ciccerello's – fremantle
Freo is quite romantic at night, missing the daytime crowds and raucous seagulls, the port city resembles a deserted holiday city and has historic charm to boot. Just as well we are spoilt for choice for fish and chips by the harbour. Listening to the purr of the crowds, the sizzle of fryers and water lapping the pylons, the atmosphere is half the battle won for a good night out.
Ciccerello’s is a Freo must-eat, an institution which is often the number one choice for loyal customers and families on a day out by the sea. With prime view of the blue and white fishing trawlers, I remember the days when it was a dingy old shack perched by the harbour. Over the years, Cicerello’s has churned countless paper wrapped lunches to generations and with its expansion to the slightly soul-less behemoth it is today, it is still more popular than ever. Now, the piece de resistance of Cicerello’s is their beautiful aquarium, which the queue snakes around and hungrily ogle at. During the day, the place is heaving with customers (and evern more seagulls) but at night the place has a quiet buzz.
We arrived just before peak time and the restuarant was barely busy. It’s nice to be able to pick from the drinks fridge without shoving through a queue. Cicerello’s drinks fridge is quite impressive with numerous drinks and good selection of wines in manageable magnum bottles (fresh seafood and wine, what could be better?).
Ogling the LCD screens of menu specials we ordered what we thought looked the most tasty – a cray mixed grill for the bf and rottnest garfish special for myself. Well I lie actually – the chilli mussels and crab looks the most promising but I didn’t want to risk staining my clothes. I’m a bit of a grovel when eating and was once even told so by a cleaner…
Traditional fish and chips are served directly from the warmer, immediately wrapped in butcher’s paper. It’s quick and I have had reports their battered fish and chips are really nice. However I’ve had bad experiences with their sardines, as twice I have ordered them and both times something was horribly wrong. The first time the sardine were butterflied but unscaled. There is nothing worse than discovering your forkful of fish is actually a mouthful of scales. Icky. The second time, I’m pretty sure the ‘Fremantle sardines’ weren’t sardines at all (for one, they did not look like the sardines the first time around). They were so full of bones they were rendered inedible. They were also the largest sardines I had ever seen – they looked suspiciously like pilchard…
Ciccerello’s is not exactly a flash place, the dining area can be difficult to navigate through and the main dining area (on the other side of the aquarium) can be really crowded by noisy families and due to the high traffic, unkempt and dirty. Since it was a cold night we were keen for an indoors table and found a quiet table by a tranquil tank of baby snapper.
On any other night we would’ve sat outside by the water. Ciccerello’s has coveted boardwalk seating and customers can even sit on a boat! =) However I did like gazing into the fish tank, observing the juvenile pink snapper eyeing off the rival crays. Interestingly enough, the fish tank had a label stating the crayfish were for display only and definitely not for sale. That’s too bad really, some of them looked really tasty lol. It’s another story for the crayfish, I think.
Our buzzer rang after fifteen minutes and I had immediate mixed feelings upon sighting the food. Mind you, the food looked really good, but upon closer inspection I wasn’t so sure. The crayfish half was very small. Ciccerello’s could not serve a cray any smaller without being ashamed. The amount of cray tail rivalled a large prawn. Other than the crayfish size, the mixed grill was impressive – on a hot plate and swimming in garlic butter were chunky pieces of squid, 3 shelled prawns and a small fillet of grilled fish.
Upon tasting, the seafood was great. The prawns were fresh, succulent and just cooked. The fish was average and the crayfish was fresh. However, the squid was the stand out. It was impressively fresh. I think the next time we are here we’ll order the North West squid special. =) The dish also came with salad and rice. i thought the rice was a nice accompaniment to the buttery seafood and the salad was, meh. The passable salad was an ensemble of chunks of tomato, cucumber, lettuce and onion. But I guess you don’t come to a fish and chips place expecting great salad.
The Rottnest garfish came in 3 butterflied fillets. On initial inspection, they looked pretty good – grilled to golden perfection. But the proof is in the tasting and the fish was very overcooked. Maybe they hadn’t been cooked to order, but had been left on the grill, waiting for my fateful order. Nonetheless, the garfish was fresh with fine flakes and would have been succulent if not overcooked! The salad was a surprise hit. The tiny salad leaves, tatsoi, shredded cabbage and carrot resembled a dry slaw, served with a light tangy dressing – was almost recompense for the garfish. The salad was a distant cousin from the salad served with the crayfish. The chips were average but still gobbled up with pleasure. =)
After finishing with our meals, our trays were immediately cleared by the attendants. The attendants have eyes like hawks, watching carefully for newly polished plates and especially outside, they battle with the never ending tide of seagulls.
Ciccerello’s is well priced compared to their competitor Kailis and that’s probably why Ciccerello’s is so much more popular. However their food is inconsistent and sometimes downright bad. It’s a case of you get what you pay for.
– 13 garfish out of 20 –
Up’s: Embodies the atmosphere of Freo. Boardwalk seating. Aquariums for the kids to peep at. Good variety of dishes available, caters to most palates so it’s a good choice for the family.
Down’s: Can be very crowded. Inconsistent food. Don’t order the ‘Freo’ sardines!
Cicerello’s, Fisherman’s Wharf, 44 Mews Road, Fremantle WA 6160
T: (08) 9335 1911
7 days, 10am – 8.30pm
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