A FREMANTLE restaurant open and fully booked on a Monday lunchtime?
Normally you’d file that one under unicorns or the Eagles winning a match.
But I can confirm on Monday, Tonic and Ginger at the Old Synagogue was full and I was left astounded and red-faced for not booking.
It’s a reasonably big venue and has been open for quite sometime, so it wasn’t just the hype of a new place in town.
It’s great for Fremantle and hopefully a sign of things to come, assuming the Aussie economy doesn’t completely flatline.
Thankfully Mr Chapple, another eatery in the Old Synagogue was open, so my dining partner Jenny D’Anger and I decided to make it plan B.
In my brain I had compartmentalised the eateries at the Old Synagogue into Tonic and Ginger (fine dining) Arbor (pub grub) and Mr Chapple (breakfast) but Mr Chapple also do bar bites.
When I read bar bites my heart sank – usually it means overpriced, pretentious food and small portions.
So would Mr Chapple prove me wrong?
The menu was divided into land, sea and garden with a compact range of delicious sounding dishes including don bocarte white anchovies in cider vinegar, chicken satay skewers, beef and thyme sausage rolls, pumpkin and chive arancini, freshly shucked oysters and Szechuan spice pork belly bites.
It’s slightly ironic that pork belly is being sold at a venue that was once the first synagogue in WA – I can just see furious rabbis running down the Cappuccino Strip, clutching their torahs, in disbelief.
I liked how the menu wasn’t just dainty morsels and had some hearty items like sausage rolls and chicken wings. A nice mix that would placate the tradies and the tycoons.
It wasn’t long before the waitress was back with our two ‘garden’ dishes.
“The chargrilled octopus salad with salsa verde ($21) was the perfect mix of super tender chunks of melt-in-the-mouth flesh and a flavoursome blend of greens,” Jenny enthused.
“But the stand-out dish in an impressive luncheon lineup was the Marrakesh eggplant with tomato sugo and labne ($18)”
“It came with salad and toasted woodfired bread, which like Goldilocks’ porridge, was just right – warm and golden with the perfect amount of crunch to soak up the decadently oily mix of aubergine and sugo.”
The pumpkin and chive arancini ($13) was equally as good; three big balls of gooey indulgence with a lovely crisp, light batter.
I’ve had some arancini that were as dense as a neutron star, but these were light and packed with flavour.
The shaved manchego cheese was a lovely touch and a sign that some culinary love had gone into the dish.
Rounding things off were the salt and pepper squid with herb mayo and lemon ($16).
There was nothing wrong with the squid, which had a gorgeous light coating and was melt-in-the-mouth, but after the strong flavour punch from the eggplant and the other dishes it all tasted a bit bland.
Mr Chapple was an amazing, delicious fellow and made me reassess my prejudice towards bar bites.
I’ll be back to try their brekkie dishes and I’ll definitely book a table for Tonic and Ginger in the near future.
Mr Chapple (The Old Synagogue)
92 South Terrace, Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK