The gourmands behind cult cafés and bars Bread in Common, Gordon Street Garage and the Hippocampus distillery have cooked up effortlessly cool boutique stay, the Alex Hotel, in Perth’s Cultural Centre, where dive bars mingle with respected galleries and svelte eateries. Within the black-and-white block designed by Space Agency architects, bespoke Arent & Pyke furnishings, affable staff and an honesty bar filled with West Australia’s finest make this the go-to stop for comfy disco naps and hearty fuelling breakfasts.
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Two signature cocktails in Shadow Wine Bar & Dining Room
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability; AU$40 is charged for late check-out till 2pm. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $111.15 (AU$164), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
A lavish Continental breakfast buffet is included in room rates.
The hotel has a fleet of elegant vintage-style Lekker Bikes that guests can borrow for free. They’ll also give you a map, lock and helmet. The hotel’s library has a diverting selection of art and design books too. Space Agency, the architects behind Bread in Common – owner Nic Trimboli's achingly hip café and bakery – built the sleek, cubist yin-yang of a block the hotel resides in.
At the hotel
Espresso bar, lounge, library, mezzanine and roof terraces, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV with streaming movies, free bottled water, air-conditioning and local Sodashi bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Perth’s motley mix of 19th-century art deco buildings and sleek skyscrapers can best be admired from X-Large Room 602, which has a corner balcony, a glass wall in the bathroom and a window by the the bed (pillow fight your partner to see who gets to sleep on that side). X-Large Room 515 is the biggest in the hotel, and it has a balcony for sunset watching.
Comfy trainers for biking, and a stash of Tim Tams for when you feel peckish and don’t want to leave your room.
The hotel has a lift, and all common areas are wheelchair accessible. Four rooms (a little larger than the Medium rooms) have been adapted for guests with mobility issues.
This is a Smith-about-town kind of place, so best suited for older kids. Eight sets of Small, Large and X-Large rooms on each floor interconnect to form mini two-bedroom apartments. Cots for under-2s can be added to rooms free.
Sultry Shadow Wine Bar & Dining Room has plenty of low-lit corners for couples to hide in. The deep velvet sofas in the lounge and the roof terrace’s fainting couches are rather inviting too.
Intriguing tailoring in block colours: something offbeat from hip brands 33 Poets or House of Sky will turn heads.
Charcuterie and cheese plates, single-origin coffee and excellent beers and wines are served in the lobby café; floor-to-ceiling windows open to the street and there’s a small outdoor terrace. Shadow Wine Bar & Dining Room, behind the hotel, is another of the owners’ ventures and the hotel’s unofficial eatery. Accomplished Italian fare (crab spaghettini, peppery montaditos, slow-braised meats) and cult brews (Moo, White Rabbit and Little Creatures, of course) are served. Breakfast is a buffet in the hotel lounge composed of West Australian treats: Mano a Mano coffee, Bread in Common sourdough, home-made muffins, friand cakes, muesli and granola, and fresh fruit.
The hotel’s honesty bar is filled with niche craft ales and lagers, ciders, and a well-chosen range of reds and whites mostly from the Margaret River region. Take your pick and settle down at the window banquette or large dining table in the lounge. Coffee and tea are free in the lounge, and staff will whip up a pot of specialty loose-leaf brew on request.
The breakfast buffet is laid out with a flourish from 6.30am–10.30am.
No room service, but the honesty bar and lobby café are open 24 hours a day.
This sleek, black-and-white habitué is in Perth’s Cultural Centre, just north of the CBD. Its Northbridge neighbourhoods include James Street’s bars and clubs, a clique of modern-art galleries, and avant-garde performance spaces.
Perth Airport (www.perthairport.com.au) is the closest international hub, a 20-minute drive away. Direct flights arrive from South Africa, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand, and there are frequent domestic services.
Perth Railway Station is a five-minute walk from the hotel. Transperth trains run to destinations along West Australia’s coast and inland. If you’re travelling from the east coast, hop on a Rail Australia (www.railaustralia.com.au) sleeper train; the journey from Sydney takes three days.
Driving in Perth is as laid back as the city itself, give or take a little peak congestion. There’s an Avis car-hire booth at the airport, and it’s worth securing a GPS – freeway exits can be tricky. Take National Highway 94 and State Route 8 from the airport to the hotel. Parking is close by at the City of Perth car park (by the State Library); it’s AU$32.90 for 24 hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
Perth’s Cultural Centre is at the heart of the hotel’s on-trend Northbridge neighbourhood. You’re likely to stumble upon challenging plays, live shows by local bands or much-debated art exhibits thanks to its many galleries, theatres and buzzing bars. The familiar pointillism and abstract symbolism of indigenous Australian art become more complex when viewed through a contemporary lens in the Art Gallery of West Australia’s (+61 (0)8 9492 6622) impressive collection. Free volunteer-led tours are held frequently, and the rotating exhibitions are renowned. A champion of up-and-coming playwrights – alongside the sublime and ridiculous – The Blue Room Theatre (+61 (0)8 9227 7005) has covered subjects as diverse as teaching robots how to feel, and ballets defending the ubiquity of Apple products – attend with an open mind.
