The only thing not entirely West Australian about this restaurant is its chef, Kiwi-born Kenny McHardy. But like Neil Finn and Lorde, we’ll claim him. McHardy is a deft hand with superior technical skills. He cooks scrupulously sourced local ingredients in a “posh rustic” style where simplicity and wood fire deliver dishes greater than the sum of their parts.
An aged fetta tart is delicate and marshmallowy in texture and topped with jaw-jamming honeycomb and generous slices of grower David Coomer’s black Perigord truffles.
Char-marked house-made bread is served with fruity local olive oil and is reason enough to make the journey to Fremantle for McHardy’s food. Plunge it into some super-smoky, next-level baba ganoush.
Take the chef’s direction (McHardy will send a stream of dishes to your table without you having to bother about scanning the menu) or pick from the regular card. A charry cauliflower with whey and parmesan or a melting slow-roasted Dorper lamb with smoked yoghurt and sweet, tangy date puree are the sort of dishes one might enjoy on a regular basis, although the menu changes often, based on what produce a farmer, producer or fisherman brings to Manuka’s kitchen door.
The service team gives good front of house and there’s a slightly hippy, Freo approach to customers: a sort of crocheted-blankly-on-the-couch vibes which we love. Kenny’s partner, Jody, is the boss out front and she manages customers and expectations with aplomb. The dining room is a DIY delight with cushions fashioned by the mother-in-law, and charming, homely touches on the exposed brick walls.
McHardy and his team are renowned for their honest, produce-driven food. It’s a must-eat proposition when in Fremantle.