On holidays from Queensland, my family and I recently enjoyed a great meal at the Brighton Hotel in Mandurah.
We'd spent the morning at the scenic Penguin Island, just off Rockingham, and caught the ferry back to the mainland ready to eat. We could have lunched at Pengos Cafe, located right next to where the ferry lets you off, which looked okay if a bit overpriced. However, my Perth-based brother-in-law had especially recommended the Brighton Hotel, so we took his advice and drove half an hour down the road to Mandurah.
It was a scorching day, so we were pleased to find a free park just across the road from the hotel, which is in a great location near the Mandurah waterfront. We quickly escaped into air-conditioning and found a table for four with views of the water.
The Brighton has a special every day of the week, and my husband was in heaven when we realised that the special on the day we rocked up was one kilo of chilli mussels for just $15. Specials on other days include $15 barra with chips and salad on Mondays, $15 steaks on Tuesdays, and $10 pizzas every Thursday.
My younger son chose a 'small' steak with salad and chips from the Under $15 lunch menu, while my older son went to the opposite extreme and begged to have a tasting plate that cost a little over $30.
This dish allows you to choose four items from a long list of seafood and other tapas-style delights. We agreed on the basis that he would share with all of us, and he chose tempura scallops, salt and pepper squid, Moreton Bay bugs, and grilled chorizo. I opted for a caesar salad with prawns instead of chicken.
While we waited for our meals to come, we enjoyed some cool drinks, including a most refreshing beer for my husband. Drinks prices were reasonable and seemed on par with most pubs.
The hotel was busy but our meals were on the table about 20 minutes later. My husband's mussels were pronounced 'fantastic', and my older son's tasting plate was impressive, with all four of his selections nicely prepared. And, in a funny twist, this was the first time my boys had tried Moreton Bay Bugs, which come from the bay off our hometown of Brisbane. Both loved them.
My younger son's steak was generously sized but a little tough, which is what you get when you order the budget steak, I guess. His salad and chips were fine. My caesar salad was generally very nice, with the excepton of the prawns, which were disappointing. While king prawns are on the menu in another dish, my salad didn't feature those. Instead, I got what tasted suspiciously like the bland frozen Asian variety that are now popping up too often in Australian restaurants.
Still, on balance, we felt the food was good and pretty good value ($102 alltold), especially the mussels dish. This is in contrast to some other reviews of the Brighton that I've seen, which have commented unfavourably on the quality and price of the meals. Some of these reviews have also slammed the service, but we found the staff generally pleasant and helpful.
We also enjoyed the setting very much as a cool retreat on a hot day. The decor was attractive and the view over the water a bonus. With the Brighton offering plenty of incentives to get the punters in (live music, free kids' giveaways, meal deals, etc.), I think we'd become regulars if we didn't have to travel 4000 kilometres to get there. Especially on Fridays when the mussels are hot!