Perth Dining: A Japanese Restaurant Within A Classic Aussie Pub
It seems John Parker and the grand Dame who’s now sitting pretty on the corner of William and Wellington Streets were destined to meet.
Parker knows pubs. After all, they’re in his blood. So, when the third-generation publican and owner of Northbridge favourite, The Standard, first set eyes upon the neglected heritage-listed building overlooking Yagan Square, he knew how to make her shine again.
Obtaining a 25-year lease and completing a $13-million joint renovation with Charter Hall, Parker is now in it for the long haul.
“Back in her heyday, The Royal was a hive of mixed activity. She was the true epicentre and melting pot of Perth. And just a great Australian pub,” he says.
“We might not be bringing back the card-game scuffles, the flocks of sheep crashing through the Saloon window, the bar-brawls with ex-Sheriffs, or the fireworks in the front bar (all true), but it will be the same mixed hub and a hell of a lot of fun.”
Since reopening in November, locals have had a chance to reacquaint themselves with the iconic Aussie Sheila, and now it’s time to meet her refined (but equally fun) little sister, Fleur.
Making her debut in January this year, Fleur is the 45-seat, Japanese-inspired restaurant, nestled within The Royal, that transports to a fantastical, more intimate world.
Caramel cream walls and honey-coloured tabletops, bathed in candlelight give warmth, but amid earthy tones are pops of brilliant colour, including; Joseph Mcglennon’s illuminated lightbox of parrots, surreal artwork by Miguel Vallinas, and pink and purple cascading flowers by Fox and Rabbit. It’s elegant yet as eclectic as the restaurant’s playlist.
And while Parker is responsible for Fleur’s interior design, it’s executive chef, Chase Weber, who’s the real artist at work here.
I join Weber (who’s also executive chef at The Standard) at the bar beside the busy kitchen where he explains his vision for the restaurant that’s expected to be his greatest accomplishment yet.
“We want to be a place where people can really enjoy themselves and come back to once a month, not just on special occasions,” Weber says. “We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves as fine dining. We think we’re doing amazing food but we don’t want that image of white tablecloths and static atmosphere. We call what we do fun dining.”
With the additional skillsets of Shane Middleton (ex-Santini and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal), Rohan Park (ex-Fervor) and Ricky Lim (ex-Bib & Tucker), Fleur’s kitchen is a formidable force, producing dishes like Donnybrook marron in kombu butter with yuzu noodles dressed in tobiko; and Wagin quail with baby shiitake in aged soy and a rich kangaroo xo, containing no less than 35 different ingredients.
Weber is also reluctant to categorise cuisine. “We don’t want to be called Japanese because we’re not. Now we’re doing food with a Japanese flavour profile but in two years’ time we might be doing something based on somewhere else in the world.”
One constant, however, will be the use of quality West Australian produce, with dishes on the current menu featuring the likes of Wagin quail, Abrolhos Island scallop and octopus, and Margaret River Wagyu beef.
Fleur has a soft spot for seafood. It works well with the Japanese-inspired flavours and small but concise selection of sakes from favoured Japanese distillers. For example, the Abrolhos Island scallops, served raw in a mixture of virgin soy, apple juice and wakame, pairs well with Seaside Sparkling Junmai – a twice fermented sake with citrus notes.
Behind the bar, Patrick Carpenter (ex-Halford Bar and El Publico) is like some sort of mad genius at work. He tells me he prefers to create a drink to match a person’s mood. “If someone comes in and they’re feeling a bit down, I’m going to give them a Southside because it’s life-affirming – it’s fresh and lively” says Carpenter.
Awaiting my second course, he makes a “snaquiri” (snack-sized daiquiri) to go with the Skull Island prawns. The tartness of the daiquiri (made with yuzu sake, white rum, fresh lime juice, sugar and finger lime caviar) will balance the sweetness of the prawns, done in a shell tare, chilli and brown rice vinegar. Small cocktails are part of the fun at Fleur, acting as ‘pops’ of flavour, or intermissions between the main show.
“Drinks are here to support the menu and my inspiration comes from the dishes,” says Carpenter.
Dining options at Fleur include two tasting menus and an a la carte, while the carefully curated wine list is predominately Australian, with some New Zealand and European offerings.
“We’re looking for people to have a selection within the courses – a small cocktail with snacks, a few entrees between people accompanied with a sake or house spirit, then a main course with wine,” Weber says. “We want people to experience more while they’re here.”
More is certainly what Fleur provides. Sophisticated yet simple, bold yet delicate, familiar yet enigmatic. She’s a complicated lady – but then again, all the good ones are.
(All images: Fleur / supplied)
Published 13 February, 2020