For years, Little Creatures was the only waterfront brewery in Fremantle and had a monopoly on the market.
That was until Gage Roads came up with the ambitious plan to transform the forlorn A-shed market on Victoria Quay into a massive brewery/eatery.
Big venues are always a gamble – you need a large number of punters through the door just to break even – and redeveloping the old 100m cargo shed, built in 1926, cost about $10 million.
But 18 months after opening, Gage Roads is doing a roaring trade and most days the place is packed to the gunnels.
Meanwhile, the area around Little Creatures is looking slightly bereft – Harbourside, Joe’s Fish Shack and Baskin-Robbins have all closed down.
Gage Roads is a massive venue with something for everyone – good quality beer, DJs, a roped-off area for parties, quay-side tables for couples, and loads for families including retro arcade games, an ice cream stand and a massive playground/sand pit.
But what’s the food like – rote pub grub or something a bit more sophisticated?
The one-page menu had a range of small share plates (squid rings, lobster roll, tortilla chips, chorizo), bigger shares (snapper with white beans, roasted prawns with fennel salad, roasted cauliflower with feta cream), tacos, pizza, salads and desserts. It was unashamedly casual pub grub with the odd flourish (kingfish ceviche and crab tostada).
There was 10 of us for dinner on Friday night, including five kids under nine, so the large space in Gage Roads came into its own and we managed to secure a table outside, directly opposite the kids playground.
It was dusk and you had lovely views of boats plying the river and fishermen siting patiently on plastic buckets on the quay, casting hopefully into the glassy water.
My sister-in law went for the crab tostada ($22) and lamb tacos (two for $18).
She enjoyed the mix of crab, chives, cucumber, tomato and white onion in the dainty tortilla.
“The lime mayonnaise is spot on and there is a good balance of flavours,” she noted. “It’s good quality crab and is nice as an entree or to share.”
It wasn’t long before she was hoeing into her tacos.
“The lamb is super tender and I love the fetta cheese and apple slaw, which adds a freshness to the dish,” she said.
“The red guacamole and rosemary really set it off. Very tasty and moreish.”
If the small shares were a hit the pizzas were a bit average: My brother-in law was disappointed at the dearth of meat on his smoked brisket pizza, which included fior di latte, bbq sauce and pickled chilli ($28).
My wife “Special K” and I shared a Margherita ($23) which was enjoyable but nothing special. However, the chips ($13) were super tasty and quickly demolished
The kids sliders, fish and chips, and pineapple and bacon pizza (all $13) went down a treat and there were no hissy fits or complaints.
The food was enjoyable without setting the heather on fire, but the overall experience – service, venue, facilities, view and beer – were very good.
It’s the little touches in Gage Roads, like the detailed Lego model of the venue at the entrance and the old Aussie boat and jeep in the kids playground that make it uniquely local, and not just another corporate clone.
Gage Roads Freo Brewery
Peter Hughes Dr, Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK