LIKE an ageing call girl with purple lipstick, the Cappuccino Strip has a reputation for being overpriced and a bit naff.
A haven for “Gee, honey” tourists with fanny packs and bulging wallets.
But I think it’s had a bit of a raw deal, and for me a meal is not just about fine dining, it’s about the overall experience and that indefinable sense of “Did you have a good time?”
Benny’s is in the heart of the strip and the alfresco was busy when we took our seats on a gusty Friday afternoon.
The menu had a nice range of pasta, seafood, salads and meat dishes, but the specials caught my eye and I went for the chicken and chorizo risotto ($27.5)
My wife was feeling traditional and ordered the salt and pepper squid ($26), and some crab croquettes ($16) to share.
On Fridays, Freo can be like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the streets were surprisingly benign as we waited for our lunch.
It wasn’t long before the waitress was back with our beautifully presented entrée.
The crab croquettes were like a post-modern artwork – a row of deep-fried spheres with chilli jam toupees.
Plumes of fragrant steam erupted as I cut into the blue manna crab laced with coriander, ginger and lime.
It was a delicious starter enhanced by a dod of sauce underpinning the crispy treats.
My risotto was crammed with large chunks of chicken and rustic slices of chorizo – no skimping on protein here – and garnished with a heap of rocket.
The dish had a nice latent heat, courtesy of the fresh chilli, and the rice had that classic gloopy texture.
I would have liked more complexity to the sugo, but perhaps the enormous portion size (I couldn’t finish it) contributed towards the monotony.
The star of my wife’s main course was the aioli – an indulgent blob of artery-clogging joy.
The lemon tang enhanced the well-cooked Northwest squid and the thick, crunchy chips.
The salad was a bit of an after-thought, but pleasant enough, and my wife also couldn’t finish her prodigious main.
We left Benny’s feeling contented and with a full stomach.
Maybe the Cappuccino Strip is a bit Blanche DuBois, but it’s ours, and better than some flat-pack dream in the outer suburbs.
All hail the strip!
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
Benny’s bar and cafe
10 South Terrace, Fremantle