In Western Australia, Perth lies 2,500km from its nearest neighbour, Adelaide, so it seems more aloof than the cities dotting Australia’s east coast. But this beach-edged, artsy outpost, sprung from a still-thriving mining industry, with a penchant for psyche pop (Tame Impala hail from here), water sports and decent coffee, is laidback and sunny and offers culture by the coast.
Qantas have launched a new direct route from London to Perth this year, and 2018 hails the arrival of new dining and socialising hubs in the city, so, despite its apparent standoffishness, it’ll be making a lot of new friends. We run down the things you’ll make a beeline for and the food stops you’ll make along the way. Read on for our guide to Perth…
From flat whites (which were invented in Aus) to cold brews, Perthians are happiest when caffeinated. Coffee culture is serious in Australia – even Starbucks struggled to compete with local brews and closed most of its stores – 95 per cent of cafés in Australia are independent. So, do as the locals do and start your day with the hard stuff at one the following:
1 Steamlab This caff rocks serious barista hardware and pours superlative single-origin coffees (including Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Autumn and Nicaragua Finca Bethania) alongside their rich house blend, Zuri. And if you prefer leaf over bean, they have a ‘tea sommelier’.
2 Addison & Steele Specialty Coffee This café to the north is as meticulous as a lab – each shot of Melbourne’s Small Batch Roasting Co coffee is measured to taste via German grinders or a Slayer espresso-maker. Perk up your inner nerd at monthly tastings.
3 Primal Pantry The coolest drinks trend to hit Perth recently is nitro coffee: a cold brew infused with nitrogen. This foamier, sweeter, allegedly healthier drink can be found in the mason mugs at impressively health-conscious café Primal Pantry.
Perth gets a blissful 265 days of sun a year and it’s positioned along the coast, with beach to spare – so, unsurprisingly, Perthians spend much of their time outdoors, whether flopped down on a stretch of sand, trimming their beach body or frolicking in the water.
4 Leighton Beach Cottesloe is Perth’s main drag for sun-seekers (the annual Sculpture by the Sea show decorates the shore); but we like Leighton in Freo (the nickname for Fremantle), a surfer-sought chill-out spot within ambling distance of drinking and dining. You can also snorkel and kite surf here.
5 Take a class Workouts in the sunny outdoors feel so much more rewarding. AcroYoga holds open-air classes in Freo. You can also join a sunrise yoga class at the top of Roe Street Carpark and watch the city wake up, or take Pilates on City Beach in the Scarborough suburbs.
6 Market up Find treasures at Beaufort Street Art Market, vintage tchotchkes at Stirling Square Markets in Swan Valley, and quirkier crafts at Mandjar Markets in Mandurah. Or, stop by one of Perth’s many farmers’ markets to pick up picnic goodies: sweet mangoes, giant prawns, fat olives, salad leaves and home-made dressing.
Sure, breakfast is a magical affair in Australia, but when it comes to AM dining, brunch wins out. In Perth this portmanteau meal has evolved beyond eggs and pancakes to involve wildly creative menus to lure the hungry from their lie-ins.
7 Gipsy Boy Boutique This Joondalup café and clothing shop is renowned for its French toast – a slab of buttery goodness loaded with bacon. It’s the pick for a more classic brunch, and the floaty floral dresses on sale are ideal post-binge wear.
8 May Street Larder This joint’s Soul Sandwich packs buttermilk-fried chicken, smashed avo, smoked sour cream and and pickled jalapeño between polenta waffles. Yup.
9 Nic & Kolo Decide what you want for brunch here when you board your plane; the menu’s an impossible-to-choose-your-own adventure. A chorizo hot-dog with melt-y jalapeño cheese? Soft-shell crab and eggs spiked with tamarind? Mac-and-cheese eggs Benedict? Send help, we’ve been here for three days and still can’t call it.
Perth’s warm waters attract dolphins, humpback whales and colourful shoals of fish, while the usual marsupial suspects roam dry land. To make wildlife spotting easier, the city’s animals and birds have helpfully, discretely settled on three different islands.
10 See quokkas These perma-smiling fluff-balls have gained Insta-fame by mugging with tourists (don’t get too close, they carry salmonella). Rottnest Island, a 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle, is the best place to see the endangered critters.
11 Visit fairy penguins Handily named Penguin Island is home to the world’s smallest penguins. Visit them – alongside sea lions and dolphins – on a day trip from Perth.
12 Hop to it Heirisson Island is home to a colony of grey kangaroos who are friendly with humans and are fairly tame (less so than Skippy). This little patch of green can be accessed by road, so it’s easy to reach. Vivid lorikeet and galah birds flock to the trees here, too.
