IN a previous life, I used to go on a lot of business trips on my own.
I can confirm that nothing is more depressing than breakfast-for-one in some antiseptic, corporate hotel.
I still get cold sweats thinking about middle-aged businessmen fondling eggs benedict, just hours after they’d watched Jugs on pay-per-view in their room.
So I was slightly nervous about going to the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle for lunch.
The hotel has five bar/restaurants catering for a variety of budgets and occasions, and at the moment they’ve got the deal of a lifetime – you can buy the whole hotel, bars and all, as it’s just been put on the market by current owner Rydges.
My wife and I opted for a casual lunch in the marine lounge bar, which includes the alfresco on Marine Terrace.
It was an overcast and grey day, but I’m from Scotland, so it felt like the Bahamas and we sat outside.
My wife was happy to discover the alfresco had tasteful glass screens, and discrete heaters built into the spokes of the market umbrellas.
The menu had a nice mix of lunch favourites and more sophisticated options, including shares (seared dorper lamb, duck rillette, ploughman’s), mains (Japanese pumpkin gnocchi, steak sandwich, fried barramundi fillet) and pizzas and desserts.
I went to the bar and ordered the seafood chowder ($17), ground beef burger ($26), and rosemary focaccia ($6.5) to share.
The barman/waiter was warm and professional and it was a refreshing change from being served by some hipster wearing a “Dump on Trump” t-shirt.
The hotel had a nice range of craft beers and I enjoyed a Goose IPA as we waited for our mains.
It wasn’t long before the waiter sashayed over with our food.
The focaccia could have fed Clive Palmer for a week, but it was absolutely delicious, with just the right amount of density and herbs, and the hummus dip kept it from becoming a doughy War and Peace.
My seafood chowder – teeming with green mussels, jumbo prawns, barramundi and prosciutto – was outstanding and the viscous broth perfect for a winter’s day.
I have had so many over-seasoned and gloopy chowders, masking poor-quality seafood, but the Esplanade’s had top-notch ingredients and a complex, saffron broth. A must-have dish.
Meanwhile, my wife was devouring the grilled bacon and thick, mature cheddar in her burger.
“The meat is melt in your mouth and the brioche bun is a decadent touch,” she said.
“The fries have that nice balance – fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. One of the best burgers I’ve had in ages.”
The marine lounge bar is well-priced and the food was outstanding and a cut above the usual lunch fare.
I think the Esplanade Hotel has banished my corporate demons, and I could be finally ready to play squash, have a “power breakfast”, and then listen to Chris Rea.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
Cnr Marine Terrace and