Looking to hit all the best new eateries in the state? Start right here with our wrap of 2023’s finest.
2023 was a year in which operators continued to launch ambitious new ventures, fulfilling ambitions and realising their visions along the way. There are some backed by serious muscle and experience, others that are intensely personal and intimate, and some that just want to show you a good time.
And whether they’re big-ticket all-day diners, breezy pizza places serving just a few items, or venues treading a fine line between bar and restaurant, if there’s a thread, it’s that the West’s dining scene is continuing to strengthen and broaden, with the state a more exciting and delicious place because of it.
After midday, at the kiosk next to Margaret River Skate Park, Corey Rozario is given the keys and starts cooking tonight’s dinner. With a friendly, ultra-casual setup and the Margaret River Youth Precinct in the adjoining building, this is the very definition of a local spot. Rozario’s Burmese heritage inspires his cooking, but his cuisine draws on a range of South Asian influences with Australian touches throughout.
He writes the blackboard menu as he goes: dahl is standard issue, but dishes around it change regularly, served with spiced ghee, fried curry leaves and local herbs. Vegetable coconut curry, say, offers a lighter range of flavours, with fish sauce, makrut lime, balachaung and a mountain of herbs and toppings. A slow-cooked kangaroo tail and potato curry sees the meat fall off the bone to go with bamboo, pickles and herbs.
Freshly made flaky parathas, the quintessential South Asian flatbread, are at the ready, as are the wonders of the Daddys condiment cart: Dad’s sambal and crunchies, Uncle’s pickles, and fantastic smoked fish sauce. There’s no liquor licence, but bright and warming drinks are available. While the refinement of the offerings will necessarily vary, the welcoming vibe here is its own form of cuisine. Zero pomp, just deliciousness.31 Wallcliffe Road, Margaret River; instagram.com/dahldaddys
Isoletta Bar + Ristorante
Money can’t buy happiness, they say, but it certainly can buy one of the western suburbs’ most beautiful fit-outs. It’s hard to know where to start. The de Gournay gilded wallpaper mural? The imported Italian brass, marble and mirrors? Or the artisanal Marana Forni, known as the “Ferrari” of wood-fired ovens, all the way from Verona? Then there’s the wine, with nearly 50 different bottles listed above the $300 mark on an extensive list (among, thankfully, more affordable drops).
Sit at the pizza counter and the oven gets a workout right in front of you. Pick the Mare, and stunning Shark Bay prawns and calamari adorn a puffy red base with bottarga for added depth. It may well prove to be one of Perth’s most talked-about casual dishes. The strong seafood game continues with a grilled half Geraldton cray, brightened with herbs and citrus. Match it on its own with a McHenry Hohnen chardonnay, or toss it in with a salad of tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil.
To finish? The house tiramisù, with superb amaretto notes is an easy pick, but the lemon torte is a knockout, involving yuzu-infused white chocolate, chewy almond meringue, lemon curd and lemon gelato. Happiness on a plate, and it turns out, you can buy it. 99a Waratah Ave, Dalkeith; isoletta.com.au
It only took one meal for Geraldton locals to want to claim chef Nadem Turkia as one of their own. The former refugee cooked up the local lamb and immediately Geraldtonians had raised the funds to help him open his own space: a light-filled diner tucked next to the iconic sandstone cathedral, which glows by night. One meal and he never went back to the Northern Territory, and at the time of writing is yet to go to Perth.
Locals don’t want to share his shakshuka or beans cooked in tomato with tahini for brunch, or his Middle Eastern pizza with za’atar for lunch, they want them all to themselves. Turkia is from Jordan, with Syrian heritage, so think bold uses of herbs and a love of chickpeas, but more to the point, a love of place. Laian’s food pays homage to the incredible local lamb of the Southern Rangelands (in kofta and more). To the seafood of the nearby Abrolhos Islands (pink snapper with creamy freekeh, perhaps). Or the famed tomato and cucumbers and capsicum of Western Australia’s oft-overlooked Mid-West coast, perhaps acting as a bed for crisped squid on rocket salad. This is inspired food, from a chef who cooks from the heart. No wonder Geraldton has embraced him. 56 Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton; facebook.com/laianrestaurant
Set next to its sandwich-shop sibling Peggy’s and fitted out in retro-fabulous style, Lola’s brings a fresh dynamic to Perth’s pizza offer. Despite flirting with Italian influences, one thing should be made clear: Lola’s is anything but your classic Italian pizzeria. Instead it takes cues from classic NYC slice shops with a dose of nostalgia thrown in. That means the pizzas veer towards robust bases – some classic, others deep-dish – with enough structure to hold their own.
