Wine bar Romulus set to open in Leederville from the same crew as Lupolab

Romulus Leederville
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When Mirko Silvestri first arrived in Perth from his native Rome, one of the first jobs he ever had was slinging coffees at Leederville brunch stalwart Sayers.

Now, years later – and four years after opening his popular Italian eatery Lupolab in the heart of Mount Hawthorn – he’s come full circle. We had a chat with Mirko as he prepares to open brand new wine bar Romulus in Leederville, in the very same location he was once making coffees.

Romulus Leederville

The drive to open Romulus was, in no small part, sparked by the availability of the location – a space Mirko has appreciated since his Sayers days.

“I always loved the design of the place,” he tells us as we sit inside the restaurant on a hot afternoon at the tail end of November.

“I live in the area with my family, and I’ve always loved Leederville and seen it as a very vibrant, cool spot. It’s such a nice and liveable hub, I really believe in its potential.”

“Obviously I wouldn’t have done a cafe like it was before because it was a cult favourite – it never would have been better than what Mark and Steph had done!”

“To be honest, having a shop and a young family, it requires a lot of energy. And having a restaurant, hospitality – it’s long hours, a lot of responsibility, and nearly every day. When we had breakfast service at Lupo, we were open for three years, seven days, from 7AM.”

“So when this opportunity came up, I can’t say my wife was totally happy! But it was more about the potential I’d always seen in this spot, the affection that I have for it. Always with my colleagues we’d be talking like ‘One day…’. It’s just a beautiful, vibrant, different place.”

Romulus Leederville

Anyone well-versed in Roman mythology will be familiar with the tale of Romulus and Remus – with the image of the twin brothers suckling at the she-wolf now the symbol of Rome. While Lupolab was named for the she-wolf, fittingly Romulus has been named for the infant who would become the first king of Rome.

“The wolf is the symbol of my city, Roma,” Mirko tells us.

“We wanted to have some connection with our brothers at Lupo, so we chose Romulus because he was the first king of Roma in the legend – plus my grandfather’s name is Romulo. Unfortunately he’s unwell, and so we wanted to dedicate this place to him, but also connect with the identity and strong heritage that is our city, Roma.”

Although named for such an iconically Roman legend, Romulus’ influences cast a wider net than Lupolab’s, reaching all over the Mediterranean and even across the Atlantic to Latin America.

Romulus Leederville

“The idea was to create something not just a classic wine bar, but a wine bar-bistro, with more of a Mediterranean type of menu. Obviously with our hint of Italian culture! But a place that is not just wine, not just food – a good vibe!

“Our floor manager, Marco – he had experience in Melbourne for years and he’s been working at Lupolab with me for over two years. Our chef, he used to be at the sous chef at [Andy] Waters’ Michelin-starred restaurant in Birmingham.”

“Our barman Max is Argentinian, and he’s had great experience for a couple of years at one of the most popular wine bars in Barcelona. So we’ve tried to bring a bit of our Italian, European, South American vibe, and hopefully it will be the right chemistry!”

Romulus Leederville

The result is a melange of snackable starters that touch on familiar flavours from around the globe. Warm garlic focaccia is served alongside marinated olives and tsatziki, crab bruschetta is topped with chilli, avocado and lemon zest, porcini risotto is served with grilled chorizo. Unbridled by tradition or geographic constraints, it’s a rather Australian menu, when you think about it.

Accordingly, wines follow a similar pattern.

“We’ve tried to have quite a good selection with the wine list,” Mirko explains.

“Dividing the wine into aromatic and textural, making it easy to understand. Quite a good selection but it’s not too overwhelming – we want to be able to explain to people what we’re serving and what they’re tasting!”

“And we’ve got French wine on the list too – not just Italian or Australian, but we’ll have a chardonnay from the USA, for example, a Malbec from Argentina.”

Similarly, cocktails include popular twists on Italian classics – like the Montenegroni, made with well-loved Italian amaro Montenegro – as well as a few technicolour contemporary options influenced by bartender Max’s Argentinian background.

Romulus Leederville

“Everyone is more than welcome – if people want to come for just a fancy cocktail, we have it! If they want to taste a nice and simple wine, we have it! They want to pair this with a nice tapas starter, we have it! They want just a classic pasta, mains, desserts, cheeses… We want to present it nicely, but make sure that people aren’t hungry!”

Romulus is scheduled to open in early 2024, and is located at 224 Carr Place, Leederville. Check out our sneak peek below!

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