Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Freo, like a local: “Carpsy’s tips”

In the last of instalment on my recent interstate dining and book tour, I present some thoroughly satisfying tips on the gastronomic scene in Fremantle.

I’d been there before, but there is no substitute for what to do and where to go than a kindly local guide who can show you the top spots.  We were fortunate enough to have two guides when we were there: guitar genius and rock and roll guru Glenn “Carpsy” Carpenter, and his delightful partner (and retail colossus) Cindy.

It transpires that the richest vein of talent lies not in the town itself, but down at the old fishing harbour…

Fremantle is the kind of place that makes me want to move to “the West”.  The buildings are heritage old stone dwellings, from back in the day, they have a hippy market in the central mall, there’s the old town centre, and of course Fremantle’s original football ground (though now they play at Subiaco – or “Sue-bie” as the locals say in a slightly whistful way – which touts itself as “the home of football” – hem hem, I think the MCG might have something to say about that, but since this is so far away…).

Basically, Fremantle is dripping with authentic stuff and is “totes” cool man.

Our guides met us outside the enormous and resplendent Rydges Hotel where we were staying (booked through Last Minute.com – a bargain “mystery hotel”).  A quick note on our hotel and its clientele: it was full of young and attractive couples – I’m guessing fly in and fly out boyfriends back from the mines, who were catching up with their twenty-something year old girlfriends.  Returning from a swim in the pool, sauna and spa, I got a few shocked looks as I lumbered in my “togs” via the elevator back to our room.  I guess they were getting their first view into the vagaries of age, courtesy of me, possibly recalling Andrew Marvel’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’:

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

i.e. My body beautiful was working its powers, increasing the lust of youth.  At no charge from me!

Generousity is my middle name.  No need to thank me, youths!

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, meeting Carpsy and Cindy.  Glenn has grown a beard and was wearing his magpie scarf and a beanie, which made him look very "nautical but nice" - a real look down there (see the pic above from the Creatures website).  Glenn and Cindy have a twelve year old together, who was having a sleep over at a friend’s house, so we were able to “let her rip”!

Their first direction was to steer our footsteps across the Esplanade Park, which has a giant ferris wheel you can’t miss, directing us to where the real action is. First stop:

Creatures Next Door

42 Mews Rd, Fremantle, WA

The Little Creatures Brewing Company is, of course, well known – with an outlet here in Melbourne (Brunswick St), and in Freo they have a massive barn like affair on the water that looks back on the ferris wheel and is staffed by back packers.  But that wasn’t where we were going.  We were gently steered to the Little Creatures “next door” bar: habitat of local drinkers.  It’s much more intimate, and with a raised balcony gives a superb view of the harbour with sailing boat masts slipping past us at head height as we enjoyed pre-prandial drinks.

Just below this we took a walk along the docks, which I didn’t even know were there last time I visited.  You could see fish swimming in the water in the lights of the boats and we popped into:

Joe’s Fish Shack

Fishing Boat Harbour
42 Mews Rd, Fremantle
WA 6160 Australia

Joe’s Fish Shack is wildly popular, and they have rows of fish tanks in a bustling fish and chipperie showing all the local fish you can catch on the nearby waters, a favourite pastime in Fremantle (fishing that is… not looking at fish tanks).  This restaurant has won numerous awards including “best free standing restaurant”, which I guess means where you can stand up and eat, as opposed to being a building that can stand up by itself.  But while an interesting visit, it wasn’t our final destination.  This was along the docks another few metres.

Char Char Bull

44b Mews Road
Fremantle WA 

We went out for dinner to this fantastic  steak house on the water, where I had seared scallops on a bed of peas, followed by a t-bone steak ($40+), and we downed couple of bottles of wine.  We went there, and got a bottle of wine for free, because Glenn and Cindy’s kid is in the owner’s junior footy team.  I give it a four out of five star rating (six and a half tentacles out of eight in the old school rating).

My New Agent in WA

I gave Glenn a copy of my book, which he left behind at our hotel (we went back and tried a couple of the bottles I’d brought from Margaret River), and I woke the next morning with a sore uvula from snoring and dehydration.  I determined to drop off the book on their front verandah (they live just a fifteen minute walk from where we were staying), and also left a pack books for Dymocks Perth in their care.  So now Carpsy is also my official agent in Fremantle.


So next time, you’re out West, and find yourself in Freo, put on your beanie and direct your feet down to the old fishing harbour.  You will not be disappointed.  And if you see Carpsy, say g'day!