First Peggy’s stole our hearts with their winning sandwiches, now Lola’s is here to make us fall in love all over again, but this time, it’s pizza. Harry Peasnell spills on all things sauce, dough and fine times in Fremantle.

Harry Peasnell and Harriet Roxburgh’s follow-up to their Freo sandwich shop Peggy’s opened in September, just weeks before we wrapped on our annual restaurant guide. Turns out, we loved it enough for it to nab a nomination for New Restaurant of the Year, and to make our Top 100 list, winning one star in the process. As Lola’s rolls into summer with packed tables and online orders pumping, we caught up with Peasnell to get the inside story on what makes Lola’s tick.

You’ve had immense success with Peggy’s, your corner sandwich shop, which has become a fixture in Fremantle. Why did you think pizza was the next step in the area?

Being in Fremantle, which is kind of an old Italian-heritage town, there’s a lot of old, large-format, 300-seater Italian restaurants, but funnily enough, only a few little Italian pizza shops. For me living in Fremantle, and taking a big jump with opening Peggy’s, Lola’s was about wanting to build in the area as opposed to expanding into different suburbs, and thinking, as a Fremantle resident, how could I fill those gaps? For me, it was a sandwich store. It could be a pub or a roast chicken shop, but with Lola’s, we wanted to do a pizza shop.

You spent months going deep on ferment times, dough hydration, ovens and all the other little things that contribute to the perfect slice. Give us a rundown on what sets Lola’s slices apart.

Obviously there’s a lot of pizza in Perth, but I guess Naples-style pizza is more of the trend at the moment. To me, most of them taste really similar because technically they all use the same cheese and the same tomatoes and the same flour. We’re going for something that’s a slightly larger format, like a 14-inch pizza as opposed to around 11 but with a slightly lower-hydration dough, still with a really good ferment on it, still with a really good flour, but the dough itself is more of a pliable kind of nod to American pizza. It’s not American pizza – it still has a ferment, it’s not really cardboardy style – but you’ll actually be able to eat a slice of it and not have to worry about it falling in your lap.

We also have a night 25 Detroit style kind of grandma slice pizzas that’ll be for dine in only. So little six by eight inch different dough more of a focaccia thicker crispier, cheese edge, Grandma slice. So just something different once again, and it’s absolutely delicious.

And for the dough nerds out there, what’s your approach?

The flour blend that we’re using for our round pizzas is a mixture of Caputo red and blue flour from Italy, made with fresh yeast, with about a 48-hour ferment on it. It’s only got a small amount of oil, we’ve also got a little bit of malt syrup in our dough so it just helps the yeast activate more and give that little more light bit of airiness, but also gives it a bit more of the caramelised dough flavour. Then with the Detroit side, that’s more of a focaccia, higher hydration, slightly more bready pizza base. That’s a longer ferment – up to four days. And it’s made with Wholegrain Milling Co flour, which is the same baker’s flour that we get for our bread at Peggy’s. So super, super strong, high gluten. Super pliable.

Tell us about your oven. It’s a big deal, right?

It’s called a Pizza Master, imported from America. Basically, it’s a three-deck, three-stone 700-kilo juggernaut. In terms of the magnitude of it, it’s an absolute monster. It’s super consistent – obviously we’ve done a lot of trials, and you can literally put a pizza in it, not even spin it, come back five minutes later and there’s no spots on it. There’s no hot spots, it’s just an amazing pizza oven. I did a lot of research – three months-worth of research – then just went down this hardcore American philosophy. I could have bought a very, very nice car instead, but I chose to buy that.

That’s the bases, let’s talk toppings. What are the things people should keep an eye on as must-orders?

We’re not doing the old-school, corner pizza shop with 35 different pizzas where 10 of them are technically the same, just one doesn’t have mushrooms. It’s more similar to Peggy’s, just 10 or 12 pizzas, all with different elements. Maybe three have different bases, then it’s not Coles tinned pineapple going straight onto a pizza, it’ll be us cooking the pineapple in a different way, glazing, smoking it. At the end of the day you’ve got a Hawaiian pizza, but it’s a little bit different.

Then there’s the pepperoni. I’ve got some custom pepperoni made in Perth for us, with fermented garlic in honey – it’s basically a garlic honey, but it almost smells like caramel. So that’s a pepperoni, cheese and a little bit of that honey. Another is the sausage, on a confit garlic base with splotches of vodka sauce through it: pork and fennel sausage and just finely chiffonaded fresh sage, so you get really nice pops of sage, and vodka sauce is the best sauce – it’s delicious.

