A lot of people will tell you Perth is going through a Renaissance in hospitality akin to what Melbourne went through last decade. Small bars cropping up here and there. Food and drink trends here one week, disappearing the next. Fringe festivals for all ages and tastes. Pop-up venues where music, art and great food combine to create unique social experiences, all adding up to turning the city into a more vibrant, multicultural hot-pot of bustling activity.
But while the words ‘small’, ‘fringe’ and ‘pop-up’ might connote a kind of quaint and fleeting aspect to the new social climate in Perth, there are some places that are doing it large and truly making their mark on the city map. Such as Déjà Vu Restaurant and Rooftop Bar in William Street, Northbridge, which is quickly gaining a reputation as the place to drop into, be it for an extravagant meal out or a casual drink, pre- or post- performance.
You may not have noticed the place yet, since its signage is fairly new, but Déjà Vu has been up and running since mid-last year, regularly frequented already by those in the know, and those who appreciate a quirky theme to go with their quality wining and dining.
The brainchild of Marc Pinto, a guy who is popular in Perth’s creative circles, since he owns three artistic collectives – Primitive Tattoo, Tribal Art and Jewellery – all based in the heart of the city, Pinto says he wanted to branch out from the arts to move into the food and beverage scene – one he feels is nascent but vibrant in the WA capital.
With the help of venue manager, Daniele Alogna (himself a dab hand at all things restaurant-related), Pinto has created an impressive two-storey venue that is pleasing locals who are looking for somewhere substantial to frequent while also giving tourists something to write home about.
While sit-down dining at Déjà Vu restaurant is highly recommended (a girlfriend, Simone, took me there for my birthday last year and we had a fab time), novices may want to begin by simply sampling the venue’s delectable tapas over cocktails at the spacious rooftop bar.
Offering unique dishes that combine traditional Asian flavours with good ol’ Aussie bush tucker ingredients, the rooftop bar menu also boasts some of the best pizza you’ll have sampled in the city. The bar’s ‘signature activated charcoal pizza’ range is not only all very good for you (charcoal helps cleanse the system and rid the body of toxins) but all very, very tasty.
For something truly different, try the Macadamia Satay which is topped with ingredients of marinated chicken (or barbeque jackfruit for vegetarians), mozzarella cheese, macadamia satay, coriander, capsicum and various greens. Or the cleverly punned Hummus Where The Heart Is pizza, laid with spiced hummus, roasted beetroot, rocket, basil, mozzarella and – get this – pappadums! If the good ol’ Italian rule of three-ingredients-only is what you abide by, try the Wild Thing, with triple species of mushroom, rocket and a truffle glaze. Simple but divine.
There’s also a vivid tapas menu on offer, with each dish created using plant-based ingredients. These include Sticky Torn Potatoes doused in chilli, garlic and sesame, and Coconut and Jackfruit Pakora Fireballs served with Chilli Jam.
If the ingredients aren’t organic, they’re certainly fresh and mostly locally grown – for ‘natural’, ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ seem to be three of Pinto’s favourite words, as he waxes lyrical about trips abroad to places where farm-to-plate is more a necessity than a trend (he often takes trips to Africa and South-East Asia for culinary inspiration).
But the real stars of Déjà Vu Rooftop Bar are the venue’s cocktails, each one forsaking tired-old shaken not stirred recipes and in their place presenting miniature works of art that are a visual delight upon delivery, and gastronomic heaven when sipped.
My guest Barbara was immediately taken by ‘The Birdcage’, a blend of white rum, red vermouth, fig jam and tropical juice, all trapped together in the cutest mini, yes, birdcage.
I, on the other hand, got my butch on and tried ‘The Viking’, a mix of apple and clove syrup, classic bourbon, citric juice, grapefruit and seawater (believe it). The presentation of this bevvy makes the price tag of $21 well worth it, when you consider some cocktails served in ordinary tumblers cost about the same.
Indeed, the cocktail makers at Déjà Vu are far from ordinary bar staff and beyond the now-ubiquitous title of mixologists. They’re sheer geniuses in the clever ways they prepare and present their glorious concoctions. Even one of the simplest cocktails on their menu, one that has been popular for months, is a miniature work of culinary art. ‘The Garden’ sees alcohol taking a healthier turn, packed with turmeric and ginger infused vodka (all infusions done on premises), carrot syrup and orange soda. Get that Vitamin C fix while feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
Like I said, this venue is perfect to pop into for a bevvy before or after attending a show in Northbridge. Be warned, though. The drinks here are so delicious, you’ll likely be staying a lot longer than for ‘just one drink’. Antonino Tati
Déjà Vu Tapas Restaurant and Rooftop Bar are situated second and third level, 310 William Street, Northbridge, Perth.
Photography by Barbra Bertoli (except for image top of story, courtesy of Dimmi).