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Beer and Food; Freo Style
The Monk is a well-known hangout right in the middle of Fremantle. With a large alfresco area overlooking South Terrace, it’s a relaxed spot to catch up over some food or a couple of beers.
The building itself is iconic, with a large outdoor seating area and abundant exposed wood made from old recycled railway sleepers. The Monk captures an almost organic style that I could only describe as Fremantle, with fresh olive, lemon and rosemary growing outside, and the smell of hops wafting out of the brewery in the centre of the restaurant.
As the Monk is a brewery, I should tell you a bit about the beer. The Monk’s beers are all hand crafted, brewed, chilled and poured on site. As their licence does not allow them to sell their beer offsite, you’ll have to go to them if you want to try anything from their selection. Many of the beers have won multiple awards in national and international competitions including coming 5th in Australia’s top 100 best beers of 2012 and in the Australian International Beer Awards 2012 where they picked up three silver and three bronze medals out of over 1,300 entries. I had a chat with Paul Wyman, the Monk’s brewer, who told me they currently sell around 90,000 litres of beer a year in-house and are hoping to start selling their beer elsewhere, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that.
The menu has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, however head chef Bonny, prepares what he described as “rustic classics with an eastern twist”. An obvious example of the Mediterranean cuisine is the paella with chicken, pork, calamari and prawns cooked up every Sunday out on the terrace all year round.
Onto the main menu and I’ll start with the more substantial meals. The lamb cutlets were full of flavour and well balanced with a colourful roast veg salad that included cherry tomatoes, roasted capsicum, pumpkin, eggplant, buffalo mozzarella and croutons. The meal really captured the rustic style cuisine that Bonny is going for.
The Beef & Reef was another impressive looking, colourful dish. A slipper lobster was
The mains, pizzas and bar meal menus prices range between $22 and $39, which will get you a hearty meal. But for me, one of the biggest attractions of the Monk is the beer. I like to do a bit of food matching with my beer, which makes the beer bites and snacks menu quite an appealing option. Starting at around $7 for garlic bread or olives and ending up at around $22 for the sticky pork belly and seared scallops, the beer bites and snacks menu has a bunch of interesting smaller dishes that are good for sharing. With a bit of help from the beer menu, you can find the Monk’s brewer recommended beer matches, or you can pick up a tasting tray and have a go at matching some of the beers yourself.
We tried the Boquerónes, which are white anchovies that have been marinated and chilled and then placed on toasted sourdough with apple and mustard. The overall taste was salty and sour, which balanced well with the “Mild” beer. The three Boquerónes were placed on top of a crisp edible grape leaf that finishes off the meal with a crunch.
The Yum Cha squid was the second shareable meal we tried. It continues the rustic style food coming out on a wooden chopping board with a wooden bowl of dipping sauce made from chilli flakes and oil. The squid has a spicy tingle and manages to be both soft and crunchy at the same time. The brewer recommendation for this is the “Chief” beer, which satisfied the chilli without overpowering it.
For me, personally, the standout dish of the day was the eggplant Mousaka. A totally vegetarian dish, complete with lentils and rennet-free cheese, it somehow managed to taste quite meaty. The moussaka was served in a terracotta bowl on a wooden board. The dish also came with a fresh salad with soft goats cheese, red onion, roasted garlic, lettuce and cherry tomatoes, olives.
Bonny explained that while a lot of the customers who come through are looking for big meaty pub food, they also have a lot of vegetarian customers and so he has worked hard to make a menu that is welcoming to both. Also, being in Fremantle, there are plenty of great Italian restaurants less than a stone’s throw away. So rather than making the pizzas that you can get down the road, Bonny uses less traditional, high quality ingredients to create meals you really can’t get anywhere else.
To me, the Monk is a little treasure of WA. It’s a place to take folks from out of town who want to try some local microbrewery beers, and experience the Fremantle atmosphere. It’s also a familiar place to chill out on a long Sunday and watch the day go by.