The beer garden is back
West Australians love their beer gardens but in recent times WA’s original alfresco drinking venues have fallen from favour as hipster small bars and high quality licensed cafes capture a new generation of drinkers.
Publicans say the renewed popularity of the pub beer garden was inevitable with the pendulum now swinging back towards hotels after a decade of growth in the small bar sector.
The Windsor hotel publican Geoff Ogden says the more “casual, fun and congenial atmosphere” of a beer garden is popular for a very good reason.
“It’s a terrific way for friends to catch up without the pretensions and expense of a small bar, ” Mr Ogden said. “You’re out in the sun, eating good food, catching up . . . it doesn’t get much better.”
The good news is the return to beer gardens has not seen a return to old-school pub food — overdone T-bones, limp chips and tinned three-bean salad.
The food is more likely to be tapas or share plate-based, although burgers, pasta and fish and chips still dominate.
Some pubs boast wine lists that put posh eateries to shame.
Here are the WA pubs we love for their beer gardens.
A water view
Nothing says WA beer garden like the Hotel Rottnest. Just metres from the waters of Thomson Bay, the Rotto’s beer garden is shaded by massive trees and populated with happy boaties and island visitors. There are not too many places where you can all but wiggle your toes in the sand while drinking a good beer and eating a bucket of prawns or a first-rate steak.
The beer garden at the Raffles has point-blank views of the Canning River near its junction with the Swan. There’s even a jetty where one can moor the boat before popping in for a bevvie. Its sharing menu contains all the usual suspects — chargrilled chorizo, grilled haloumi — as well as some good pizzas and a steak or two.
The Left Bank
This East Freo pub is old school with a big public bar, a small cafe and bigger bistro upstairs. The hordes descend on this limestone former mansion on weekends where they can watch sports on big screens or sit in the sun, watching the boat traffic on its way to Rotto. Basic but good food, lots of beers on tap, loads of fun.
In the air
It’s well named, sitting atop a new(ish) CBD development with astroturfed beer garden from where you can drink in the views at point-blank range. The dining room is sharper than a Bronwyn Bishop rebuke with an arrestingly stylish interior scheme, colourful chairs, pastel-coloured tables and “out there” wallpapers. There’s a proper restaurant but the rooftop beer garden is more prosaic with small dishes such as onion rings, spiced wedges, Turkish bread and dips, a burger and lamb meatballs.
Hemmed in by office towers, this eyrie in the new Print Hall complex is the coolest beer garden in town. Sure they do designer hotdogs and make cocktails, but this is a beer garden in every way, with a good list of beers, casual vibe, beer-friendly snacks and zero pretension. And, if you want to splash out, you can order a wine from the Print Hall’s award winning list.
It’s a beer garden with an outdoor barbecue and a proper pub menu, well cooked at a good price. Pork riblets with Mexican corn is the business and there’s also a $20 “express” lunch. This is a great spot for the after-work crowd who like a pub, in the air, outdoors and above a nightclub (which can come in handy later in the night).
This stalwart on Beaufort Street may be a little old school, but there’s not a chicken parma in sight. House-made sausage rolls, Nonya chilli wings, battered snapper and superb steaks are the go. There are beers aplenty and lots of action to be seen from the streetside beer garden in this the trendiest part of Highgate.
The Rose and Crown
It’s all about the flower-filled garden at Perth’s oldest pub in Guildford. The food is “modern pub”, meaning standards such as salt and pepper squid, garlic prawns in creamy sauce, Atlantic salmon with butter sauce and a chicken parma. With 16 beers, nine on tap, beer-o-philes will be happy, too.
The Windsor in South Perth has always been popular for its beer garden and now the food and wine lists are improving to cater to more demanding customers. It has a restaurant menu, but true to its pubby roots, the beer garden serves suds-friendly dishes such as calamari, buffalo chicken wings, caesar salad and a grilled steak sandwich. On the weekend, it gets hammered by happy young things and locals of all ages.
The Brisbane Hotel and its stablemate The Boulevard Hotel have wine lists which put many restaurants to shame, particularly their clever by-the-glass lists. But this is not the Brissie’s only claim to fame. The modern beer garden is a magnet for smart young things and inner-urbanistas enjoying the buzz of a courtyard beer garden, better-than-average food and a sprightly service.
Ditto above, but in keeping with its western suburbs (Floreat) address, everything is a notch above the Brissie: the interior design is ageless, modern and smart and while the beer garden is small, it stretches through a number of outdoor “rooms” and even includes a tinkling water feature. It’s the best of the modern pub beer gardens in town.
Could this be the perfect beer garden? This Leederville venue is an outdoor venue in the old-fashioned way, but modern, stylish, well designed and right on the new pub food zeitgeist. The food is better than average — good cooking and a smart menu — and with 10 beers on tap, 10 premium and craft beers in a bottle and a good selection of top-end ciders, it doesn’t get much better.
The Beach Club
There was a time when the backyard at the Cott was ground zero for uni students looking for cheap beer.
A big revamp has turned it into a beer garden Crockett and Tubbs would be happy to call home — without the vice. It’s South Beach Miami meets St Tropez beach club and while it’s stylish, there’s room for the boardie-bedecked beachgoers, as well as local grandees in linen and JP Tod’s.
The food is worth the visit — casual, share-style, pizzas and rotisserie meats — but this is a pub and the beers are plentiful.
© The West Australian
More Dining news: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/lifestyle/food/