Chef-owner Harrison Peasnell spent months researching flour blends, fermentation times and organising for the PizzaMaster deck oven to be shipped from the US. Toppings, meanwhile, are what you might just call Australian, in that there are no rules (and yes, there is a ham and pineapple). Pick the spicy sausage, and a red base comes topped with ’nduja, calabrese, pepperoni and pickled chillies, all dripping in fermented-garlic honey – perfectly cut by the freshness of a cracking panzanella salad.
Starters lean to seafood, with yellowfin tuna crudo featuring guanciale and smoked peppers, or “KFC-style” calamari with miso ranch. Drinks are good value and geared to refreshment. And even though its early days, the vibes are already exceptional. 41 Market St, Fremantle; eatlolas.au
The food of Southeast Asia has long appealed to West Australians, so it’s no surprise that Miss Mi, a Melbourne import helmed by Filipino-born chef Alex De Leon that draws on the food of Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China and more, is an instant hit. De Leon knows this topography intimately and presents plates as daring as they are devotional.
While utterly distinct, each dish (designed to be shared) weaves seamlessly into the next, with hats tipped to the broader Asian larder, from Sichuan to Bangkok. Time-spun classics, such as prawn toast, enter a new dimension with flourishes of tangy yuzu and chilli compote, while “street snacks” are equal parts nostalgia and intrigue: think pillowy prawn and crab dumplings with gem-like caviar, or grilled kangaroo skewers with candlenut crumb.
Besides the avant garde, noble classics are reimagined: lamb-shoulder rendang collapsing from the bone upon a decadent coconut base; grilled cauliflower bejewelled with golden toasted coconut; and a homely Filipino classic of pork and pineapple curry, with an accent of makrut lime. While the wine list could be more ambitious, the innovative cocktails – like the cuisine and décor – are at once sophisticated and disarming. A steady newcomer, with interest aplenty. 388 Murray Street, Perth; missmiperth.com.au
Normal Van Main Street
After a long day tasting cabernet and chardonnay, there’s every chance you’ll need a burger. And not just any burger, but the kind that Normal Van has forged a reputation for – the juicy, saucy, dripping, salty, squishy sort that shows no mercy to tabletops or pant legs. Owners Rob Webster and Jess Waldron go the extra mile, sourcing produce from nearby growers and fashioning almost everything from scratch.
You can taste it. The flagship Normal Burger pulls no punches, the Dirty Clean Food beef patty’s deep flavour poking through the shouty chorus of house pickles, yellow cheese and tangy special sauce. Nor does a fried chicken number that offsets the sting of a buffalo glaze with a torrent of cooling ranch dressing. As for the chips, they’re every bit as crisp and assertively seasoned as you’d hope, made even better by pulpy, smoky tomato ketchup.
All the richness adds up quick, but well-chosen beers and wines offer relief, as does the genuine sense of hospitality that pervades the pergola-shaded courtyard. Roll up your sleeves, grab some serviettes and take it from a member of the chipper team: “If you don’t roll out of here, you’re not doing it right.” Unit 2, 115-117 Bussell Highway, Margaret River; normalvan.com
Rojiura Curry Samurai
Launched by Hokkaido native Nobukazu Muraki this year, the first international outpost of the Sapporo soup-curry shop Rojiura Curry Samurai offers a unique take on Japan’snorthern island’s famed dish that’s renowned for packing a day’s-worth of vegetables into one bowl. Rojiura’s version is built on an umami-rich tomato base, delicately balanced with spices and herbs, including cumin, turmeric and oregano. Each bowl is then accessorised with a rainbow of either 11 or 17 fresh, seasonal vegetables, each cooked to best maintain its flavour and texture. The dish is then served with a bowl of a special blend of Hokkaido Kirara 397 rice and glutinous barley on the side.
