WITH the mid-afternoon light slanting through the rosé bottle-lined windows of Nieuw Ruin, sitting at the bar felt like sitting at the centre of a giant chandelier.
The decor at the Fremantle venue, which opened on Norfolk Street in late July, is a physical iteration of its 300-bottle-plus wine list, with shiraz-lined shelves and malbec on the mantle.
Attention to high-quality building materials and thoughtful touches like dried local flora throughout the repurposed cottage ensure an elegant atmosphere that feels like nothing like having dinner in a bottle-o.
Elegance is everywhere, from the three tonnes of reclaimed jarrah that grace the interior to the short, classic menu perhaps best characterised by one of its own dishes, the salted monkfish “under a fur coat” ($16).
Anyone who’s met the stoic gaze of the humble monkfish can attest to its lack of social graces.
Yet here it appears, an unlikely Cinderella, under its “fur coat” of fresh dill, beets, carrots, egg salad and smoked trout caviar.
The result is a welcome surprise, satisfying and refreshing.
Humble origins, dressed to impress, seems to be a theme of the menu, which features sprats, pig cheek bitterballen, and rabbit and pork belly pie.
My friend and I began our meal with a couple of oysters each ($4), and they were so fresh we would have believed the chef (Blaze Young of Propeller and Madalena’s) had walked to the ocean a couple of blocks away and fished them out then and there.
After the monkfish arrived, the market fish (cod) with nettle butter and lemon ($35).
Again, incredibly fresh ingredients done up with simple elegance. Chef Young has often cited her love of fresh, hyperlocal products, and with nettle growing wild all around Freo this time of year, it’s no surprise the sauce was so flavourful. Although the restaurant from the Foxtrot Unicorn crew, boasts “good cocktails-good food-weird wine,” the range of wine available by the glass is still quite small.
I ordered a pinot, which was excellent and slightly tart, but was a bit disappointed by the limited options. Bartender Kieren cheerily assured me that the venue had recently invested in a device that will allow them to pour bottles without removing the cork, so that they can expand the range of glasses. Cheers to that.
It’s clear that Nieuw Ruin is still finding its feet in certain respects, and allowing decisions like whether it will offer table service, and what to do with the back garden, to develop as organically as a good pet nat.
We’re confident they’ll be better than ever when summer finally rolls around and wine-drinkers flock to the wide shaded terrace where I spent a delightful afternoon.
by CARSON BODIE
12 Norfolk St, Fremantle