Owner-operator of Perth’s first natural wine bar and shop, Sam Winfield, is championing a specific kind of ‘Perth cuisine’ that carries the many cultures who’ve made Perth home.
“I didn’t grow up in a food family”, says Sam Winfield, owner of Northbridge’s newest resident Wines of While, as he slices up some washed potatoes.
Tucking into a meal at his natural wine bar and shop, you wouldn’t think it. The food served up at Wines of While tastes like the stuff of a lifetime food worshipper, with just enough homeliness thrown in to assume the recipes were passed down from his grandmother. Then again, perhaps you would think it, because Winfield’s food isn’t elite – and it isn’t trying to be. It’s honest and wholesome and refined the way only food made by someone who has taught themselves to cook can be.
Having faced many undue barriers throughout its planning and licensing stages, Wines of While was practically a household name before it even opened its rickety doors at 458 William Street – up the quiet end, right where Northbridge’s nightlife precinct meets its outer residential enclave. The emphasis has been on the wines – rightfully so, the shelves boast an impressive array of imported and local natural wines that drink very nicely – but little attention has been paid to the food. Except by Winfield.
“I grew up with friends in university and even high school who have that kind of history with their family where food is a bringing together of people”, he says, moving on to the carrots. “It was while overseas, especially in Italy, that I discovered the joy of having long lunches. I really enjoyed that kind of food experience, and was finding it hard to get in Perth.”
While working as a doctor which he’s done for the past five years, Winfield would travel to Australia’s eastern states to get his fix – all the while “lamenting the fact that we didn’t have it here.” ‘It’ being this special kind of simple, homestyle food experience paired with natural wines that at the time were mainly only accessible in Perth through importers Living Wines.
It follows then that not much time passed before he decided to open his own place – “life’s too short to drink something you don’t want to drink”, he says. And so began the research, the trying, the testing.
One look at the resulting Wines of While – one spoonful of the white beans and one sip of a skin contact white – and you’re in hook, line and sinker. But it’s not just the great flavours that have you on board – it’s the whole ethos of the place, which Winfield doesn’t even have to say out loud for it to be evident.
Egalitarianism. Community. Simplicity. Enjoyment. These are the pillars of what Winfield has created (they are perhaps typified by the dark crusted bread baked fresh daily by passionate dough-whisperer Rupert McDonald, and served with salted butter for three bucks a pop). They are also the pillars he seems to live by. The love of natural wine? Winfield puts it down to it being “simple and accessible”. And the food identity? A natural progression.
“[The food here] was always going to be about simple, home-style cooking that you would find in the kitchens of Nonnas and Yayas”, Winfield says (he’s top and tailing the beans now).
“I wanted to champion what I think Perth cuisine is.”
Where the commentator’s perception of contemporary Australian cuisine involves native ingredients and produce-driven menus, Winfield’s version of our local cuisine dotingly includes the fare of the many people and cultures who make up our city.
“Perth is full of immigrants from Greece, Italy, Croatia – and everyone’s got a mate who’s got a Nonna or a Yaya and you go over and get fed so much food you can’t move, and everything’s hand-made and always kind of simple and obvious”, he says.
In today’s world, the idea that there is this markedly genuine and populist cuisine that we could call naturally ours is too enticing for me to resist. As I said: hook, line and sinker.
Visit – Wines of While
458 William Street, Perth
@winesofwhile – http://winesofwhile.com