Despite the craziness of the Christmas/New Years period, a group of friends and I managed to find a Saturday afternoon when we were all free in the middle of it all, and we decided to get together for some holiday cheer. We had bought tickets to spend the afternoon at Zapfhall, the pop up beer hall in Fremantle, however despite selling us tickets that specific Saturday a quick check of their Facebook page in the morning told me that they were closed! That was a little unexpected, but with the search on for a new venue Little Creatures came through for us, so we headed in to see if we could get a seat in the sunshine.
When we got into Fremantle we decided to take a chance on Creatures Next Door, as Little Creatures itself was pretty packed out – obviously half of Perth had the same idea as us! Luckily enough at the slightly lesser known sister venue we managed to nab some comfy lounge seats out on the balcony, and the staff were able to provide me with some suncreen to protect my lily-white skin, which was very much appreciated.
As with Little Creatures, Creatures Next Door has a relaxed vibe with its mismatched shabby chic furniture – think wide couches spread across two balconies and spacious indoor seating area. With floor to ceiling windows wrapping most of the way round the building, they definitely take advantage of the natural light and beautiful harbour views. Your stay there is made all the more relaxing by the prompt table service, meaning you rarely need to get up off your couch to satisfy your needs. Provided with some menus and cold water, we were happy as pigs in mud as we settled in to look over the menu.
There is a reasonably sized tapas style menu there, with options ranging from ale glazed chicken wings with coriander, to lamb cutlets with Moroccan spices or the modern pub classic, pulled pork sliders with coleslaw. We started off with a bottle of champagne – the first of many – and some fries ($9.50) as there were still a few people left to arrive.
The fries were about as good as pub fries get, hand cut, well salted and served with a tangy, creamy aioli. Very yummy, and a good way to line our tummies before getting to know a few more of the bottles of wine on the menu!
Next on the list of culinary delights for the afternoon were the pea, mint and feta croquettes with curry mayonaise ($12). These. Were. Amazing! The crispy exterior held its shape well, but on biting into the croquette it gave way to a soft, flavoursome filling. The mint was a welcome addition – it really shone through to give this dish a summer freshness. The curry mayonaise was interesting as well, it wasn’t something that would have immediately sprung to mind to accompany the flavours in the croquette, but contrasted really well to give the dish a bit of kick.
We also got a really lovely bottle of wine with these, which I would recommend if you ever make a visit – the La Boheme Pinot Gris (around $42 from memory). Very easy drinking for a Saturday afternoon!
Seeing as we were having such a lovely afternoon in the sun and by the water, some fresh seafood seemed like the natural choice for our next snack. The calamari with skordalia and lemon ($13) was something I had had my eye on since we had gotten there, and I was excited to get to try some of it. To begin with I didn’t know what skordalia was, but it turned out to be a creamy garlic and potato dip, hailing from Greek cuisine (although I have to admit I thought it sounded Scandinavian?). It was light and fluffy, a good accompaniment to the calamari which was undeniably well fried – retaining that little bit of bite without having the consistency of a rubber band. With a bit of fresh lemon juice drizzled over the top, it was the ideal summer menu item!
Then there was the lamb cutlets with morrocan spices and eggplant ($18). This was dish of the day as far as I was concerned – the lamb was perfectly pink in the middle, the meat was falling of the bone, and the coating of spices was generous without giving you a dry, powdery taste in your mouth. This was helped along by the eggplant element of this dish, which was in the form of a creamy dip. I quickly chowed down on two of these, and could have easily eaten another if there hadn’t been other hungry people around!
The pulled pork sliders ($14, 2 per serve) were everything you have come to expect in this ubiquitous menu item – a toasted bun that was pleasantly crunchy on the outside with a good ratio of pork, bread and coleslaw. It was also a delightfully carb-filled way to finish off our main meals after more than a couple of bottles of wine!
As we sat there, watching the sun set over the boatshed and the lights on the restaurants opposite become brighter, it was decided that we should finish off the fantastic afternoon that had been with some dessert. With a few options on the menu, it was a tough choice between cookies and cream with berries and the donuts with vanilla sugar and lemon curd (both $12), but the donuts won out in the end. It was a exceptional choice – the donuts were hot and fluffy, and the combination of the sweet vanilla sugar and tart lemon curd on my tastebuds was almost electric. I love a good sweet/sour combo!
Given the disappointing way our day had started with Zapfhall being closed, it ended pretty fabulously at Creatures Next Door. The beautiful view, accommodating and friendly staff and generous portions at reasonable prices all went some way to putting a big smile on my face. If you ever find yourself in Fremantle wondering what to do, I would recommend a few cheeky drinks and some food here!