We went down to Freo last week and decided to drop in and have lunch at the National Hotel on the corner of High and Market Streets. This hotel was originally built in 1886, although it has changed a lot since then – it was badly damaged by fire in 2007 and was derelict for some years; however unlike the Guildford Hotel the owners of the National and of course with encouragement from a Council that actually values heritage (unlike it appears the City of Swan) rebuilt and re-opened the place.
It has both a downstairs bar/restaurant area – with nice table settings outside on High Street – and an upstairs area as well – with balcony seating. A really nice renovation and it does the old place proud. It really is a great looking building from the outside and the work done on the interior complements it.
We sat inside, downstairs – Lady FWO thought it a touch brisk out on High Street where I had originally set up waiting for her to come from an appointment. The very helpful and charming young waiter set about fixing a slightly wonky table and we set about ordering.
To the horror of Lady FWO they had run out of rosé, but we found a lovely Howard Park Riesling which hit the spot – beautiful citrus and floral notes on the nose, and fresh lime and acid on the palate – it was an excellent accompaniment to our meal.
We were there on Taco Tuesday – they have different specials each day – so we thought we should have a couple – so a fish and a pulled pork taco were ordered at $5 each; followed by the Summer Seafood platter.
The menu is reasonably substantial and ranges across the usual gamut of pub food and with a few more in the vein of gastro-pub dishes–salt and pepper squid, buffalo wings, chips and prawn and chilli crab cakes on the Quick Snacks part; with Fremantle sardines, pork terrine, and hot smoked salmon among the entrées; Black Angus fillet, fish and chips, burgers, risotto and the afore mentioned tacos on the bar main courses; with rump of lamb, a curry and confit pork belly among the a la carte mains.
The tacos were a good size – and came with coleslaw, avocado and a nice chipotle aioli. The fish was a piece of fried snapper and was cooked well, crisp exterior and tender, moist flesh.
The pulled pork was nicely gelatinous and unctuous – both satisfying dishes and well worth the price.
The seafood platter was a very large plate of Fremantle sardines, snapper goujons, salt and pepper squid, smoked salmon, prawns and crab meat, with salad accompaniments.
The seafood was all cooked well, none of the overcooked fish that we sometimes encounter – tender, flavoursome, not at all greasy, enjoyable.
We tried hard to eat it all, but the large mound of salt and pepper squid defeated us. I guess the price of the platter was up there at $47, but if you think of it as $23 a head, and we couldn’t eat it all, it was pretty good value.
We thought so, anyway. So after one more drink, we wandered off to catch the train back home. A good day, we felt.
The National is a welcome new (old) addition to the pub scene in Fremantle, with live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; a lovely renovation, extremely helpful and obliging staff when we were there; good food and a nice range of beer, wine and other liquor (just the absence of rosé on the day grated on the experience of Lady FWO) – we will be back for sure. Just a pity our local, the Guildford, could not be rebuilt with the same enthusiasm, style and panache.