THE concept is simple.
All the dishes at Manuka are cooked in its woodfire oven—olives and chicken thighs are roasted, Berkshire pork is grilled, pepitas are toasted and flatbread and fish are baked.
Head chef and owner Kenny McHardy’s execution is masterful.
Peering into the open-plan kitchen we see the energetic maestro give every plate his full attention before it hits the pass.
You’d expect nothing less from a man who has worked in restaurants owned by Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing.
I was in my element as the intoxicating aromas of chargrilled protein filled the air.
It’s a heavenly atmosphere. Warming. Homely. Intimate.
The whole place is on another level, and in my opinion this is the best restaurant in Fremantle and up there with the big boys in Perth.
The kingfish crudo ($22) is as fresh as it gets and a few days earlier it was flapping its fins just off Geraldton.
The raw flesh is cut into thick slices and bathed in a wild coconut kefir (fermented milk).
The kingfish was a pleasure to eat, leaving hints of chilli and garlic as it melted in my mouth, and the firm, smoked cucumber was cooked to perfection in the woodfire oven.
The roasted eggplant ($16) is handpicked in Manjimup.
Most pieces are rustically cut, but some of the smaller ones remain whole.
The flavour-packed soft flesh was enhanced by the charcoaled skin, tangy smoked yoghurt and a sprinkle of dukkah.
This dish was so deliciously smoky that I half expected smoke to puff out my ears.
The lamb ($22) is a clever creation: the meat is slow roasted, pulled and then compacted into small slabs and baked for service.
A quenelle of smoked labne and a slice of grilled peach adorns each portion, and the fruit’s caramelised sugars slice through the richness of the dish. Seriously impressive.
Our fourth plat de jour was petite fromage ($14): a dome of oven-baked french cheese served with melted honeycomb and topped with shaved macadamia.
I didn’t think our night could get any better, but this dish sent us into ecstasy and we savoured every last bite.
Manuka has set a new standard for dining in Fremantle.
by MATTHEW EELES
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen
Wed, Thurs & Sun 5pm –
last orders 9pm
Friday & Saturday 5pm –
last orders 9.30pm
Phone 9335 3527