Ready for take-off
A prediction: 2015 will be the year Australia reaches Peak Beard. Hipsters will shave facial hair and start wearing socks. They’ll put their fixie in the garage and take the car. Even the hipsters’ close cousin, the lumbersexual — an inner-urban chap with a beard bushy enough to hide his adze in, the wistful gaze of a misunderstood poet, strong workboots, a taste for craft beer and sporting lumberjack plaid — will take the razor to his chops.
As predictions go, it’s pretty flimsy — more wishful thinking than trend spotting. But dude, now that every winsome private schoolboy with dreams of being an internationally famous indie filmmaker has fashionable facial hair, surely Peak Beard can’t be too far off. Surely.
Hipster/lumbersexuals are over-represented in the hospitality sector. Perhaps it’s the attraction of mirrored bar backs when one can cop a look at oneself many, many times a night and think “My God, that product is so holding my man bun just right.”
There are a lot of beards at Propeller in North Fremantle. But as far as we can tell they’re more hetero-scruffy than hipster because there are no bare ankles or cooler-than-thou vibes in the venue. Propeller is cool but nice, too. Friendly, buzzy, fun. They do, however, make ironic jaffles for breakfast. Hmmmm.
As is the way these days with bars that sell food, the menu is short and untroubled by trick cookery. The dishes are simple. The produce is good. The results are mostly OK. The kitchen is run by the hardworking chef’s chef Kurt Sampson, latterly of Pata Negra.
Grilled bread, whipped mullet roe, $12, was a real-deal tarama — not lurid pink, but a natural beige — well salted, whipped and lightly irrigated on the plate with a bright, fruity olive oil. Good bread had been charred on the grill.
Mussels, clams, sherry, ham did what it said on the tin and its description was anarchically brief — just four nouns. Five years ago that dish would have read something like “Hand-dived, southern fresh Rockingham mussels with Cloudy Bay clams, Spanish-style Kurobuta ham, tossed though a sherry and organic stock reduction”.
The produce was good, the bivalves just cooked. Flavours were muted to bland: it needed more seasoning, perhaps a slug of sherry vinegar. It was $24.
The $22 chicken skewers were generous and robustly flavoured from both the chargrill and a marinade that included dates and pistachios. Again, the kitchen got the timing spot-on — the chicken chunks were just cooked but nicely charred.
“Quail pie”, $27, was straight out of the North African playbook: meat in brik pastry cooked on the grill and anointed with icing sugar. Sounds weird eh? Not so fast. It’s sweet/meat/fruit riff is confronting if your only experience of icing sugar is on the top of a cupcake, but it is classic bisteeya and well made, if a little dry.
The kitchen loves the sweet-sour thing. One of their pizzas is like a slice of Sicily, topped with sardines and the classic agrodolce combo of currants, pine nuts and sweet-sour onions on a base of thinly sliced potatoes and herbs. Superb, and $14 for a small single-serve pizza is terrific value.
The star dishes include cuttlefish with minted peas and almonds, $22, quinoa, walnut falafel and tahini, $16, and all of the pizzas.
On the occasions we visited for the purposes of this review, Propeller went from low key to massive hit as word spread quickly of its compelling formula: casual, outdoors, village-y, smart and welcoming — everything you want in a neighbourhood eatery. It’s a joyful place to be.
Propeller North Fremantle
The best of Propeller is what the owners have created in such a short time. They bang on about “community” and the venue “being a local, neighbourhood hang” and they’ve created just that — a friendly, local, neighbourly place with a few well-priced wines, simple food, a rollcall of bar-style/dude-style small and share plates and smart, slightly frantic service. The food is on-trend but there’s nothing revolutionary about it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: the best restaurants in the world are simple and pleasing and smart without being too clever.
Now, about the ironic jaffles ... perhaps there is a fixie or two parked behind the kitchen after all. Totes amusing.
222 Queen Victoria Street, North Fremantle.
9335 9366 propellernorthfreo.com.au
Open: Breakfast/lunch/dinner, Wednesday-Sunday
House-cured meats $18
Superb local gem. Modern design, great-value food made simple. Short but well-formed wine list. Licensed from 5pm. Fun in the sun and a great vibe.
IMAGE: Propeller North Freo
© The West Australian
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