GET SOME SUDS
No longer content with a can of Castlemaine XXXX, Australians demand craft brews. The revolution was kicked off by Matilda Bay Brewing Company, followed by Little Creatures in Freo. Since then, microbreweries have drastically changed the barrel of Perth’s drinking scene…
13 Blasta Brewery This tap room and tasting restaurant opened in March; the former serves chilled brews, including the award-scoring ruby-grapefruit-spiked Myway India Pale Ale. Food follows form, with beer-marinated meats and a casual pizza menu.
14 Nowhereman Brewing Co. In West Leederville, stop off at Nowhereman’s tap room to try their impressive brews, including their US pale, Crate Digger, and their dark lager, called On the DL.
Maybe you’re still full from brunch, but skipping lunch would be a big mistake – you’ll need it to soak up the beer anyways. Perth is always welcoming new and exciting eateries, most of which champion local produce.
15 Yagan Square This new social hub’s Market Hall is a buzzy spot where street food can thrive – stop by Shy John’s for dim sum and craft beers; Henry Little for three-cheese toasties and bursting-with-flavour bruschettini, or Big El’s x the WKND for coffee and South American fare.
16 Typika Cafe This Claremont hangout’s signature dish is the Angry Bird, a punch-packing plate of deep-fried Korean chicken with fiery gochujang, garlic and ginger. But the stickiest of pork-belly buns are a photo-finish second.
17 Toastface Grillah A wander from the Art Gallery of Western Australia, this is a cafe dedicated to cheese on bread, albeit fancier iterations with blue cheese, pear and lime chutney, or brie, zucchini and prosciutto – a cheap, cheerful, cheesy pit stop.
Western Australia’s climate is extremely amenable to grapevines, especially towards its southern tip, where some of Australia’s finest wine regions lay. As such, Perth’s wine lists make for indulgent reading.
18 Must Winebar When in need of a grape night out, hit Must Winebar, whose glass list lines up WA sippers with global picks.
19 Shadow Wine Bar This spot inside the Alex Hotel has plenty to sip, including wine and Aussi-made ciders.
20 City Wine and Beauvine Food & Wine Celebrate the gluggable stuff at one of Perth’s gourmet festivals. City Wine is held in June and has tapas plates and live music. Beauvine Food & Wine, held in October, has more than 60 wineries, breweries and cideries: the holy trinity of tipples.
The abundance of local produce – and fertile winelands – ensure Perthians dine very well. Here’s where to grab dinner in a city with some serious culinary clout…
21 Como, The Treasury This luxury hotel is housed in Perth’s 19th-century state buildings. The restaurant, Post, has charming historic features, but chef Jed Gerrard’s menu is wholly modern. Dine on striploin with salsa verde and spring lamb with an anchovy dressing.
22 Petition Kitchen An accomplished locavore eatery in the CBD, Petition Kitchen does a fantastic breakfast (with generous portions of slab bacon), but dinner is equally tasty. Imaginative dishes include kingfish with ginger and crème fraîche and steak with fermented-chilli vinegar.
23 No Menu This casual restaurant has brick walls, a mural by street artist Handbrake, and a simple blackboard to announce the chef’s daily menu (served family-style). Expect pizzas with authentic toppings and trad pastas, such as cacio e pepe.
The city formerly dubbed ‘Dullsville’ is now the life and soul of the party, with characterful bars popping up throughout its neighbourhoods. Talented mixologists recognise the demand for craft cocktails and sophisticated drinks.
24 Bar Lafayette This sultry low-lit bar evokes the Big Easy in a place that may even be more laid back… Debatable, but the Southern-accented cocktails – Seasonal Cobbler and Blood Peach Bellini – are beyond dispute. We also like the yuzu- and whisky-splashed highball.
25 Varnish on King This King Street Bar does a fine line in whiskies. The peckish can even order a whisky-and-bacon flight, where Tennessee whisky comes with smoked-beechwood bacon. Prefer grape to grain? Try the rosé-and-bacon flight instead.
26 The Bird The founders of this hip venue noticed a dearth of live-music spots in Perth and corrected that with this buzzy hangout. Line-ups prefer alternative and lesser-known acts (Debbie Downers, Your Girl Pho), and the atmosphere is all-embracing.
GET SOME ZZZS
27 Alex Hotel This colourful and oh-so cool hotel reflects its city perfectly, from its checkerboard roof terrace, to its sociable lobby bar. Created by Perth’s pre-eminent gourmands – the people behind Bread in Common, Gordon Street Garage, and the Hippocampus Distillery – its locality is woven into its stylish fabric.
Featured image is the rooftop at Alex Hotel