A chilly winters evening begs for a wood fire. We find a cosy little eatery in Fremantle that fits the bill perfectly. Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, on High Street, serves hearty comfort food cooked exclusively in its wood fire oven.
Head Chef Kenny McHardy is a champion of West Australian produce. It’s showcased in his ever changing menu which is currently full of winter goodies including roasted beets and truffles. I can sniff out a truffle as well as any truffle dog, so I am pleased to see that they’re currently being featured at Manuka – we’re in the thick of truffle season after all. They’re sourced from a boutique truffle orchard in Manjimup, run by none other than Chef David Coomer (Star Anise, Pata Negra).
The intimate restaurant oozes Freo with its limestone feature walls. A friendly waiter presents us with a small, though well chosen, drinks menu that features WA wines, beers, ciders and spirits. We enjoy a velvety smooth pinot noir from Mount Barker winery Mount Trio. The drop has cherry aromas and is a great match for slow cooked red meats.
The popular spot is soon full with customers and the open kitchen is a hive of activity. In saying that, it’s not a noisy restaurant and we’re happy we don’t have to shout over the table as we order our meals. The menu is made up of share plates and gourmet pizzas.
We choose the “Chef’s Menu” at $55 per person. This includes seven dishes from the menu, with the addition of the fresh truffles for an extra cost of $20 per table. Money well spent in my opinion! Along with our wine, we devour roasted olives, which are served warm. The roasting process gives them a softer texture and slightly milder flavour.
The deliciously spiced flat bread is served with Cooladerra Farm olive oil from Frankland River. The simple bread, freshly baked to order, arrives hot and fluffy from the wood fire. We tear at the bread and dip chunks into the luscious smoked eggplant babaganoush, lapping up every morsel.
The wait staff are very knowledgeable about the produce used and tell us a little about each dish as it’s served. Next, we share organic feta from Over The Moon Organics, a small Albany dairy farm where the farmers milk the cows and make the cheese. The creamy cheese is delicious drizzled with honey and a scattering of walnuts.
Little Chef tucks into a smoked beef chorizo pizza ($21) topped with olives, capsicum, spring onion and feta. We sneak a slice and discover that the base is as fluffy and light as the flat bread.
The first of our meat dishes, Manuka’s award winning charred chicken thigh, is incredibly moist and full of smoky flavours. On the side is pickled red cabbage and a moreish miso sauce.
The wood roasted beetroot is insanely good. I’m a beetroot fan. I love it on burgers and in salads. Roasting this winter vegetable takes it to a whole other level of flavour. Glistening pomegranate pearls, shaved truffle and a smoked labne make this a decedent veggie dish indeed.
The beef shin, slow roasted for sixteen hours, is gelatinous, smoky and rich. Served with baby roast potatoes and shavings of parmesan and truffle, adding an earthy flavour. It’s good, honest food and absolutely mouth-watering.
We finish with little bowls of deconstructed lime cheesecake. Sprinkled with roasted white chocolate and laced with juicy chunks of persimmon, it’s a zesty and light dessert to end our tasty feast.
Chef Kenny owns Manuka, along with his wife Jody, who runs the front of house. The kitchen team use the simple cooking method of the wood fire, which really allows the top quality produce to shine. The menu at Manuka changes by the day, depending on the local ingredients that are available, so you’re always able to try something new.
Chef and I are impressed by Manuka Woodfire Kitchen’s punchy flavours and beautifully cooked food. We would happily return for more of their warm hospitality by the wood fire.
** First published in the Post Newspaper
At a glance
■ Manuka Woodfire Kitchen
134 High Street
Phone 9335 3527
■ Opening times
Tuesday to Sunday
5pm till 9pm
value for money 5
■ style – Wood-fired cuisine
■ wine – small list of wines from
all around Western Australia.
■ Head Chef – Kenny McHardy
■ Owners – Kenny and
■ feel – warm and inviting
■ wheelchair access – yes
Share $7 – $38
Pizza $17 – $21
■ all in all – Manuka serves
dishes straight from it’s
wood fire. Bookings are