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So if you’ve just finding out about Greenhouse for the first time via my website, you can consider yourself a little slow to the party.
Not that that’s a bad thing of course. I’ve always considered myself 80% tortoise and 20% hare. That you get there in the end is all the really matters, and any restaurant owner will tell you it’s the long term regulars that make the business worth being in, not us fly by nighters who swagger in on opening night, never to be seen again.
So Greenhouse is/was the most interesting place to hit Perth in quite a while. The concept first started in Melbourne as a temporary installation in Federation Square, constructed in 14 days primarily from recyclable materials. I could warble on about the idea of the place for a while, but I’d really only be restating what’s already been said, so here is something directly from the Greenhouse Perth website (which has lots of background info) about what they’re trying to achieve.
The Greenhouse is about designing and operating better places for people. Places that let us touch natural materials, understand where everyday things come from and taste fresh food straight from the garden
All the features of the Greenhouse are carefully considered first for their practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost. By putting each decision through this rigorous process, it is hoped that the Greenhouse can provide information and examples to builders, designers, restaurateurs and the public, regarding their daily choices of materials, ingredients, and practices.
What this means practically is that the insulation is straw, the flooring in places is former milk crates, the tables and chairs are recycled timber, and smart little touches have been made around the place to make the construction simpler, and the overall sustainability of the place high.
Now all of that is nice and interesting, and I think a great approach to take to designing spaces that are environmentally efficient and use less resources. But no matter the concept, if the food is bad, I’ll be leaving it to the hippies to enjoy on their own.
Fortunately for Greenhouse, the food is not bad. In fact it’s very good. The kitchen is headed up by Matt Stone, former sous chef at Star Anise, and briefly at Pata Negra before irreconcilable differences meant he looked elsewhere. The boy knows how to cook. The food at Greenhouse is considered without being pretentious and the back to basics produce driven approach is a lovely natural way to eat that definitely fits the Greenhouse agenda.
On previous visits I’ve tried the “bits and pieces” board featured cheeses, meat balls, salami, salads, and pickled vegetables, as well as an outstanding skirt steak with green papaya salad, and slow cooked lamb necks. The food is not overworked, it’s simply but beautifully plated and tastes great. Bread is house made using Eden Valley Biodynamic flour from Dumbleyung in the Wheatbelt (who are also members and supporters of Slow Food Perth. I love the focus they have on seasonal ingredients and I think it’s the kind of food more people should be cooking.
Greenhouse Perth is split into two levels, with a restaurant and bar downstairs and a separate bar overlooking St Georges Tce upstairs, surrounded by a fairly extensive garden growing all manner of herbs and vegetables, and the whole place trapped inside walls of strawberry plants. According to Matt, not all the herbs they use come from the garden (simply due to the quantity needed and timing) but where possible as much produce as they can grow themselves is used in the food they serve.
Greenhouse is part owned and managed by Paul Aron. He’s had a background in cocktail making and the wine trade, and that shows when you take a look at the booze selection and the wine list. It’s extensive, interesting, and whilst it’s not parochially West Australian, all the best we have to offer are represented.
For me, Greenhouse is a little view into the future of restaurants and the way things could go. The compromise to comfort and style is minimal and the food, service, and atmosphere are great. I hope it’s not just seen as a novelty venue, because the thing I like the most is that thought has gone into all levels of the design. Where conventional choices of bulding material and design are involved, much of the decisions are made already, but in places like Greenhouse, right down to how the toilets work, there is a considerable amount of time spent thinking about how the right balance of function and efficiency can be achieved.
If this considered approach to design and food can be continued in other venues then you can wrap me up in chicken wire and roll me on down to the next one.
100 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Phone: (08) 9481 8333