Hidden gem

AFTER a five-week holiday in my hometown of Glasgow, my liver was pitch black and my cholesterol pushing John Candy’s in the 1980s.

On returning to Fremantle, I was ready to hit the gym and eat lettuce for a month, but my mate Jambo coaxed me into one last hurrah – lunch at the Patio Bar on Essex Street.

Situated in the old X-Wray Cafe, the Patio Bar opened in December last year, just in time for the festive season.

Part of the little laneway beside Luna Cinema, it’s slightly off the beaten track, and it feels like you’ve discovered a hidden gem.

But locals will no doubt remember the old X-Wray Cafe, which was a lively and quintessential Freo venue in its pomp.

The name Patio Bar is a bit uninspiring, but I like the owners aren’t into gimmicks.

While other pubs are wheeling out fluorescent crazy golf, rubber darts, bowling alleys and retro video games, the Patio is a classy, understated bar with no glaring insecurities. 

A place where you can catch-up with friends over a drink and “talk pish” as they say in Scotland.

The venue is impressive: there’s a large limestone al fresco with plantation shutters and a louvered roof, and the interior has a soaring ceiling and lovely curved bar with a wide variety of beers and wines. 

Jambo and I took a seat in the spacious al fresco and perused the one-page hand-written menu which had a nice range of share plates including pickled zucchini, mushroom fritti medley, marinated capsicum, cured meats, olives, and labneh mezze plate.

Many of the dishes were vegan, vegetarian or gluten free.

The friendly chap behind the bar kindly said they had some pasta left and could do it as a main (he probably clocked our groaning bellies and thought we might like a substantial dish to ourselves) but we fancied the full experience and went for the share plates.

I’m a bit reticent about share plates in pubs as my experience has generally been – small, underwhelming dishes and high prices.

How would Patio Bar fare?

The lunch got off to a flyer with the mushroom fritti medley ($16)  – beautiful meaty shrooms in a light golden batter with a delightful dipping sauce and pickles on the side. It was a good serve as well with the fungi piled high on the plate.

Next up was the meatballs in sugo ($16): another triumph with the gorgeous meatballs having that light, hand-rolled texture that  gently falls apart in your mouth.

The sugo was rich and moreish, and again it was a hearty, filling dish. The Tuscan kale salad ($12) was a refreshing foil to all those strong, intense flavours and gave the palate some restbite.

The crumbed whiting ($15) was another hit with the fleshy white fish coated in a light crispy batter. It didn’t quite have the “wow” factor of the other dishes, but it was very enjoyable and a solid fish course.

Last but not least was a plate of jamon ($14) – nicely presented in a circle with a wedge of lemon, there was plenty of the dry-cured Spanish ham, which tasted delicious.

Our five dishes came to $73, which for the portion size and quality was superb (similar places and you’re well over $100 and not even full).

A selfish part of of me wants the Patio Bar to remain a hidden gem, but I suspect it will get super busy as word-of-mouth spreads.

Right, I’m off to join a gym and buy 200 lettuces from Farmer Jack’s…

Patio Bar
4/3-13 Essex Street, Fremantle


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