Kenny McHardy

Widely regarded as one of the good guys in Perth’s restaurant scene, Kenny McHardy is the chef at Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, an intimate local wood-fire restaurant he and wife Jody opened in 2015. Just as McHardy is a fierce advocate for local produce and producers, he’s equally passionate about celebrating the local eateries that make up Perth’s diverse dining landscape. Hop in. And don’t forget your bathers.

manukawoodfire.com.au
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Vietnamese Comfort Food

My ultimate restaurant in Perth would hands-down be Viet Hoa on William Street. I’ve been eating here since 2006 after some friends put me onto it. It’s there for me whenever I need a big bowl of noodle soup, lunch or dinner, seven days a week. The seafood laksa is my go-to – I think it’s number 24 on the menu – as well as the stuffed chicken drumsticks. They’re killer. There’s just so much flavour. I think the restaurant has been open for around 20 years and I don’t think the owner has left the pass once. I always go up and say thank you: so much flavour, consistency and love has gone into that menu. They must punch out a thousand bowls of soup a day, I reckon. They’re always busy. Whether I’m there on a Monday lunch or a Friday dinner, the same volume of traffic comes through that place. This used to be date night for my wife Jody and I, now it’s where we take the kids to at night. It ticks a lot of boxes.

The City’s Most Impressive Newcomer

For newbies, Le Rebelle is the top of my list. It’s a very exciting restaurant on Beaufort Street and owners Sarah and Liam Atkinson are smacking it out of the park. You can see that genuine sense of hospitality and soul behind the business that a lot of restaurants are missing. Sarah wears a lot of humility on the floor but her and her team really make you feel welcome and at home. Liam’s food is quite clever: quirky, sort-of French techniques in a modern world. You can tell all the produce as well as the drinks list is carefully sourced. The pommes dauphinoise with the beetroot and kombu cream is really impressive. It looks simple but there’s a lot of technique. It’s not just a side, but a showcase dish on the table. We had it with our steak and to be honest, I enjoyed it better than our steak.

Breakfast (And A Swim) With The Family

A place that deserves a mention is the Surfing Lizard Cafe that’s attached to the Coogee surf lifesaving club. You can taste that south east Asian fusion with lots of acid and crunch that will give a normal day-to-day breakfast a really big lift. You’ll get this wicked cauliflower pancake with an amazing Vietnamese salad with a nuoc cham dressing with a bit of fetta on top. They’ll do things like make confit duck and then use the duck fat to make duck fat chips. I’ve never had a bad meal there. We often go down there on Sundays with the girls and have an epic breakfast and then go for a swim afterwards.

Where Chefs Eat Ramen And Talk Shop

I’m at Oishii Ramen once a fortnight catching up with mates in the industry. The spicy miso ramen remains my go-to. It’s never disappointed me and is the best thing for a hangover or if you need a little bit of an energy lift. It’s also good at clearing the sinuses during hayfever season. There’s also that consistency. You don’t go there from week to week and find the broth is slightly over-seasoned or under-seasoned: it’s the same every single time. It’s a guaranteed solid bowl of ramen.

My Number One Breakfast In Perth

I really love what Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy do at Hampton & Maley at the bottom of Victoria Park. I’m lucky that my mother-in-law lives 400 metres from the cafe. The service from the guys out the front makes you feel welcome. With the palm trees out the front, you could be on the boardwalk in Los Angeles. You can tell there’s utmost sincerity with his menu and everything that he does. Once again, it comes back to super fresh produce and everything’s just really well seasoned. I’d probably rate the blue manna crab omelette as my number one breakfast. It looks very simple but when it comes out and you taste it, it’s just so well executed.

Where I Send People When Manuka Is Full

When we’re fully booked, sending people around the corner to Bread In Common is a no-brainer. You don’t want to recommend someone go to a restaurant that doesn’t live up to the hype. Bread in Common has always maintained its standards, whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. They make everything on site. That’s the most important thing. From the moment you get there and see the beautiful oven and the fresh breads being baked, you instantly know what’s going on. You look up and you see all the pickles and the ferments. Even though it’s a large space, it feels homely at the same time. I’ve never been there and felt that I’m reading the same menu. It’s always changing, it’s always moving with the season, it’s always working with local producers. I’ve never been disappointed with the food or service. It’s always felt welcoming and it’s a great community space as well. You sit at these big communal tables and end up having a yarn to people you might not normally talk to if you were sitting at individual tables.

