They say that things made by committee are the lesser for it, products of compromise that satisfy no-one. Well, Strange Company, in Fremantle, is a stark exception to this rule. With five partners – Greg Leaver, Matt Giudice, Jason Townes and the Travers brothers, Clancy and Darcy – Strange Company was very much designed to cater for the partners’ differing views on what made a bar great, and we’re talking across a range of experience, occupations, sensibilities and, significantly, ages. But the product, far from a compromise, has resulted in a venue that captures all their requirements in the most democratic of ways, without dulling one to appease another.
Located in a repurposed 1950s industrial building, Strange Company doesn’t go down a predictable industrial route, opting instead for a design that embraces warmth and comfort with bespoke architectural features. The interior is wrapped in darkly hued timber panels, cut with sculptural irregularity. Those panels stretch over one wall, across the roof and wrap a bulkhead over the timber-topped concrete bar, which stretches near the length of the room. Bamboo emerging from pebbled planting troughs is contrasted against white brickwork, while all is lit with track spots sheathed in black cylinders of steel. The building’s former life is celebrated, too, with a roller door providing access and a flood of light when opened, though its artful perforation and blue hue distract from its commercial past.
Tom Daniel manages the venue, as well as making micro-batch wine in the Swan Valley under the Chouette label. “The owners wanted to create a space for all folk that could rub shoulders together from all types of life, the idea being that you can meet, chat, feel at home with anyone, any stranger or friend alike,” he says. “We want to encourage a meeting place where all guests are encouraged to use the space as a bar where there is a casualness to the process of hitting-up-the-bar and chatting to the skilled bartenders about what’s good to eat and drink.”
And this intent is felt in the far-reaching offer at Strange Company, with equally weighted forays into wine, beer, cocktails and food. The bespoke cocktails and 10 beer taps are joined by just shy of 100 wines by the bottle, with 20–25 available by the glass. Aside from Sherry and Champagne, all listings are Australian and mostly local, with a focus on the artisan. “We like to support local and smaller hands-on producers, and we are generally interested in less-commercial wines. We see ‘minimal intervention’ as a very grey area that can be used as something of a marketable ploy, though there is a reasonable tendency towards dealing with producers who actually do use traditional methods,” says Daniel. “Having said the above, we always offer a spattering of wines throughout the list that are quite classic in style so to offer more traditional wines to choose for those so inclined. All tastes are welcomed warmly.” And that’s just how it is at Strange Company, somewhat democratic.