Before Joel Rees and Danielle de Almeida opened Madalena’s, they were Fremantle food truck pioneers. In 2013, they talked the council into approving a permit for their mobile offering of Brazilian Street Food, Comida do Sul. That van became a welcome site on Fremantle’s streets, as well at festivals, weddings and other events. Now with two vans, that enterprise is still going strong, but the couple were keen to put down permanent roots.
While Comida do Sul specialises in southern Brazilian food, Rees and De Almeida wanted Madalena’s to have a focus on the bounty of superb seafood that was on their doorstep. Opening in January 2019, a street back from South Beach in South Fremantle, Madalena’s is modelled on the botecas of Brazil, and specifically Sao Paolo, De Almeida’s hometown and where the couple met.
Aside from the ability to enhance the food offering, as well as expand into wine, Rees and De Almeida were keen to develop an atmosphere that was their own. That carefree vibe, a slice of De Almeida’s homeland, was always key to Madalena’s. Taking a stool at the horseshoe bar or sitting at a sun-splashed table on the street will reveal just what a success that has been.
Madalena’s may have the charm of a local bar, but the food and wine come with some serious pedigree. Rees’ brother Adam is the Head Chef, with his resumé including a formative stint in Andrew McConnell’s Melbourne restaurant empire. Adam has teamed exclusively with a local supplier to source the freshest sustainably caught seafood. He has also fostered strong relationships with local farmers, as well as growing as much himself in their own kitchen garden.
Wagin duck liver parfait with vermouth jelly, Albany sardines with caper and parsley sauce, and west coast octopus with fermented chilli, duck fat and tamarind have cemented themselves as favourites on the Madalena’s menu, but much of the list is fluid, moving with the seasons and the nature of the daily catch. Influences come via South America, and the source cuisines of Spain, Portugal and the like, but the style is very much individual – bold flavours with a modern Australian accent and a focus on cooking over coals.
The wine list trips across the world, with an emphasis on small, lo-fi producers, and runs to over 170 bottles, with over a dozen by the glass. While the wines are chosen with food in squarely mind, matching is off the agenda, with the Madalena’s philosophy built around embracing the experience as a whole – good food, good wine and good company – as they say, in typically relaxed fashion, “wine is made to be drunk and food is made to be eaten.”
COVID-19 conditions: During the lockdown, Madalena’s served as a takeaway wine and produce store, while selling fish burgers and chips on the weekends, a pretty apt pivot for their beachside locale. Like much of the West, Madalena’s is back to near-normal trading.