11538 South Western Highway, Wokalup
Ph: (08) 9729 3088
The Best of Both Worlds
The street I live on has a renovated house I covet. Its owners have kept their cottage’s early 20th century frontage so that from the pavement it looks merely tastefully restored. However, walk through the front door to the rear and it expands into a contemporary atrium of natural light, concrete and wood. I adore that architectural juxtaposition – respectful of past heritage yet reconfigured for modern living. It offers the best of both worlds.
I was reminded of that cottage on my visit to the Wokalup Tavern’s Brugan brewery and restaurant, run by hoteliers Bruce Hathaway and Megan Hardwick. With its classic Aussie pub frontage largely intact, it looks very much like a set from a Bruce Beresford film. That familiarity extends into the front bar with its bar stools, wall-mounted TV, pasta-of-the-day specials and wide range of on-tap Brugan ales and IPAs, including pale, mid, hazy, amber and citrus sour.
One could quite happily spend a whole visit in the bar and not notice the corridor leading to the rear. But that would be a mistake, because to walk down it you enter a fully modern micro-brewery experience. The rear of the tavern and two dilapidated outhouses have been demolished, their bricks salvaged and rebuilt into an open multi-level space creating a thoroughly modern dining experience.
Brugan’s head chef Dale Squirrell has crafted a menu heavy on sharing plates, catering to the day tripper clientele attracted by the tavern’s halfway house meeting point location. A personal favourite were the bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers filled with cheese, spicy but not too hot, and grilled not deep fried. The sticky Middle Eastern lamb ribs were delicious, accompanied with fresh pomegranate, labneh, and zaatar. Their hugely popular cheeseburger balls are essentially a deconstructed Big Mac with deep fried orbs of beef surrounding melted cheese within, reverse engineered special sauce and pickles on the side – without the soggy bun. The fresh oysters were truly spectacular, more so for being shucked just before serving – SO fresh. The Kilpatricks were excellent too, though be sure to add the accompanying vinaigrette to add some tart to the sweet. Finishing up, a word of caution: the ‘Cry Baby’ buttermilk fried chicken wings are, claims chef Dale, the hottest in the South West. Coming in at 800,000 Scoville, he makes a convincing case. The jalapenos are fermented beforehand to make them even hotter. I managed to eat just one and it took me a whole schooner of the hazy IPA to do it. But that was some endorphin rush.
Brugan is a superb day trip stopover point for families, cyclists, motorbikers, classic car drives, or just those on a lazy weekend getaway. The fenced rear garden includes a safe play area for children and if you time it right, the milking cows may wander over from the neighbouring farm. Plus, if you do wish to stay overnight to make full use of the brewery’s many temptations, there are several rooms available upstairs. All in all, well worth making the effort to visit.
By Paul Hindle