Previously known as the Quokka Arms, the Hotel Rottnest occupies an iconic foreshore location on Rottnest Island, housed in what was originally the grand summer residence of the Governor of Western Australia.
A major refurbishment of the Quokka Arms in 2011 has created a slick new hotel that still respects its heritage origins. This new establishment includes a sprawling contemporary bistro that delivered the best meal of our recent stay on Rottnest Island.
Let's be frank: there's a lot of bad, overpriced food on Rottnest, and we ate our share during our five-day holiday. By the last day, I was loathe to spend any more money on dud meals. But, with rumbling tummies and a few hours to kill before our ferry back to Perth, we took the plunge and took our family of four for a slap-up lunch at the Hotel Rottnest.
And boy, am I glad we did. Walking between the heritage gateposts on a glorious summer day, you couldn't help but be struck by the beauty of the building and its setting. Sailing boats bobbed on the blue waters of Thomsons Bay, a gentle sea breeze was blowing, and the omens were good.
The omens were right: the beer was cold and the menu was interesting. Starters included simple options (e.g. olives, feta) for around $9 but also more complex and tempting options like prawn sliders (prawns on brioche with lettuce) for $16 and bruschetta with goats curd for $21.
Skipping the starters, I chose the barramundi and cous-cous, my husband the Italian sausage pizza, my older son local whiting and chips, and my nine-year-old the pork ribs. Despite the many people dining around us, the pizza turned up within 10 minutes, and made a great accompaniment to my husband's beer (the hotel stocks a wide range of craft beers).
Around 15 minutes later, the other three meals arrived -- and every one of them was good. The pork ribs were the standout, but the fish and chips were also streets ahead of most of the fish and chips we'd eaten on the island. My serve of barra was smaller than I'd expected for the price ($38), but the accompanying citrus dressing, olive tapenade and fennel made for a lovely balancing of flavours.
After polishing off our mains, we finished our meal with another beer for my husband and a vanilla panacotta with a berry coulis for me. Both hit the spot as God intended.
The Hotel Rottnest Bistro is big and noisy, designed to cater for large numbers of people. Loud music blared throughout our meal and the service is hardly personalised -- you order and pay at the bar, they scan some barcodes, and a while later a waiter you've never met brings your meal to your table. The place seemed packed to me the day that we were there, but our waiter informed us it was a quiet day! No doubt it could be a bit hectic when it's at capacity.
So ... it's not the place for a quiet romantic meal (try Riva Restaurant at Rottnest Lodge if that's what you're after). Nor is it aiming for 5-star status, with much of the food leaning to the 'chips and salad' side of things.
But it is just the place to go if you want something airy, sunny and fun, efficiently run, and offering good grog and good food in equal measure. Not to mention stunning views of Thomsons Bay. I only wish we'd discovered it a lot earlier in our Rottnest stay.