Say No To Typical Dishes

Middle Eastern restaurant Propeller is a place I like to go to for breakfast. It’s a bit like St John in London where you don’t get your normal standard stuff. Kurt Sampson [the chef] puts what’s available and what he wants to eat on the menu. Last time I was there, I had duck livers with grapes in a sherry reduction served on toast. No one else in Perth has the balls to do a breakfast like that and sell it. But when you put your trust in Kurt’s hands, it’s always good. Propeller also serves simpler, more traditional breakfasts too, but every time I go there, there’s always one dish that makes me think, “holy shit, I need to try this”. For breakfast and lunch, Propeller is one of the top ones for me. It’s so underrated and what they do is fantastic, from front-of-house to back-of-house.

“This Place Just Blows Me Away Every Time”

I’ve got nothing bad to say about Lulu La Delizia. I always go the chef’s menu and leave it in Joel’s [Valvasori-Pereza, the chef and owner] hands. The pasta and Italian food that comes out is just absolute perfection on a plate: there’s nothing on there that doesn’t belong. Everything works perfectly together and there’s Joel’s very light touch with his seasoning. When you can taste that someone’s heart and soul has gone into something, it magnifies the flavour profile of any dish. Joel’s got something that he should be very, very proud of. Lulu is a special part of Perth, it’s a special part of Australia and I think the coolest part about it is that he’s true to his family’s Northern Italian heritage. It’s not pretending, it’s not fake, he hasn’t gone out to do something and then cheapened the product. He’s maintained a very high standard. This place just blows me away every time I have dinner here. Manager Alex Roger’s service and wine knowledge are fantastic too.

A Restaurant That Captures Western Australia

Bib & Tucker has captured the essence of what we’re about in Western Australia: beaches, thongs (flip-flops) and casual dining. They’ve done something where you feel like you’re going somewhere special. You’re on the beach. You’ve got the ocean. You’ve got beautiful sunsets. The menu is cheffy, but at the same time it’s restrained as well. Chef Scott Bridger is a smart operator and he’s back at the helm of the kitchen. I love that he and [co-owner] Eamon [Sullivan] really care about what they do. The menu caters to all diets, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat eater. There’s something there for everyone. We love catching up with friends and having a pizza and some beers. It’s one of those safe places like Bread in Common. It’s very casual, but very smart and sophisticated at the same time.

Perth’s Best Fish And Chips

The best fish and chips would have to be Kailis Fish Market Café in Fremantle. I often struggle to find decent fish and chips in Perth and prefer to make it myself, but I was very impressed with what they’re doing. The market hall is huge and has different stations serving fried, raw and grilled seafood. You feel like you’re on holiday, you don’t feel like you’re forced into something and you’re chilled out. The kids love it because you can look at the fish in the water. It’s a great spot for summer.

The Local Chefs To Watch

There’s a lot of guys in the area to watch that are exciting. People like Matthew Carulei at The Heritage Wine Bar who’s starting to get recognition for his hard work. He surprises me every day with the stuff that he puts on Instagram. Chris Howard at Panama Social is one of my all-time favourite chefs. He kicks arse and I love that you’re starting to see confidence in his neotropical cooking. I think he’s the chef to watch. I’d love to see him get more recognition. He’s a ballsy, phenomenal chef and doing stuff that no one else is doing. And you can see that he’s having fun. Jon Han at the Trade Winds Hotel is another chef that I admire greatly. He runs a huge hotel restaurant, but he’s still putting up banging food. He cares about what he does and has just come back from America and studied a lot of barbecue over there. There’s a really great community of chefs in Perth. One of the godfathers of all that would have to be Stephen Clarke of fine-diner Clarke’s Of North Beach. He’s a really big advocate for bringing people together for charity events and he’s one of my genuine favourites. Doing his style of food can be hard to put bums on seats, but he manages to do it. 

Guide produced in partnership with Gourmet Escape. Gourmet Escape is an international food and wine festival held across Western Australia from November 8 – 17.

Guide last updated October 2019

Our guides are fact-checked and updated every three months. Read more here.

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