The Sommelier Series Edition 2: Sarah Atkinson
Welcome to The Sommelier Series, a celebration of food pairings with Idée Fixe from iconic restaurants, as selected by leading sommeliers around the country. In the second edition, we discover food matches with the Brut Rosé from the Le Rebelle menu, as selected by owner and sommelier, Sarah Atkinson.
Read on as we delve deeper into Sarah’s food pairing philosophy, her unique approach to writing a wine list that complements the range of flavours found on the “French-ish” style menu and the magic that unfolds when food and wine harmonise. Surrender to the allure that is Le Rebelle.
Le Rebelle first opened its doors in 2019 and quickly became a local favourite with their now iconic crab toast, other bistro-style delights, a tight and carefully curated wine list, exceptional front of house team rounded out with moody lighting and excellent playlists. Through the vision of owners, Sarah and Liam Atkinson, this Mount Lawley gem combines the best of food, wine and service, offering a unique and memorable dining experience. All of these things combined have you wanting to stay on for one more round of crab toast!
Sarah’s career in hospitality began in her hometown of Toronto, Canada. After meeting her husband and Chef, Liam, Sarah ventured to Australia, where Liam grew up, to see what it was like. More than 10 years and two venues later, Sarah and Liam have founded their place in Perth, bringing with them experiences both from abroad and closer to home, combining their knowledge and a love for sharing good food and wine with others.
From working in various restaurants to honing her wine knowledge at Lalla Rookh in Perth, Sarah’s dedication, expertise and discerning palate shines through in Le Rebelle’s thoughtfully curated wine list. For Sarah, showcasing unexpected wines and introducing guests to new favourites is the best part about being a sommelier.
With Le Rebelle’s wine list, Sarah explains that it “leans towards a “French-ish” angle, (much like our food). We offer food friendly bistro wines from near and far”. Working closely with Liam, “lots of time gets spent talking about flavours and structure in both food and wine”. Sarah emphasizes the importance of finding wines to complement and enhance the range of flavours, textures and weights found in Liam’s dishes while also looking to showcase smaller, independent producers and offer value to guests.
Sarah has been pouring the Brut Rosé since its release in early 2021. When asked about a recommended pairing from the current menu, Sarah chose Le Rebelle’s House Cured Charcuterie and Crab Toast. “The Brut Rosé plays off the creaminess of the crab mix with fine herbs” whilst “having enough weight to stand up to both” the house-made Wagin Duck Liver Pate and house cured charcuterie.
The Brut Rosé further reveals its versatility with Sarah suggesting a glass “alongside our Glazed Wagin Duck, Frites & Bearnaise – our glaze on the duck contains citrus which would pair with the wine beautifully”.
Step off Beaufort St and surrender to the allure of Le Rebelle, a place where food and wine are intrinsically intertwined.
Read on below for our full interview with Sarah.
Sarah, tell us how you ended up in Perth and a bit about your career journey prior to opening Le Rebelle and Bar Rogue – did you always want to work in the hospitality industry?
I came to Perth as my partner is WA born and raised – we met overseas in Canada. I first came on a working holiday visa to see if Australia was a good fit and here we still are more than 10 years later! Career wise I have always worked front of house in hospitality, starting back home in Toronto, Canada, and just caught the bug. As my partner is a chef, I made the decision years ago to stick with it so that our working hours would always be complimentary. In Perth I worked in a few restaurants over the years before taking a job at Lalla Rookh in the wine store, where I really worked hard to get my wine knowledge up to scratch!
What do you enjoy the most about working in wine?
Working on the floor and having interactions with our guests is the most enjoyable part of my job. I love showing people the unexpected and potentially introducing them to their new favourite wine!
How would you describe the Le Rebelle wine list?
Le Rebelle’s list leans towards a ‘French-ish’ angle (much like our food). We offer food-friendly bistro wines from near and far especially from France, along with a separate handwritten list of our ‘fancy wines’ full of bottles that are a little more special and rare.
While we are on the subject, can you tell us a little bit about your approach to writing a wine list.
Firstly it comes down to finding good value in wine along with a tendency to lean towards smaller, independent producers. We highlight plenty of wines from France along with local and Australian wines that showcase these grapes. It is important that our wines compliment our food, as more than often people are looking for that one bottle to carry through an entire meal.
With the launch of your second venue, Bar Rogue, has this provided you with new opportunities for food and wine?
Bar Rogue has been quite the journey so far! It’s in the name alone – we wanted to open a venue that wasn’t tied to a particular country’s style of food or wine. We wanted the freedom to explore and showcase great wines from Western Australia, around Australia and the world, and most of all have a little fun with it all.
When it comes to food and wine pairings, what is your philosophy?
Wine and food should play off and complement each other, and there is something so special and magical when you find that perfect wine and food pairing. Finding balance is key, and as we have quite a lot of fresh seafood, and rich buttery dishes on our menu, I try to ensure we have plenty of wines that offer freshness to the mix so our guest’s palate is not weighed down.
What have you chosen to pair with Idée Fixe Brut Rosé? Talk us through this pairing and what you enjoy most about it.
I’ve chosen our house charcuterie and crab toast! Nothing gets a meal off to a good start than with a glass of bubbles and snacks.
The Brut Rose plays off of the creaminess of the crab mix with fine herbs, and is a beautiful pairing with our house made Wagin Duck Liver Parfait, and house cured charcuterie, today it is coppa. The parfait and coppa are both quite rich and the Idée Fixe Brut Rosé has enough weight to stand up to both.
You mentioned the importance of listing wines that have the ability to complement a variety of food from your menu, are there other dishes from the current menu that would pair well with Idée Fixe?
I wouldn’t shy away from drinking the Brut Rosé alongside our Glazed Wagin Duck, Frites & Bearnaise – our glaze on the duck contains citrus which would help to pair with the wine beautifully.
On the service side of things, what is your preferred drinking temperature and glassware choice for the Brut Rosé?
I find the Brut Rosé shines best in a tulip shaped flute, and cold, but not too cold! 6 – 8 degrees is a good rule of thumb.
Tell us a little bit about the relationship between the Sommelier and the Chef – what goes into designing a menu and choosing the wines to go with it?
The sommelier and the chef in my world have a close relationship. Lots of time gets spent talking about flavours and structure in both food and wine. Our menu design takes into consideration different types of flavours, proteins and vegetables while trying to make a balanced menu that can cater for all. Our wine list does the same – we try to hit different flavour profiles, weights & textures that will compliment many dishes.
The Sommelier Series was photographed by Meghan Plowman.