It’s testament to the depth of flavour Muraki coaxes from his soup that the large, airy restaurant often packs out, city goers filling the sparely decorated space, which is decked out in wood and neutral tones. Another draw is how customisable your experience is: guests pick from six soup bases (including vegan options), select their spice level (be warned: even a four or five out of 10 packs a punch), then choose their proteins (popular picks include fall-off-the-bone chicken Maryland or jiggly braised pork belly).
Sides like cheese potato mochi add interest, as does a list of beer and wine from Hokkaido, something rarely, if ever, seen in Perth. Come winter, expect this place to be even more pumping. 4A Shafto Lane, Perth; au.samurai-curry.com
The room is lined with backlit mirrors, casting curves of lucky red over the space. The tables are laid with a spoon, fork and chopsticks, promising a pan-Asian experience. The tiled green columns recall the trunks of palm trees, while overhead, hessian-coloured fabric cascades across the ceiling like a tropical wave. It’s a cute space, and the service and food also hit the spot, from skewers of lamb flavoured with red curry to garlicky pork dumplings.
Don’t skip the purple eggplant balado, though, a jumble of creamy eggplant coated with sambal, makrut lime and coriander, texturally lit with the addition of matchstick potatoes. A tataki features thin slivers of beef that, while slightly resilient to the bite, sparkle with pepper jam and threads of daikon. A sweet red curry of chicken with curry leaves, meanwhile, can only be faulted for being overly generous (as if that’s a drawback).
Dessert? There’s nods to WA with a condensed milk panna cotta, but steer toward the silken tofu doughnuts with five-spice. Clever, and like Shui, leaving you wanting more. 12 Rokeby Road, Subiaco; shuisubi.com
Occupying the space at the base of One Subiaco, on the site of the old Pavilion Markets, Subi Continental is bathed in light. It whispers long lunch. With a capacity pushing 350, the site, which bills itself as a corner tavern and bistro where Paris meets New York (no pressure), could strain under the weight of expectation, not to mention its sheer size. But Subi Continental has one of Perth’s most seasoned hospo professionals in the wings in Miles Hull, who counts Jetty Bar & Eats among his varied interests.
And from entrance, the experience is on show with a friendly, efficient greeting and waitstaff with a good grasp on the menu and the tight wine list. There’s an option to stake your claim at the bar – a spot that by day looks to facilitate solo working lunches and features a casual, reduced menu (clock the cheeseburger) – but it’s the restaurant proper where the magic happens.
Gildas land piquant and briny, pickled mussels come spread on toast with saffron mayo, crisp croquettes burst to reveal smoked ham hock. Steak tartare for entrée is très traditional, while the kitchen excels with market fish, today goldband snapper plated with spinach, a bisque beurre blanc and charred lemon. It’s some trick pulling this off for such a large space, but somehow, Subi Continental has made it work. Roll up. 10 Rokeby Road, Subiaco; subicontinental.au
The Banksia Tavern
While its doors have only just opened, the retro-whimsy fit-out of this tavern-style eatery-bar makes it feel like it’s been at the heart of Busselton for much longer. The bar is polished wood, booth seating is in deep forest green and the wood panelling and floors have an air of the Old World about them. Glance around, and the place is filled with a mix of mates, families and couples of all ages, implying it’s been embraced by locals like an old friend.
Glance around, and the place is filled with a mix of mates, families and couples of all ages, implying it’s been embraced by locals like an old friend.
The skill in the kitchen and the bar suggests it’s far from its infancy, too. Denmark-smoked boerewors is dense and flavoursome, its heft offset with peperonata, fried onion rings riding shotgun. Blackwood Valley beef bitterballen are both filling and generous, and make a great alternative to more commonly sighted arancini and croquettes. But it’s the vegetables that are the star of the (mostly) shared menu: a medley of South West brassicas, perhaps, charred to smoky perfection and served with pickled chillies on a velvety base of cashew sour cream and avocado.
