by Mei Leong
I came across Canvas through a rather roundabout way: a new year’s resolution. Sometime last year, in a fit of Christmas optimism, I resolved to learn pottery wheelwork. And that’s how I ended up at the Fremantle Arts Centre, home to Canvas and possibly, a few ghosts.
The Arts Centre’s church-like facade looks gorgeous from the outside, belying the fact it was colony’s very first insane asylum. Conditions in the asylum were bad, with misunderstood persons being thrown in with the criminally insane. That, plus the lack of hygiene and overcrowding led to the eventual closing of the asylum (and opening of the Claremont Hospital for the Insane, near Graylands). The building was a women’s home for some time, following that a technical school and then the arts centre. The facility now hosts art exhibitions, concerts, markets and of course, art courses. And like all cool places it has an awesome cafe, tucked into a lush courtyard with garden seating beneath the trees.
The front facade of Fremantle Arts Centre.
(There’s also an great gift shop too, Found, selling locally made stationary and arty things.)
(And if you’re wondering, this building is thought to be one of the most haunted in Perth. But don’t let that put you off, the cafe’s great, not spooky at all.)
The main entrance into the FAC, all lush and green.
The Canvas courtyard.
I like sitting in the courtyard, it’s a bit like a secret garden, with umbrellas and overhanging greenery blocking out the sun. There is seating inside, but everybody tends to sit alfresco (maybe the thought of a ghost popping out during breakfast just won’t do). I always find the service here to be a bit aloof. Maybe its just a Freo hipster thing (minus the beards and bicycles). Since the service isn’t really that bad by Perth standards, I’ve been back twice for their tasty Middle Eastern brekkies. This time it’s with my bestie, J, who is quite the history buff and loves checking out heritage buildings (check out her blog, I’ve never known anybody else who can make genealogy sound so riveting).
I have to warn you, the coffee is quite variable here. But don’t despair, the cook is better than the barista..
Basque hashed potatoes with red onion, spinach, manchego, hollandaise and two poached eggs.
The Basque hashed potatoes arrives in its own little saucepan, along with the suggested extra of black pudding. I can never resist black pudding. It’s an impulse that can bite back as I’ve had some sucky blood sausages in the past. This time it’s a good decision, the black pudding it lightly spiced and crumbly, which goes perfectly with the soft centred, crispy edged potatoes, still sizzling from the heat of the pan.
The combination is blissful, especially with the two perfectly poached eggs with their gooey yolks running over the hash and hollandaise sauce melting over the top. I think I had a moment with this breakfast.
Housemade waffles with butterscotch banana.
J had the dish I so wanted to order but couldn’t bring myself to – the butterscotch banana waffles. (Jesus, I had plate envy when that came out.) Two waffles, notably made in house, had been drizzled with syrup and topped with a banana which had been battered, deep fried and coated in syrup. Along side was a dollop of double cream with icing sugar snowed on. J said it was very good, with the waffles being deceptively large it was hard to finish (but I don’t think she was complaining!).
One last note about the food. The kitchen’s specialty of shakshuka eggs – order them. They come out in a pan, bubbling in a spicy tomato sauce, continually cooking in the sauce until you’re ready to eat. Served with big hunks of baguette, it’s finished with garlic butter and soft, almost pulpy whole olives. Yes, garlic butter for breakfast may seem a bit weird but it really works. If you’re a hard core fan of a savoury breakfast, I think you’ll like this one.
Canvas at Fremantle Arts Centre
1 Finnerty Street, Fremantle WA 6160
T: (08) 9432 9562
Open 7 days 8.30am–4pm. Kitchen closes 2pm
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