I’VE always had great fondness for New Orleans and its voodoo muso Dr John.
I remember watching him playing Frankie and Johnny, strung out on heroin, in an instructional piano video when I was just 13.
Ah, the childhood memories…
So I was excited when Cafe New Orleans opened on Phillimore Street and headed down for lunch with ex-Chook photographer, Matthew Dwyer.
The interior was light and airy and dotted with tables and chairs and a row of stools, where you could eat bar-style at the window.
There was also a small alfresco, perfect for enjoying the vernal sunshine and cars colliding at the baffling Phillimore-Cliff intersection.
We were greeted by a cheery waitress who guided us through the menu, scrawled in chalk on the huge blackboard looming over the till.
Dishes included po-boys (a classic Louisiana sandwich with deep fried shrimp, chicken or mawmaw meatballs), bagels, cajun creole food, and beignets which are a French doughnut with powdered sugar.
The cafe’s owner-chef hails from New Orleans so we had high hopes of a genuine gumbo experience.
Matthew and I opted for a light lunch and ordered red beans and rice ($12) and Jambalaya ($12).
Glancing around, the cafe was busy Wednesday lunchtime, and proved to be a natural catchment for hungry tourists alighting and funnelling out of the port.
After a short wait my jambalaya arrived and I began to tuck into rice, punctuated with chicken, shrimp and chorizo.
It was a pleasant jamboree and enhanced by the optional tabasco sauce and creole seasoning.
As I gnawed my fragrant cornbread and thought about the film Southern Comfort, the sound of New Orleans funk reverberated around the cafe, providing an uplifting soundtrack.
Matthew was busy tucking into his red beans and rice.
“There was just the right amount of the chorizo/bean mix to go with the rice, which was perfectly cooked, the grains neither chewy nor sticky,” he said.
“I enjoyed the cornbread – similar to slices of baked or fried polenta.”
He washed down the Norlins tucker with a “delicious” peanut butter and maple milkshake ($6).
I enjoyed a refreshing iced coffee ($6) — just the right strength, as some can be too bitter.
Cafe New Orleans was good fun and reasonably priced, and proves there’s more to southern tucker than heavy gumbos and deep-fried voodoo, with lighter options available.
With the Mediterranean Shipping Company just moved in around the corner, the port across the road, and a new small bar planned at the old weighbridge, Cafe New Orleans is positioned to do well.
Next time I will brandish my Dr John cane and try out the po-boys and beignets.
“Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts oh Lordy how they did love…”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
Cafe New Orleans
1/11 Phillimore Street, Fremantle
0426 249 603