floral, fresh Italian grape, and we’ve introduced a lot of our customers to it because we don’t have a traditional semi-sauvignon blanc or standard white wine that people would tend to come in for.
If it’s not that, we have an organic Italian rosé that’s beautiful – people might tend to think of Provence and rosé, but we’ve been introducing them to this Italian rosé – a Chiaretto di Bardolino – which has been really popular. We open a bottle every few days and give the staff a taste and get them to describe it, we’re working our way through the wine list. We’ve got about a hundred wines here, and a lot that people may never have heard of.
Something sweet to finish? There’s a certain cheesecake from the Basque Country that’s pretty special, right?
We’ve got a couple of delicious desserts. One is an individual Basque cheesecake. My wife brought the recipe back on a serviette from an old lady in a San Sebastián café, and Carlos added his own twist with a dehydrated mandarin-citrus sugar that he uses to brulée the top.
The other dessert is a French-style tarte Tatin, which we make from scratch to order. It’s thinly sliced apples, caramel sauce and pastry. I think it’s one of the best desserts I’ve seen in any restaurant lately.
Al Lupo, 25 Leighton Beach Blvd, North Fremantle. allupobar.com; @allupobar