Name: Emma Ferguson
Occupation: owner, manager, sommelier
Restaurants: Balthazar & No Mafia
How did you start in restaurants?
I have been in restaurants since I was 17. My first job was working in an Irish pub in Melbourne. I was underage but don’t tell anyone.
Tell us about your current restaurants.
No Mafia is an Italian wine bar in Northbridge. It’s a very intimate and casual place - the perfect neighbourhood bar. Balthazar is a more sophisticated restaurant on The Esplanade by Elizabeth Quay. It’s ideal for special occasions and long lunches.
At Balthazar, there’s a strong emphasis on low intervention wines – what draws you to these styles?
They’re a real focus of mine. Low intervention wines are alive and driven. I love to eat and live healthily. The same applies to the wines I choose to drink.
Rumour has it that No Mafia has outstanding olives – what’s the secret?
We source olives from Sicily and marinate them for three days in a top-secret house recipe. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.
What do you like to cook at home?
Lots of fresh fish and tasty seasonal salads. I love going to Kailis Brothers in Leederville to see what’s fresh. In Perth, we are fortunate to get fabulous seafood from the clean waters of the Indian Ocean.
What is happening in the Perth food scene that excites you right now?
Really simple flavours with locally sourced ingredients is the key. I love Scott Brannigan’s cooking (seasonal farm to table cooking at Bread in Common, Fremantle). Also the evolution of Russell Blaikie’s style. Russell’s Must Bar and Bistro in Highgate has a French-accented menu but is casual and social.
What’s your fave bit about what you do?
I LOVE talking to people and running restaurants…it is all about people.
If we were to visit Perth, where do we eat and drink?
If you’re visiting Fremantle, you should head to Little Creatures for a beer by the water in the sunshine. Also check out Bread in Common for some of the best long-ferment, sourdough bread and a cracking weekend breakfast in a converted warehouse space. Billie H, a casual wine bar in Claremont, is great for some banging oysters. The European-style Shadow Wine Bar in Northbridge - we love their salmon rillettes paired with a glass of wine.
You can follow Emma’s restaurants on Instagram @no_mafia and @balthazarrestaurant
Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy