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CARRIAGE CAFE, Fremantle:

FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,

“Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;

“And charging along like troops in a battle

“All through the meadows the horses and cattle:”

A big fan of rail travel, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his 1885 poem From a Railway Carriage about the view from his carriage window.

There really is something magical about a train, even if it’s not moving.

Which could partly explain the longevity of the Carriage Cafe on the Fremantle Esplanade, which has been there since the 1970s.

Almost every weekend for a few years now a couple of friends and I have walked from South Freo to the Carriage for coffee, which is some of the best in town in my humble opinion.

For no particular reason I hadn’t had a meal there since new management took over about 18 months ago.

But trying to decide on a venue for lunch with a work colleague recently she’d raved about the beef burgers, so the Carriage it was.

Sited on Freo’s delightful Esplanade reserve, under a stand of mighty pine trees, the location has to be the best in the port city, I thought to myself looking out from the “station’s” timber deck.

When the carriage first set up 40-odd years ago, patrons could dine in. These days, the Carriage is staff-only, with the magnificent sheltered deck offering plenty more elbow room. Parents love it here because they can enjoy a quality coffee and bite to eat while keeping an eye on the little ones at the nearby playground.

New(ish) operators Chris and sister Jenny were having a rare day off during our visit but the stand-in-staff were every bit as friendly and efficient.

I opted for the lentil burger ($14), which doesn’t come with chips—a blessing as I have no will power—but it did come in a very tasty Turkish bread roll, lightly toasted to emphasise the delicious flavour and to give it a nice crunch, without being dry.

The lentil patty was fantastic, with a liberal lacing of my favourite spice, cumin, while the lettuce was fresh and plentiful and the mayonnaise tasted home-made.

Jenny is the chef and all the patties–meat or vegie–are made by her tender hands.

My lunch partner had the chicken schnitzel burger ($14), a moist and fluffy breast in crisp breadcrumbs, between Turkish bread, and packed with lettuce and tomato.

She’s a bit of a gourmand and reckoned the Carriage’s schnitzel was “almost as good” as her own, and raved about the home-made habanero sauce.

Every Saturday a mob of lycra-clad cyclists invade the cafe, to scoff hearty plates of eggs and bacon.

Kel’s big brekkie ($18.50), named for Kel Smith who breathed new life into the place some years back, is a generous serve of both with sausage, mushrooms and tomato, and big chunks of toast. Or there’s a vegetarian version ($18).

The fare is designed for the many families who flock to the Esplanade, not the hipster crowd. With no pretensions, the menu has kid appeal with pies and sausage rolls ($4.50), burgers, fish and chips, and a selection of Turkish bread or regular bread sarnies.

It’s a friendly sort of place and after all this time we’re on a first name basis with a number of regular weekend customers.

The Carriage Cafe
The Esplanade, Fremantle
7.30am–4.30pm every day

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