Saturday, 1 February 2014

Bread in Common, Fremantle, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Our initial plan for Australia Day was to have lunch at Typika in Claremont, but with friends coming over for dinner we couldn't afford the drive out to the western suburbs. Plus the fact they were closing at 1pm and advertising an all-day breakfast made us a bit worried that the exciting lunch menu would not be available. Instead, we decided to pay a visit to another coffee and casual dining establishment that is fairly new to the Perth dining scene - Bread in Common, located on Pakenham St in Fremantle.

As much as I'm never in Fremantle these days, my childhood and high school years were spent as a Freo kid. I've seen this city change for better and worse - I remember where Fossey's used to be, or when Watsonia's original store on High St was still open, alongside many shops and failed businesses that now live on only in the collective memories of long time residents. As a formerly safe haven for free parking, my family had often parked on Pakenham St, and I remember the converted warehouse this is Bread in Common when it was still a marine engineering company, as a lot of Fremantle's West End used to be.

Seeing it now, with its herb garden, benches and bicycle rack outside, its hard to imagine the brick exterior had been hidden under a layer of horrible render - if you look at it on Google maps, its almost unrecognisable. 

This charming fa├žade immediately proclaims itself as very hip and very now, and the interior again showed that a great deal of time and effort has gone into design and aesthetics. 

Its very pretty in that West End, reclaimed warehouse post-industrial way - a similar aesthetic to the very hipster-trendy Gordon St Garage. But of course hipster flair will only get you so far - sure, newness and wanting to be seen will get that initial crowd through the door, but its the food that will keep the business going once the new kid in town trendiness wears off. 

While we perused their menu, we ordered our coffee - Alissa a cappuccino and a long macchiato/strong latte for me.

Having seen a Synesso espresso machine on our way in, we knew it was going to be good coffee and we were not disappointed - this was the best coffee either of us have had since Iggy's - not overly hot or bitter, the milk not overly steamed and fluffy. This was faultless coffee.

Being a place based around bread, we decided to go with a serve of their mixed bread plate for two, along with hand churned butter and the very interesting sounding Whipped Pork-Pistachio, Fennel spread. As with the coffee, this was fantastic - easily the best bread we've eaten since Caprice and Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong. When you consider that I'm comparing their bread to two 3 Star Michelin restaurants and that we've done quite a few fine dining establishments in between, that's high praise indeed. 

The butter was very tasty (though not as good as the butter at Caprice), but the real star was the Pork-Pistachio spread. This was just incredible, combining one of our favourite meats and two of its good friends into a smooth, delicious spread. I'm more a noodle person than a bread fiend, but this spread on some quality bread everyday for breakfast could make me a convert.

We additionally ordered some polish sausage, pickled chilli and some tomato chutney to go with the bread. These were very good, but nothing really surprising - especially when you compare it to the charcuterie plate at Vasse Felix.

We had originally ordered separate mains, however Alissa's main was taking longer to make so they brought out mine to share - not how we intended, but not a deal breaker either. My order was Squid, Watermelon, Green Olive, Pork Crackle, Oregano, and was as delicious as that combination sounds. The pork crackling was like unctuous croutons on top, and the squid had a lovely char flavour to them. This green olive tapenade gave it a salty-bitter kick which was cut nicely by the freshness of the watermelon. This was a great combination of flavours wonderfully executed.

Swordfish, Coriander, Wild Rice, Pawpaw, Green Mango, Chilli was however not quite as successful. The fish was cooked wonderfully with a nice char to the sides and a rare interior, and the salad and rice were very tasty. The problem was that it was extremely salty, with the darkish sauce (hoisin?) overriding the otherwise balanced dish. Which was a shame given how expertly cooked the fish itself was.

We hadn't planned on a dessert, however our greed got the better of us and we decided that we'd share a plate. While the Peanut Mousse, Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream, Raspberry, Oreo was supposedly the most popular of the desserts, we decided the fresher sounding
Peaches, Goats Curd, Lemon Verbena, Cashew Crumble was more our cup of tea. And it sure was - this was an excellent dessert. The peaches were presented two ways (fresh and poached) and along with the candied cashews provided the sweetness for the dish. The strongest elements of the dish were the sorbet which gave the dish a cold sweet tartness and the goats curd which seemed to be a panna cotta since it had the surprising consistency of soft tofu.

The Verdict: Excellent
There was the misstep of the salty Swordfish dish (both as a dish and coming out later), however in every other way Bread in Common succeeded at proving they weren't all style; they actually had a lot of substance to back it up. Bread and coffee were outstanding, and the squid and dessert were examples of well executed dishes based around considered flavour combinations. While we felt it was a bit early for a glass of wine, we were impressed to see many of our favourite wineries represented - Marchand and Burch, Single File, Stormflower and Forest Hill to name a few. We'd definitely love to come back here for some good conversation, good wine and good cheese with friends in the future. Definitely a new favourite in the Freo area. 

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