THE angular statue of John Curtin is signalling to me outside Fremantle Town Hall, mouth open and arm raised in earnest appeal.
I don't know why Australia's great wartime prime minister should be saluting the start of my Fremantle Food Lovers Tour, but that does look like a rolled-up napkin in his grasp. Or is it is a piece of paper?
No matter. The point is that Fremantle is packed with wonderful places to eat and drink. And I'm about to visit several of them, courtesy of this tour run by Two Feet and a Heartbeat.
My guide, Winona, starts each tour with a visit to the 19th-century Fremantle Markets to sample its best local produce, including fruit, honey and macadamia nuts improbably flavoured with abalone. There's also a range of teas created from native flora.
Next on the list is Kakulas Sister, the Freo outpost of Perth grocer Kakulas Brothers, owned by a Greek-descended family since 1929.
As we walk, Winona explains why Freo has so many beautiful old colonial facades. It was a run-down district post-war, she says, with a grim prison on its edge. Come the America's Cup yachting victory in the 1980s, however, it received an injection of funds that restored its heritage architecture and sparked a flourishing drinking and dining scene.
At Kakulas Sister's next-door establishment, Little Sister, we sit in a pleasant rear courtyard and enjoy a platter of French brie, washed rind goat's cheese, and sheep's cheese. It's partnered with salami and olives, and every mouthful is delicious.
We exit via the grocery section, passing big open sacks of beans, and turn into the west end of High Street. Here we pass beautiful facades of shops selling local art and fashion, such as The Artisan Store and Common Ground Collective.
At the end of the street is the Round House, the first jail in WA and the state's oldest surviving public building. This place holds grim memories for WA's Indigenous people, who in colonial times were held captive here before their transfer to a prison on Rottnest Island.
Our next stop is The Arbor, a new beer bar built into an open space behind the 1902 Old Synagogue. Only briefly a place of worship, the heritage building is today home to four restaurants.
The Arbor's contemporary decor and big, open deck is a striking contrast to the limestone walls of the adjacent heritage building. It's a fine example of the way Freo combines old and new to create something distinctive. The beer and pizza is good here too, especially the tomato, mushroom, capsicum and rosemary pizza we try with a local brew.
On the way to our final stop we pass along South Terrace, the busy restaurant strip known as the Cappuccino Strip in honour of the Italian cafes that introduced locals to espresso-style coffee in the 1980s.
Then, ducking down a quiet side street, we end at Strange Company. It's a stylish wine bar with a spacious interior, an angular ceiling and low black sofas. I ease on to a sofa before enjoying a selection of delicious small dishes: salmon candy pinxo; mushroom and black pepper croquette; and half-shell scallops with golden beetroot and spanner crab.
It's an ambient place at which to complete the tour, with a fine glass of WA sauvignon blanc to match.
Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Tourism WA and Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions.
Fremantle Food Lovers Tour, $120 per person; 1800-459-388, twofeet.com.au
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