A resorted old pub and new market garden make Coogee Common, a breezy Perth restaurant, feel timeless.
If you’re lucky or do a little planning, a visit to Coogee Common should begin unconventionally. Not with a drink or a tour of the building, which melds heritage sandstone-pub chic with contemporary architecture in a manner others might use as a template. No, lunch should start in the garden.
In a southern suburb of sprawling Perth, where a sizeable plot would make your average property developer salivate, Coogee Common has devoted the majority of its impressive two-hectare footprint to... peas. And salad greens. And olives. And fruit trees. Beehives and grapevines. Compost and cucumbers. Terraced, irrigated, closedloop agriculture, with full-time gardeners, surrounded by two-storey project homes. It’s inspiring. And it says a lot about the restaurant’s priorities.
Coogee Common represents a cocktail of Perth money, flair and talent. Restaurateur Nic Trimboli has been behind many hospitality businesses, including this one’s Fremantle sibling, Bread in Common, while property developer and design maven Adrian Fini is best known for his stunning redevelopment of the city’s State Buildings precinct. Chef and general manager Scott Brannigan’s energy, food ideas and simpatico with his audience made him an influential player at Bread and Balthazar, before this project launchedstalled- relaunched in the uncertain months of March and April last year.
The owners are household names (if your household takes an interest in Perth’s booming restaurant scene) but this eatery is a no-ego exercise. Rather, it’s a shrewd reading of the way people like to eat and drink these days, built around light, clean interior design, a diverse and well-informed wine offering, ingredients with transparent provenance and modern bistro cooking that’s part of a flexible platform.
In short, there’s a lot of experience and knowledge behind this venue, even if the locale – to an outsider at least – may seem a touch outer-suburban. (Fini tells me the location has hit the bullseye.)
You can snack here – exceptionally – on local sardines with sourdough and horseradish cream and a glass of new-wave Swan Valley chenin blanc, such as Corymbia, or dive into the garden with homegrown pumpkin gnocchi, kale, silverbeet, mushroom and Persian fetta, which calls for the official lunchtime drink of Perth, a Margaret River Semillon sauvignon blanc. Or sauvignon blanc semillon. Fortunately, the clever booze selection is anything but parochial.
A green salad straight from the garden is a must, whatever’s in season. And seafood is handled particularly well here, too – as it should be in the west, where chefs have access to the best available – whether it’s with pasta (spaghettini with prawns) or a fillet of, say, nannygai, cooked in the coal oven with roasted red peppers and a walnut and anchovy dressing.
The menu is interesting but accessible, with Brannigan’s food polished but unpretentious. It accurately reflects this marvellous addition to Perth’s dining scene.
Image credits: Samuel David.