Still, this is a tavern, so the bar is prominent, with local craft beer on tap, local wines on pour and crowdpleasing cocktails in the tins, all well priced. It’s a match with warm service and the likes of The Strokes spinning on the record machine. The album? Room on Fire. 43 Prince Street, Busselton; banksiatavern.com
Threecoins & Sons
Red is the colour of choice at the Trequattrini family’s Threecoins & Sons. You’ll find red tablecloths draped over tables and a red and white striped awning over the outdoor courtyard. Red, of course, can symbolise many things – love, luck and charity for starters.
At Threecoins you’ll see it all: couples staring at each other lovingly, the lucky flash of a parent’s hand preventing their two-year-old from inhaling their handmade spaghetti from the bambini menu, and the smiles of old friends raising a toast with WA wines, like the aptly named The Sauce red blend from Si Vintners. You’ll find specks of sundried tomato on the crudo, bright red-orange ragù tangling with tagliatelle and sheets of translucent ruby-red meats from the delicatessen section.
The highlight, though, is the range of pinsas, the Roman flatbreads, perhaps topped with creamy La Delizia stracciatella, fermented chilli honey and fennel-flecked finocchiona, the thinly sliced salume draped artfully atop the bread. The dining room sporadically bursts into rounds of cacophonous laughter, perhaps fuelled by a wine list that scatters locals with a natural lean among affordable, thirst-quenching Italians and adds an ever-changing section dedicated to a specific region. To finish? Pick the creamy tiramisù to share – after all, what’s a good family gathering without dessert? 2/776 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley; threecoins.com.au
Stepping into the retro-styled Vin Populi, it’s clear this is a venue that prides itself on light-hearted fun and escapism. Exuberant waiters sashay around elegant tiled tables, “Buonasera’’ rolling off the tongue. Patrons chit-chat over Negronis across the 180-seat space, as classic 60s crooners cry out from the stereo.
A self-confessed “love letter to Italy”, Vin Populi is the third venue by Emma Ferguson and Dan Morris, of Balthazar and No Mafia fame. Helmed by chef Leo Crescenzi, who hails from Lazio, Vin Populi offers bona fide contemporary Italian fare showcasing the best of WA’s local produce. Case in point, a range of simple but exquisitely prepared antipasti: grilled zucchini marinated in olive oil, pepper and salt; juicy portions of local octopus; decadent truffle salame.
A perennial highlight is the tagliatelle osso buco, a wide ribbon pasta dressed in a rich, buttery braise of young beef or veal shanks; an absolute showstopper. Plenty of tables are reserved for walk-ins, adding to the breezy Fremantle feel, but you can grab a cocktail while you wait – and the excellent people watching comes free. 11 High Street, Fremantle; vinpopuli.com.au
Don’t even think about skipping the bread basket. Consisting of pockets of pita, triangles of crispbread and ornate simitia bread rings encrusted with sesame seeds, this trio of wonders isn’t just good eating, it’s essential for the Greek ritual of papara: using bread to mop up the leftover juices on your plate.
At this modern, whitewashed cottage-turned-taverna, much of the menu deserves the papara treatment. There’s the super-smooth hummus, served warm and crunched up with fried chickpeas and braised lamb. The Corfu-style tomato and vinegar sauce that lifts charred Fremantle octopus is another of Yiamas’s liquid assets, as is the on-theme drinks menu packed with Hellenic cocktails, Island wines (Cretan vidiano!) and Greek spirits.
Enthusiastic staff are just as excited about the booze as you are and will gladly talk you through it. Not that all of Yiamas’ menu needs decoding. Local snapper and goat saddle carefully grilled on the open kitchen’s charcoal hearth is classic Greek cookery done right, while fluffy dolmades filled with sour cherries and bulghur, with avgolemono sauce for dipping, proves that you can teach an ancient cuisine new tricks. 26 Denis Street, Subiaco; yiamasperth.com.au