We’ve got a spicy ’nduja one, a smoked eggplant with Parmigiano Reggiano, pine nuts and basil. And we’ve got a really good prawn one that I’m excited about – a confit garlic base, some really lovely prawns from Fins Seafood, and then just almost flavoured like a prawn linguine with your parsley, chilli and garlic.

It’s not all about the pies. What approach are you taking to snacks and extras, and what are some of the highlights?

We’ve got some little fun snacks on, little one-bite things that can get your palate really humming before the pizza, like a scallop Rockefeller baked in the pizza oven. Ours we’ve got all breadcrumbs and the herb business but we’re also torchoning it into a piece of butter so basically it holds it all together, then once that goes into a 340°C oven, the final product is pretty special, enhanced with a little fish sauce, parsley powder, all that stuff. Raw fish, a really nice salt and pepper squid in a buttermilk brine that’s light and crisp. That’s the type of stuff I want before eating a pizza as opposed to eating 10 slices of garlic bread before you even start. That said, there is a really good garlic bread for the people that want it.

And some of the sides?

We’re doing two salads. One is a bit of a green salad, with seasonal leaves and a buttermilk dressing: it’s crunchy, it’s different and thought out, and pairs well with everything that we’re doing. And then there’s a play on a panzanella salad with fried bread and tomatoes.

Lola’s is three doors up from Peggy’s in the Imperial Chambers building. How did you approach the design to make it fit your vision and the tone around Fremantle?

Looking at the tile on the roof of the building, it says 1896 – she’s old! It’s got this beautiful 50s terrazzo entrance on the floor, this really cool mosaic kind of thing that’s obviously been there for longer than my grandparents have probably been alive. We’ve basically reinstalled a new front because it had a disgusting fit-out from like the 80s, so we’ve ripped it all off and we’ve done this beautiful steel façade which is an ode to the architect Brian Klopper, a Fremantle legend. So there’s really beautiful thin steel, large panes of glass, and it can all be opened up to the street.

It’s very warm tones inside, it’s got a really beautiful recycled jarrah concave roof. Peter Cole is my architect, he did Hope Street Radio in Melbourne and works between Melbourne and Perth, and he’s done this big beautiful communal 12-seater stone in the middle of the room that continues on to the bar. We’ve got these cool yellow, mustardy tiles that are going to age really well playing to the heritage component of the building, and there’s lots of wood, lots of stone. We’ve redone the walls inside as well – there’s 130 years worth of paint layers behind them, so the more we’ve taken away, we’ve found that there’s all these amazing layers and textures to it. So we’ve had someone come and kind of reinstate them. It’s just a pretty fun room, something really different.

And what are we talking for drinks?

A big mixture of wines. We’re not trying to buy Chiantis and West Australian wine only, but have wine from everywhere. We’ve got one from Portugal. We’ve got one from California. This one’s from Tasmania. This one’s from New Zealand. We’re not doing stupidly large cab savs or anything along those lines. A lot of the ethos of it is table wine and the accessibility of the price is a big thing for me. We’ve got bottles of wine on the menu that are 48 bucks and they are absolutely delicious.

Then a couple of really simple cocktails, like a really banging Negroni with the Saison house vermouth from Dave Verheul in Melbourne – super light and floral compared with your average Negroni, but it really complements what we’re doing. Then just stuff for Perth, like Tommy’s Margaritas, mezcal and just the sort of aperitivo-style drinks that complement the menu.

Something sweet to finish?

We have to do a tiramisu. We’ve got to do it. It’s the best dessert for this venue. There’s a caramel layer to it, a coffee crumble. It’s pretty bloody yummy. The other side will be really refreshing desserts with seasonal fruits, and I’m talking as simple as strawberries and cream – it could just be with vanilla ice-cream, meringue. Just really light and refreshing. You can share it between two people. You can eat it yourself.

What are you most proud of about the place?

For a pizza shop, we could have just done a slice shop with the ethos of Peggy’s where it’s like, let’s just like do a nice simple little fit-out and just worry about the product, whereas this one it’s like no, we want we want people to come in and buy that bottle of Champagne and feel like they’re sitting in a room that’s worth it, not sitting on Ikea furniture that’s been thrown together. It’s just that little extra step. So I’m just trying to push it a little bit more forward here and create that ethos, just around a cheese pizza.

Lola’s, 41 Market Street, Fremantle;;

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