Behind a nondescript, taped-up window on William Street, a transformation has taken place.
Layers of ill-thought-out false walls and false ceilings are being peeled away, revealing a century-old diamond in the rough – one that’s been hidden away for 40 years. Formerly the Patch Theatre in the ’30s, the building has seen a lifetime of uses, with a billiards hall in the basement, and more recently a Hong Kong dumpling restaurant on the ground floor.
At the helm of this transformation? Dimitri Rtshiladze, the Perth bar veteran who’s behind lauded drinking holes Foxtrot Unicorn and Nieuw Ruin – and helped to open almost a dozen more over the past 15-plus years.
The latest is Edward & Ida’s: an old-school pub and cocktail den that draws on Rtshiladze’s no-bullshit approach, dedication to quality and an all-star team of hospo guns. It’s a pretty promising set of ingredients.
“One thing that Perth has never had has been the corner pubs,” he tells us after climbing down from his ladder, perched amongst the considerable renovations.
“They’re all big hotels. You go to Melbourne, you go to Sydney, you have those tiny little places that have been a tiny little corner pub for a hundred years – that’s kind of the thought behind it. A souped-up version, at the same level of what Nieuw Ruin and Foxtrot can produce, but aesthetically more like a corner pub. Somewhere you can get a pint of Guinness, but also get some sick wine, and some sick food.”
“To be honest, it looks like there’s still a long way to go, but compared to what it was three months ago… The rest is just finishing touches, putting in the bars and furniture and stuff, which is actually the easy part.”
To help him in this quest, Shirley Yeung, award-winning bartender and operations manager across the three venues (Foxtrot Unicorn, Nieuw Ruin and now Edward & Ida’s), will be taking charge of things on the drinks front, while award-winning chef Blaze Young will be overseeing the kitchen as Executive Chef:
“I think the food at Nieuw Ruin has had such a good reception, it’s going to be an extension of that but a little bit more affordable and approachable, and a bit more casual,” Young tells us.
“But still a lot of things made from scratch with really good produce, and lots of old-school, old-world recipes. Very homely, pub-style food – but done like your mum would cook.”
For any fans of Nieuw Ruin’s now-iconic pie floater, rest assured – Young also plans on bringing pies up to Northbridge, with the potential for a pie-warmer-friendly version of the old-school favourite.
(In what becomes a continued theme of our conversation, this is because Rtshiladze has got his hands on a couple of old-school pie warmers that are knocking about.)
“Downstairs will be our cocktail den,” Yeung adds. “Up here we’ll still do cocktails but we’ll keep it more classic, and then downstairs, what we do at Foxtrot really – a bit more experimental, but also old-school, classic styles as well. Less serious, more fun!”
“You know, Shirley was a bartender three years ago,” Rtshiladze adds. “Now she pretty much runs everything. If the business isn’t expanding, people get stagnant, if people get stagnant they f**k off and go somewhere else. Companies that aren’t expanding, they don’t get good staff, and they don’t maintain good staff.”
Fittingly, the basement will be decked out with plenty of vintage decor to set the cocktail-den scene – including Rtshiladze’s collection of mini bottles (7000-strong) and a century-old taxidermy peacock. Upstairs, he describes “lots of really cool old advertising and weird stuff to put on the walls”.
“A lot of talking points for first dates!” Yeung offers.
“We’ve done two venue fit outs with almost entirely recycled materials, this’ll be the third. I think the only thing we ever really buy brand new is some kitchen equipment and some beer chillers and stuff like that.”
Rtshiladze’s is an approach that, in spite of its quirky touches, eschews trendiness and gimmick.
“It’s easy to open a venue and stay relevant for a year or two. In ten year’s time will you be here? That’s the more important question. I’d like to think we’re building places that have longevity – I’m hoping so, anyway.”
Edward & Ida’s is scheduled to open on Wednesday, August 9, and will be located at 269 William Street, Northbridge