397 Murray St, Shafto Lane, Perth
Ph: (08) 6311 7071
An Inner City Local
The Generous Squire is busy at lunchtime, chilled out in the afternoon and cheerfully sociable after work. All kitted out in stylish browns and grays, the Squire also has a cheeky sense of humour and a fondness for big beefy meals.
I’m talking here about the bar, restaurant and microbrewery on the corner of Murray Street and Shafto Lane in the CBD – not its namesake James Squire, who legend says (according to a wall near the bar) was a convict, mad womanizer and Australia’s first brewer.
Following suit on the theme of firsts – the Generous Squire has the honour of being the only active microbrewery in Perth’s CBD and its first brew, a special bitter called Shafto’s Reward, is now on tap.
The bar is owned by the Kapinkoff family and eldest son Rob runs the family business, along with venue manager Jack Radecki.
Rob explains that his folks have been running pubs for over 30 years, with venues in Perth’s northern suburbs and a couple in the Wheatbelt. In 1998 the family took over Durty Nelly’s next door in Shafto Lane and three years ago they jumped at the chance of taking on the bar with the Murray Street frontage.
Malt Shovel Brewery, the company behind the James Squire range of beers, had approached and asked if they were interested in setting up a themed venue and they saw the sense in the partnership, especially because it involved setting up a brewing operation in the CBD.
While red tape issues with licensing held the brewery plans up a bit and had the one fermentation and two maturation tanks looking like they were just there for decoration, they are now very much in use, producing 1000 litres of beer every fortnight.
For those who like the technical specs: Shafto’s Reward is an adaptation of an English Bitter Ale. It’s about 4% alcohol and 18 on the International Bitterness Unit scale. Brewer Justin Fox explains that its flavour comes from the balance of hops: Fuggles for earthiness, Stella for floral notes and Galaxy for fruitiness, and from the dash of dark crystal malt that gives it some sweetness.
Fox is delighted to be working at the Generous Squire. It’s the icing on the cake of the Edith Cowan University trained brewer’s dream job. As James Squire and Swan are both owned by brewing giant Lion Nathan, he spends four days a week working for Swan making commercial beers with a focus on precise consistency and one day a week letting his creative side loose on the Squire’s boutique brews.
The second beer in the Generous Squire’s collection is a Belgian-style Wheat beer with a dash of lemon myrtle called Wheatbelt White.
As bars go, the Generous Squire is elegant but still warm and welcoming. The decor is all about dark wood, stone, and stainless steel with references to James’ convict past thrown in.
The architecture is intricate: there are several fairly small, intimate nooks for groups to gather in. However, the most popular spots to enjoy a cold one are the two rooms upstairs. The Upper Lounge and The Roof Terrace Bar are both very spacious and can accommodate for up to 70 people each. The Roof Terrace Bar was also the first of its kind in the city, and due to its beautiful views of the surrounding CBD it has become a popular option for functions. Downstairs there is a little terraced area, a beer garden, and the restaurant.
Combined they make for a fun venue that can be crowded and vibrant without feeling barn-like.
The Squire’s favourite tunes through most of the day are relaxed, lounge acoustic numbers, but the music gets a bit livelier in the evenings. Nothing too overpowering though and there is no dance floor. This is a venue all about people catching up over food and/or a few bevvies, and food-wise the Squire is undoubtedly Generous.
The menu is quaintly bunched into sections called General Store, Deli, Pizza, Grocer, Fisherman, Farm and Desserts, with about four or five options under each. Prices range from $10 for bread and dukka to $35 for the eye fillet steak and there’s low carb, low spice and vego options available. The menu also does a great job of recommending beer/food combinations using eight different drops from the James Squire range.
When we turned up to do some tasting we were impressed. If you order the eye fillet steak expect a Rubik’s Cube sized chunk of beef served on a bed of potato, roast capsicum and bok choy with a green peppercorn jus zingy enough to make your taste buds tingle.
The Hot and Spicy Chicken also lived up to its name, with enough tandoori pizzazz to make the mint yoghurt and accompanying vegetables a welcome relief to a couple of fairly seasoned Indian food lovers.
Scott rated the Paella as one of the best he’d ever had. It was chock-full of prawns, cacciatore and all sorts of other goodies, and the rice soaked up all of their flavours so it was way better than the bland wanna-be paellas we’ve had elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something lighter, the fish of the day is an option and it’s served with a generous green salad, packed with low-calorie flavour boosters like finely chopped capsicum and red onion and a balsamic-based dressing.
Rob explains that while meat dishes are a big favourite at the Squire, the chef Keith Lankester understands that lunch crowds and ladies don’t always want big, heavy meals. He adds that they also understand the time constraints of the CBD lunch hour, and have dishes that can be prepared fresh and fast so there is time to savour them before a normal lunch break is over.
Lankester says the pizzas are popular with the Squire’s regulars because they’re easy to share and they’re made entirely on the premises – bases, toppings and all. He’s also happy to customize to suit individual tastes.
Rob says the family’s main aim is to make the venue welcoming and somewhere that people want to come back to, and to this end they encourage patrons to sign up to their VIP membership for discounts and invitations to member-only tasting nights.
Whether it’s the community of beer lovers that hooks you in, the seriously amazing chocolate cake, the chilled out hideaway atmosphere of the place on a busy weekday afternoon or its pumping after work vibe, if my experience is anything to go by – I’m guessing that your first visit to the Generous Squire won’t be your last.
Let us know what you think about this venue by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!
By Dr. Kayt Davies