The Fremantle favourite specialising in homespun spirits, sharp cocktails and a killer snacks list from chef Emily Jones takes the next step with a full-blown restaurant. Here’s what to order.
Despite the gleaming stills looming down from a mezzanine at the venue’s rear, it’s easy to forget you’re dining in a distillery in Republic of Fremantle’s newly opened restaurant space.
After three years of serving housemade spirits and outstanding small plates, an expanded kitchen and a newly installed mammoth wood-fired oven, are allowing Chef Emily Jones (our 2021 Young Chef of the Year) to show off her talents on a larger scale. We spoke to Jones about her vision behind the space, how she collaborates with the distilling side and what’s for dinner.
What was the vision behind the new dining space at Republic of Fremantle?
It’s a very similar concept to what we’ve been doing for the last two years, just bigger. Essentially, it’s all about cooking with that wood-fired oven, working with local producers and farmers, and then just making as much as we can in house. We’re trying to use the wood oven as much as we can to flavour food, using it more as an ingredient rather than just a heat source.
How do you approach collaborating with the distilling team and creating harmony between food and spirits?
I work in a distillery so it’s always in the back of my mind to create food that does pair well with spirits. We do a lot more of that in the front bar – that’s where people go to have a cocktail before they come through to the dining space. The spirit itself influences everything, because we’re making that spirit here from scratch and so it’s the base of everything we do; it really is the inspiration behind the whole building. Tom [Hutchings, the head distiller] is fantastic, we share an office and we’re always spitballing ideas. Something we did on our last menu was create a rice-based infused spirit to cure fish. So we were making our own gravlax with that spirit, and it was something you couldn’t buy, it was just made for our kitchen, and we’re always kind of working on things like that together.
What should I be ordering to start?
The calamari is really good. It’s Albany calamari and we’ve made a “tasty” paste which is like a fermented, umami paste that we slow cook and finish on the fire, and serve it with some really crunchy witlof, some sesame and some pickled fennel. Or the raw fish: we’re only using line-caught, sustainable fish and we’ve made a kosho from jalapeños and grapefruit and then a dressing from apples, so that’s also really fresh and bright and vibrant for summer as well.
Larger plates are much more a presence now, what do you suggest?
My favourite dish is the lion’s mane, which we source from the Mushroom Guys in Kardinya. We crumb it like a schnitzel and serve it with a jus made from smoked parsnip and mushrooms and a vegan butter as well. I feel really proud that I’ve created something that’s like a beef jus but it’s completely vegan.
And now that you can, do you go even bigger?
On our grill section we have large cuts of meat; right now we have a 600-gram sirloin for sharing. We source all our meat from Dirty Clean Foods, where they’re following a lot of sustainable farming practices. That’s served with Brussels sprouts and beef-fat potatoes on the side.
And what do you suggest to finish? Something sweet?
We have a steamed pudding, which is like a sticky date. We’ve made a jasmine-rice sorbet that goes with it, and a golden-syrup sauce – it’s pretty good!
We also have a sticky-date dessert cocktail which is very good – although I don’t know if I’d have them together.
It’s been a busy few years. What do the next few months look like?
We’ve been open for two years but we’re just in our infancy, so we’ve just opened this restaurant and I expect it’ll change a little bit as we’re finding our feet. We’re in the process of changing the menu, it’ll change seasonally but because we’re working with small suppliers those seasons can be quite small stints rather than three or four times a year, so it’ll change quite often.