Portorosa Cafe, Fremantle

We found ourselves in Fremantle in search of somewhere to have dinner. We’d attended a book launch straight after work and were pretty hungry afterwards (despite me munching on the various nibblies on that were on offer). We wandered up and down Market Street and finally wandered over to Portorosa Cafe.

Thankfully, irritation can’t spoil my appetite

We almost didn’t get a table – as we stood at the threshold waiting to be seated, a second couple walked up behind us. A waiter came up to where we all stood, looked past Jac and me and asked the other couple if they’d like a table, although it was clear by where we stood versus where they stood that we’d been there first. The waiter should have checked if we’d been looked after already, but didn’t. And of course as it happened, before we could say anything, the couple behind us stepped forward so the waiter could show them to a table. This all happened very quickly. Bah. I hate this kind of thing, because when no matter how you say “Excuse me, we were here first”, even if you were indeed there first, you just sound like an a***hole. It comes down to 1) restaurant staff not doing their job properly (in the absence of a host or maître d’) – like asking who’s next or using common sense and checking with the people in front of the queue; and 2) people not playing nice and choosing to step ahead of you just because the opportunity comes up, even if they know you were there first. I’m sure you’ve been in similar situations involving queues when waiting to be served.

This exchange irritated me no end and I would’ve left right then, but the manager of the restaurant had spotted us from where he stood inside and swooped in to quickly to offer us a table inside, just before we walked away in annoyance.

We decided to share an order of garlic bread and have a main course each. Jac was in the mood for steak and I was in the mood for seafood.

Jaw-breaking garlic rusks, I mean, bread

We received a basket containing three slices of garlic bread. “Have the big piece,” Jac said to me generously. As it turned out in this case, bigger is better – the other two smaller pieces were overly toasted and unpleasantly hard to bite. Jac said it was like more like trying to gnaw on a baby’s rusk than eating a piece of garlic bread. Presumably all three slices had been put to toast/grill together for the same amount of time, which evidently was too long for the two small pieces of bread.

A basket of garlic bread

The big piece of garlic bread was OK, not bad but not great either. It was pleasantly chewy but didn’t have a lot of flavour. It had the right golden colour but didn’t really taste buttery or garlicky. It was something hot and savoury to munch on, but not a great example of garlic bread, which can be so much tastier. I’ve had much better garlic bread elsewhere.

Garlic bread

The return of the much detested steam trap

Jac ordered the bistecca mare monte, which is Portorosa’s surf and turf dish – a scotch fillet steak and three prawns on a skewer, all smothered in a creamy garlic sauce, served with chips and salad.

Scotch filet steak with prawns and creamy garlic sauce

Jac’s steak was cooked to medium rare as ordered, and she said it was tender and quite good. Being a sauce-fiend who love heavy sauce on everything she eats, Jac said she wished there was even more creamy garlic sauce. She wasn’t so keen on the chips. The chef had chosen to serve the dish in a way that irritates me – the steak placed on top of the chips. Regular readers will know I have ranted about this before – for the benefit of newer readers (and with apologies to the long-time readers :P), I really wish chefs would stop doing this. Placing the protein (steak, fish, any piece of meat) on top of the chips creates a steam trap that results in soggy, floppy chips under the meat. I presume chefs think presenting the meat on top of the chips creates height and looks better than the plain-jane homestyle placement of meat next to chips, but frankly, I’m more impressed by crispy fresh chips than a plate piled high with sad, soggy chips. Sure, the customer can rearrange his or her steak and chips to avoid too many chips getting prematurely soggy, but why present the meal this way in the first place?

Scotch filet steak with prawns and creamy garlic sauce

Thank goodness for an abundance of bursty prawns

I love garlic prawns and ordered one of the specials of the day – creamy garlic prawns, served with rice and salad. I was chuffed to see the prawns were a decent size and that there were quite a few of them.

Garlic prawns

I always wish creamy garlic prawns were served with tails off. I’d much prefer to be able to just eat the prawns without having to muck around with picking up the tail and sucking all the meat out of it, and then having to find room on the plate to place the prawn tails out of the way, because you don’t tend to get a separate receptacle for your discarded shells. You know what would be awesome? A disposable bone/shell container, like the paper ones we had at Chinese New Year family dinner in 2008. Restaurants could make bone/shell containers out of thickish paper with their logo or in their restaurant brand colours. Just an idea (or they could serve your main course with a little bowl for the bones/shells). :) The prawns were good and bursty, and yes, I sucked out every bit of meat out of those tails. The creamy sauce was very rich. I could’ve used more rice to soak it up. I did enjoy my dish very much.

Garlic prawns close-up

We had to rush back to the car – our parking ticket was about to run out, due to poor planning on our part – so we didn’t stay for dessert. Unfortunately, the most memorable aspects of our meal were mostly negative: the inedible garlic bread rusks; the more edible but not that buttery or garlicky big piece of garlic bread; the steak placed on top of the chips; how we almost didn’t even eat at Portorosa. But I did enjoy my garlic prawns. It was a pleasant enough meal, but overall, there was nothing especially impressive or special that would compel me to return to Portorosa in hurry – not when there are so many other restaurants to choose from.

Sorry, I didn’t write down the prices. From memory, the garlic bread was $AU5-6, our main courses around the AU$25-30 mark.

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Portorosa Cafe
93 Market St
Fremantle WA 6160
Telephone: (08) 9430 6126

Portorosa on Urbanspoon

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