I USED to work with a bloke in Glasgow – “Big Tam” – who always ate pie, beans and chips in the canteen.
These days the chef would be charged with assisting a suicide, but back then he was probably put in charge of the company gym.
Not wanting to end up like “Big Tam”, I strive to try new types of food, so my wife and I went for lunch at Jungle Bird, a Caribbean bar-cafe on High Street in Fremantle.
The previous two bars there were crashing bores and went out of business pretty quickly – dark and uninviting, they had all the charm of a slide rule.
However Jungle Bird is nice and bright, with colonial-style furniture and colourful shutters mixing elegantly with linen drapes and bamboo.
The vibe is laid-back and friendly, and you could easily while away the afternoon at the bar discussing Garry Sobers and the price of flip-flops in the 1970s.
The smiley bar staff recommended a dark plantation rum from Barbados and Jamaica ($10). I’m no expert on rum, but it had a lovely fruity kick and the chilled glasses ensured I could sip it throughout my meal.
There was a litany of rums and cocktails on offer and wife enjoyed an a-grade mojito ($17).
The lunch menu was small, featuring a handful of jerk-style dishes and toasties, but our meals were authentic and crammed with flavour.
The standout was the West Indian saltfish fritters and butter bean salad ($10).
Looking rustic and homemade, the fiery spices and smooth fish filling in the fritters were outstanding. The accompanying homemade chutney was a fruity delight, and the butter bean salad a refreshing interlude.
Another cute touch is the kitsch plates and cups, which look like something you might find in your nanny’s pantry.
My wife’s Caribbean jerk chicken with red beans, rice and pickles ($10) was equally good.
She raved about the moist hummock of rice and the trademark smokey-spice of the jerk chook. The accompanying red and white cabbage was a healthy counterpoint to the intensity of the dish.
Both dishes were a decent size and great value for money.
We washed down the meal with a nice smooth cappuccino ($4), and a nuclear-hot chai latte that pleased my wife no end, as she cannot abide tepid coffee.
Jungle Bird also do bar snacks including jerk wings, and a fried potato bowl with Caribbean curry aioli, after 5pm during the week and all day weekends.
If you like rustic food teeming with flavour, and a sort of lazy-afternoon Mogadon vibe, then you’ll love Jungle Bird.
I might see if they can do jerk pie, beans and chips, and air freight it to “Big Tam”.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
59 High Street, Fremantle