For many, the Kailis family name is associated with pearls, but one member of the WA dynasty is driving a different path. As Perth’s ‘burbs and coast defifine the west’s exciting dining scene, local restaurateur George Kailis is leading the way.
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As a teenager, George Kailis would ride Perth’s winter swell with one eye firmly locked on the fusty cafe anchored to Trigg Point. He’d dream of what it could be, of the possibility it offered as a beachside venue, boasting inimitable views over the Indian Ocean and along the sand to nearby Scarborough. Today, not only is the property his, but Kailis himself is making waves as a restaurateur helping to advance what Perth dining is all about.
Island Market opened at Trigg Point in September 2017 – all airy and light, with white and pink interiors and a breezy, beachy vibe. Best of all, the menu is directed by David Coomer (Star Anise, Fuyu, Pata Negra) – wood and fire used to perfectly lick shareable seafood and meat, with a heady stamp of elevated vegetables and a nod to the Med via the Middle East. Also, a deep wine list and tinned beer (think Balter not VB).
It is, ultimately, an acute representation of the culinary rethink happening out west, where – despite some recent closures and naysayers who’ll always say nay – the food scene is proving itself against those (as the ‘sandgropers’ would say) ‘over east’.
“I definitely think it’s an exciting time,” says Kailis. “We’re a gateway to Europe and Asia, we’ve got a strong foodie culture growing among 20- to 30-year-olds. People are trying new things and we’re doing some really good things.”
It’s along the coast that Kailis’ ‘good things’ sit. A 20-minute drive south of Trigg is The Shorehouse. Overlooking Swanbourne Beach, it’s another airy affair with an obvious nod to the Hamptons. Once more, it’s about a water view – though again, it’s food that’s the focus.
“I THINK ONLY A FEW PLACES ON THE COAST HAVE A CULINARY AGENDA LIKE US.”
“That’s what it has to be about. It was also a big motivator for us, to do things differently and go against what most people in Perth typically do when they have a seascape or a landscape… trade off the view and forget about the basics of brilliant food and service. I think only a few places on the coast have a culinary agenda like us.”
Kailis’ time on the water as a young surfer and his dream of opening his own venues is built on firm ancestral ties to food. In Western Australia, the Kailis name is synonymous with seafood (okay, pearls, too). George’s grandfather began his business after landing from the Greek Island of Kastellorizo. He started out selling fish door-to- door from a wheelbarrow, before moving on to a motorbike and sidecar, and the establishment of G.P. Kailis & Sons in 1928. Various wholesale and retail seafood operations flourished, expanding across the city (and country), and George followed his father, Victor, into the family business.
“All through school I was sweeping out fish guts (at Fremantle’s Kailis’ Fish Market Café), but then I went off and travelled,” says Kailis.
He’s humble, especially given his travels came from being a state champion surfer who’d often compete against surf legend Taj Burrow. Burrow would go on to twice become runner-up on the international pro tour, while Kailis landed in New York as an in-demand male model.
“I was 19 or 20. It was a great opportunity to see the world, but [modelling] was never something I thoroughly enjoyed – standing around posing in my jocks wasn’t really for me.”
So it was back to Perth and back to the family business. However, George saw more than just seafood. A pizza slice joint in the CBD followed – “Perth had no idea about real pizza back then” – so too the
launch of the Kailis Hospitality Group, which also oversees other properties – Canteen Trigg and Fremantle’s Fish
Market Café. “Seafood is always going to be a part of me, but there’s more.”
Just as there’s more to Perth. Chef Robert Marchetti, ex Icebergs and North Bondi Italian, landed from Sydney in the city in July to helm the new QT hotel, while David Thompson has already notched three years with Long Chim
Perth. Elsewhere, Jed Gerrard has steered Wildflower to national acclaim, matched by venues including Lalla
Rookh, Liberté and The Shorehouse, among others. Perth’s small-bar scene is also progressing, easily mirroring Melbourne’s in terms of its libations, and is deserving of just as much attention.
“There’s no reason we can’t become a well-known culinary destination,” says Kailis. “And there are a lot of people doing good things but [who] fly under the radar.” He points to the suburbs and places going
well beyond what used to score a pass. Certainly, when delicious. visited the remote and sandy capital recently, the backblocks of areas such as Scarborough Beach were noticeably stepping things up, as demonstrated by the Korean influences former Wildflower chef James Park has brought to the easily overlooked Doric St Café + Kitchen.
“People are definitely pushing out of the city and trying new things,” says Kailis. “We’re seeing a real return to neighbourhood dining, and good neighbourhood dining. It’s what we wanted with Island Market. We were conscious of the price point; we want to be a local place people could come and eat at twice a week. And eat really well.”
Kailis is currently eyeing off a return to Fremantle with a parkside burger joint that sounds like it’ll take some cues from New York’s famed Shake Shack. Beyond this, he’s keen for further work with his ‘genius’ mate Coomer.
“DC is, for someone his age, so progressive – and he’ll love that I’ve said that about his age! He’s never stuck in a time zone or a time warp; he’s always about progressing things and he’s definitely a massive part of things for us. There are a few opportunities coming up, and his experience with Pan Asian is something I really want to tap into.”
FROM TOP: Island Market is lighting the way; its roasted pineapple dessert; Kailis’ Fish Market Café in Fremantle; pastel hues at Island Market. Island Market sits on prime oceanfront; (left) The Shorehouse enjoys an enviable spot at Swanbourne Beach.
FROM TOP: seafood charcuterie at The Standard; indoors or out, the Northbridge bar is colourfully chic. LEFT AND BELOW: take a seat amid the luxe surrounds of Tiny’s Bar. delicious.com.au/travel For more Australian hotspots to add to your must-visit list.