The new juice

A FEW months ago I caught up with a Russell Blakie and Anne-Marie Banting, who were putting together the food and wine menus for the opening of ‘Must wine bar’ they own jointly with former Matilda Bay Brewery founder Gary Gossi.

Their passion for the project was infectious. Anne-Marie told me the original concept was born sometime in 1997.

“I wanted to create a wine bar, and slowly build a culture around it,” she said. “While the bistro style of food is an integral part of the concept we are aiming to develop, first and foremost, Must will be a wine bar.” Their aim was ensure the food was seen as ‘food for wine’.

So many restaurants open their doors and quickly find themselves inundated with punters eager to discover and try something new. High expectations are soon dashed, however, as the “latest place” is, in reality, just another restaurant with a new team, or another pub that has knocked out a few walls and had a paint job, but still serves the same pint of beer.

Heading out last week to the recently opened Must Wine Bar in Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley, I was hoping the enthusiasm and professionalism of a couple of months ago had been realised, and Anne-Marie, Russell and Gary had been able to bring together their concept of the wine bar with bistro food.

Must has a very professional team working both the bar and restaurant. The owners have hired well, with the staff helpful and knowledgeable. The Thursday night crowd of drinkers and diners gave the place a great atmosphere.

I opted to try the bistro menu, which is a little more extensive than the ‘bar menu’ and includes choices such as quiche Lorraine, freshly shucked oysters and steak sandwich with frites.

We explored the sensual chicken parfit at $9.50, the warm prawn cocktail at $15.50 that was full of juicy, fleshy fresh sea-dwellers, the Must charcuterie (tasting plate, $17) of grilled sausage and other such temptations. The goats’ cheese and grilled vegetable terrine also proved a popular savoury choice with our table. All the entree meals had plenty of flavour, were manageable in size and worth another visit.

When our main dishes arrived they were true to the style Russell Blakie was hoping to capture – a great recipe of comfort food. Rabbit, mushroom and Jerusalem artichoke pie at $26 was complemented by green olive-potato mash. Duck confit came with warm roast potato and rocket salad with caramelised pears at $26.50. Grilled Pink Snapper meuniere with steamed asparagus $25.50, and grilled salmon with shaved fennel remoulade and olive paste was $25.

All the dishes presented simply, had plenty of individual flavours with texture and were, above all, satisfying.

I originally intended to try something from the rotisserie, which is as close as you will find to a signature dish, but alas the rotisserie of chicken, shoulder of lamb, or pork sausages will have to await my next visit.

The wine list has been painstakingly put together, with selections from around Australia and the world. There is a master list with more than 250 wines that Anne-Marie says “is growing each day”. There is a good selection of 14 red and 14 white wines available by the glass and you can indulge you senses in a flight (three tastes) of riesling or pinot noir. These flights will change often, as will wines available by the glass.

Must Wine Bar is a refreshing change on the Perth scene and I wouldn’t have any hesitation in recommending heading there for a glass of wine, and perhaps staying around for a bite to eat. Open from 12-12 Monday through Saturday and 12-10pm Sunday.

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