In the thin wedge of West Leederville that runs between the Freo line, arterial thoroughfares and Lake Monger, a new venue brings a globally considered sensibility of food, drinks and design to one of Perth’s more quaint inner suburbs. Sandwiched between a renowned bakery outpost and a creative collective, both of which are intimately involved in the West Australian beer scene, Besk has – somewhat later than planned – arrived.
Originally conceived more than five years ago as a bespoke, 20-seat beer/wine bar, the now 210-capacity, 650 square metre, multipurpose venture opposite West Leederville train station has followed a considerably serpentine road to opening.
Elliot Moore, a founder of the multi-award-winning bottleshop Mane Liquor and now Besk co-owner explains where it all began.
“Ben [Braham, Elliot's co-owner] was recommended and I reached to him and he said, ‘Look, I’m not really taking anything on at the moment. Thanks for the call’ – basically, not too excited," he says.
"And then I caught this guy looking through the bottleshop a week later and I said, ‘Do you need a hand?’ and he’s like, ‘No, I’m good’. And then I asked a little later and he says, 'Is Elliot around?'.”
From that point, the relationship grew, culminating in a yearlong search for the right space for what would become Besk. Weaving through lease competition, multiple council approvals and more, the pair found what Elliot describes as "where I want to be for a long time".
Charmingly, the original layout design was sketched on a napkin at a local Irish pub after the pair’s first site visit and, reflecting the partners' research and confidence in Besk, a 25-year lease was signed without knowing whether or not they would get through council and liquor licensing; there's a quiet chutzpah at play here, albeit never at the expense of experience.
While the venue's name may be instrumental in driving Google searches for a word that translates as "bitter" in an extinct Danish dialect, more likely is commentary about the venue’s design, led by co-owner Ben’s architecture firm.
The 1930s building, originally a set of three separate premises, has been stripped to the bones, creating a warehouse shell that has been thoughtfully divided through the use of glass, furniture and textural changes, while still remaining open and free-flowing throughout. Although currently crisp, there’s a sense the building itself has been waiting for these tenants, whose welcoming bonhomie should quickly warm and wear the space into a lived-in institution.
Besk’s basement - one that was hotly contested with the council - accommodates up to 80 guests and is designed for exclusive releases, as well as regular bacchanalia. Playfully, while not obvious from street level, a series of circular glass pieces creates a chandelier of light through the slab into the more intimate room below.
More broadly, a dialled in Kodachrome aesthetic runs through the venue's patina – not to mention their carefully curated social presence – with exposed brick, new wood finishes and Scandi-inspired furniture complemented by subtle colourful highlights like the distressed cyan, pressed tin ceiling leading to the bottleshop; they're adroitly cohesive touches that further showcase Besk’s quiet confidence.
For all that, Besk is a neighbourhood pub at heart. As bottleshop manager James Lorimer puts it: “We want people to come down in their trackies and grab a carton and a bottle of wine from the bottleshop.”
With around 500 beers and a similar collection of wines ranging from the quaffable to the unique, there’s certainly broad appeal, with takeaway growlers and squealers on offer too.
Debut taps include a Sabro hop-driven "Besk friends" collab with Feral and another, One Tonne Plum Saison, with near neighbours Nowhereman – no prizes for guessing the adjunct there – plus aged Wildflower, double IPAs and hyped haze. Looking ahead, Besk will be one of two Australian venues to host the acclaimed Cantillon Zwanze Day 2019 celebrations in September, although Elliot is keen ensure all punters are catered for from his 24 taps.
“We’ll be running from Swanny D on tap one up to $1,000 Evil Twin kegs,” he says.
Continuing his collaborative history at Mane, Besk’s logo and house wine label have been designed by artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers, whose work adorns the venue's ongoing series of brews with Eagle Bay Brewing, while the vino itself sourced from the Cape Naturaliste brewery's vineyard.
After a lengthy career that's taken in many beer venues, including The Monk in Fremantle, Blackman’s in Geelong and the recently closed Five Bar, Gerard Mitchell heads up the team in the kitchen.
Looking back at a dream realised, Elliot looks more at home than ever.
“People may think that this is part of some masterplan but this is the masterplan," he says. "I plan to be here for 25 years.
“We’re two stops from the city. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood with beautiful people who are proud of West Leederville. There’s room for this place.
"We just think that we’ve got a great customer base around here and we want to be a community bar first and foremost.”
It’s a pure thought from the new publican: the rarest of lambic and most generic of lager in a curated space with a menu to match – who wouldn’t want to catch up for a beer at a local like that?
Besk opens the doors to the public at 264 Railway Parade, West Leederville on August 12, with a Grand Opening Party on August 15 – details here. All photos other than the one of the owners by Ryan Murphy.