Fremantle is one part of Perth that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring on the food front. I know there are plenty of delicious fresh food options there (like the Freo Markets!) and lots of great spots that I’ve heard many foodie folk talk up, but it has always felt a long way from home for this North of the River gal. But I know the times I have been there it has been well worth a drive. Like Barque, those duck spring rolls – yum! Or a bit of a while back now I went to a very memorable wine night at a place called The Crowded House in South Freo.
Recently someone let me know that The Crowded House was changing hands. New owners and a new name – Public & Co would be the new kid on the block. I headed along on their opening day to have a chat with Arjun, the new owner, along with Head Chef Matt to hear a little more about what their plans are for the place.
It’s been quite the transformation for Public & Co and a fairly frantic month getting everything sorted for swinging the doors open. It is incredibly welcoming as you walk through the somewhat familiar red doors and into the now very open space that greets you. To your right is the main dining room, then to your left you have the choice of a more casual lounge room and just on from there is a bright and airy alfresco area. It’s a lovely, warm combination of timber floors, wall paper, pressed tin and decorative light fittings, along with some original art work by Jae Criddle.
There’s been a few opening day teething problems for the P&C team. Their liquor license has taken slightly longer than anticipated to finalise but keen to get the team in the kitchen into their cooking groove, the decision was made to open from 8am til 4pm for breakfast and lunch and then once the license is sorted they’ll also offer dinner. A further spanner in the works on their first morning was having no EFTPOS facilities so if you are heading here in the next week or so bring along some cash (but there are ATMs not too far away) and I’m sure this will soon be remedied. All minor issues!
I sat myself in the lounge area on one of the long leather bench style seats so I could spy all the action in the kitchen and watch the fairly steady stream of first day visitors wander in. While here I had a chance to speak to Arjun. He’s a really friendly fellow, who has been working in hospitality for many years and Public & Co is his first venture. Clearly a very exciting opportunity for anyone to be able to put your own stamp on a venue and to be a part of the ever expanding Perth restaurant scene.
P&C has a somewhat laid back and chilled vibe to it, which will be perfect for the warmer weather, and an interesting menu that is designed for sharing. There’s a definite focus on incorporating local produce in the dishes, which is always encouraging to see. Another positive on the food front is that no dish is over $20. Somewhat of a rarity in Perth these days where there seems to be the long standing gripe about prices. It’s all very reasonably priced. Split into a snack section, then onto the larger share plates – Sea, Land, Garden – and then a few Burgers. But I’m not sure you’d want to share those (I saw them – I wouldn’t be sharing! :))
Riding solo on my first visit meant that I couldn’t order too many dishes so I asked Arjun what his favourites were and subsequently ordered the Seared scallops, caramelized cauliflower, sage, hazelnut butter ($16) and the Master stock wings, slaw, chilli caramel ($16). On the drinks front I splashed out on both a Kale, banana, lemon, apple and spring water shot ($3) and also an Apple, lemon, ginger, celery, coriander, parsley, cucumber, fennel, mint, sparkling water ($9) – both freshly pressed.
Soon enough I was sipping out of a shot glass. It reminded me of wheat grass shots that used to be all the rage at juice bars. I hadn’t had one in years. I found this combination far more pleasant than wheatgrass. Quite refreshing really with a zingy finish from the lemon. It was nice.
I really liked the presentation of the freshly squeezed juice in its little glass bottle with an accompanying tall glass filled with ice and a stripy straw. I like those straws. Along with the glass bottle it was a little bit old school and it was in keeping with the feel of the place. Again the dizzyingly long list of ingredients actually combined really well in the juice. It was the coriander that got my attention, given that I am now massively pro-coriander and it was a pleasant drink with the flavours all well balanced. I had thought the coriander or potentially the ginger could be slightly overpowering but no, all worked a treat.
The food arrived not long after and it looked delicious and presented beautifully! The scallops were sky high and cut into plump pieces. They had been seared to perfection! I haven’t had caramelised cauliflower before but it is just lovely and was a delicious pairing with the scallop. Along with the crunch from the hazelnuts and the sprinkle of sage it was really tasty. And I’ll admit that I am somewhat of a hard sell on scallops these days. I think I overdosed slightly on having them as a starter when I have people around for dinner so I don’t often order them when I head out but I have no regrets about giving these tasty morsels a whirl.
With the scallops devoured it was time for wings. I had wondered whether I should choose a more lady like dish since I was solo dining, but they just sounded too tempting so I thought I would just do my best job of eating them as un-messily as I could. The 5 wings were a very decent size and came with a light, spicy batter and an indulgent drizzle of sticky, sweet chilli caramel. Yum!! As soon as I had my first bite I was so pleased I hadn’t talked myself out of getting these! They were really nice and very filling. Plenty of chook on those wings. The accompanying slaw was lightly dressed, added a solid splash of colour to the dish and was pleasantly refreshing after all that wingy goodness.
Needless to say after these two dishes and my one and a bit juices I was feeling pretty comfortable. Not to say I wasn’t tempted by dessert. I had heard that they had been getting creative in the kitchen and had infused an ice cream with a vanilla beer, which sounded intriguing! As kids we always used to think it was strange that dad would have a beer after dinner but would also have an ice cream in a cone – as though the two flavours would clash terribly. Never seemed to bother dad so I suspect this dessert would be right up his alley
Before leaving I did get to speak to Head Chef Matt. Such a passionate chef and just bursting with all the ideas that he has for this place. There’s a special cold smoker they have acquired, which is being used to smoke everything from whole salmon, mustard, tomatoes, even their own in house bacon. They have big plans for food and beer matching and you get a sense of this with some of the dishes on their menu that include beers or ciders. And he reiterated Arjun’s comments that there is a focus on using local producers where possible and ensuring the menu is kept seasonal. All sounds good to me! He is clearly excited to have fired up the hot plates with the rest of the kitchen team to show us all what they can do. I can definitely say that from what I tried of their culinary exploits they are kicking goals and I’ve no doubt they’ll go from strength to strength.
I’m looking forward to heading back for dinner with GG when their liquor licence arrives, to work my way through a few more of their tasty dishes (and probably get more of the wings), but ahead of that day this is a lovely breakfast and lunch venue. For the Purple Haze heading into Freo tomorrow to be part of the Grand Final festivities, perhaps a big breakie before you hit the pubs would be the way to go Head on into Public & Co from 8am and they’ll sort you out. Their burger actually features on the breakfast menu too….. tempting!!
My thanks to Trendit for letting me know all about Public & Co and to Arjun, Chef Matt and the rest of the team – great to meet you all, lunch was lovely