Borrow one of the hotel’s bikes for a 13km cycle to Cottesloe Beach. Legendary as the birthplace of surfing in Perth, this curve of coast overlooks breath-taking Indian Ocean sunsets, and fish and chip shops sit close by. Its centrepiece is an art nouveau house built by John Curtin, Australia’s 14th prime minister. For ventures further afield, appropriately named Penguin Island is a 45-minute drive from Perth: kayak and kite-board, or spy seals, dolphins and a colourful cast of underwater critters from a glass-bottom boat.
Babooshka (+61 (0)4 2998 6026) – just around the corner from the Alex, if you’re feeling a tad ‘delicate’ – peddles an enticing menu of brunch goodies. Try the Tsar’s breakfast or a delightfully dense Nutella milkshake, and don’t forget the coffee. Stop for lunch at Flipside Burgers (+61 (0)8 9228 8822); the chain is a (prime) cut above many bearing the tag. Beef, chicken and veggie patties are layered with intriguing toppings (beetroot slices and fried egg, or pear and parmesan), and the Burger of the Month Club throws breakfast and country-themed offerings into the mix. Prince Harry is allegedly a fan of the Queen Victoria Burger. The Alex’s own Nic Trimboli conceived low-lit, intimate Balthazar (+61 (0)8 9421 1206), where dishes play fast and loose with sweet and savoury flavours (toffee-apples stuffed with blue cheese and parmesan-sprinkled beetroot-jam doughnuts) with stylish – and delicious – results. Head to Lalla Rookh (+61 (0)8 9325 7077, named after a showgirl from mining town Kalgoorlie) for high-end Italian fare: charcuterie and cheese plates, seasonal dishes and a reassuringly abridged pizza selection. For sushi with a twist, look just down the road to Aisuru Sushi (+61 (0)8 9328 8578).
We get good percolations from William Street coffee peddler, Daphne (+61 473 196 322). They do a brain jump-starting espresso using Loaded craft coffee. Nab a comfy cushion-packed pew for a ploughman’s or all-natural La Paleta ice-lollies; we love the banana butterscotch, and watermelon and rose flavours. Part of the WA Museum, The Muse Garden Café (+61 409 209 904) is a remarkably peaceful city hideaway with an interior garden and very friendly staff. Superfoods and equally super drinks are served on pretty bone china, as well as warming comfort food.
A sleek assemblage of lattice screens and leather banquettes dominated by an enticing spirits cabinet: font-monikered bar Helvetica (+61 (0)8 9321 4422) has an epic whisky (and whiskey) list and cool cocktails (the Mexican Pornstar piqued our interest). Sustenance comes in the form of lemon-fried chorizo and black Angus beef pies. On Queen Street a red-brick former mill has been converted into The Flour Factory (+61 8 9485 1711), a fine city drinkery. Its menu favours carnivores, with ‘butchery’, charcuterie and hotdog sections, and the drinks menu has whole segments dedicated to G&Ts and Negronis. Head to its Sherry rooftop for alfresco sipping and socialising.
‘Hi. We’re moving over here to keep you company.’ These are not always the words you long to hear when you’re dining. But, in this case, the two women in cute Fifties-style dresses seem like a welcome distraction. Shadow Wine Bar, with its dramatic black beams and lengthy, softening drapes, is fairly humming on a Friday night. It’s the restaurant that’s part of (but around the corner from) the super-stylish Alex Hotel, owned by the consortium behind Little Creatures Brewery and designed by Sydney-based company Arent & Pyke.
There are no private tables, the hostess tells me when I arrive, but she can seat me at the high communal table. My new companions arrive when I’m part-way through a first course of kingfish ceviche and green-chilli vinegar. ‘We’ll just have cheese and wine…’ one tells the waiter, who talks them through the day’s selection. They’ll have some of each, as it turns out. Then, after ‘hellos’ and a few words, they go back to talking about a project they’re working on.
It’s not as though I am desperate for conversation. There’s a book in my handbag, and the two women on my left are that mix of beautiful, cool and seemingly rich that can induce feelings of nausea. However, their overt interest in what everyone else is eating and a squealing conversation about their love lives is all rather amusing. Then there is the menu and wine list – one the best in Perth, everyone had told me. Who am I to resist a couple of glasses of Paul Nelson’s Maison Madeleine mourvèdre grenache (made in the Ferguson Valley south of Perth) and a delicious bowl of crab spaghettini with capers, lemon, tomato and chilli?
It just so happened I ended up in Perth without Mr Smith, since he’d had something of a family emergency the day before departure. Unfortunately, unlike the preferred approach of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, it was too late to call the whole thing off, so I’m flying solo. Besides, with a wet, windy and cold start to the Melbourne summer casting a pall over the city’s inhabitants, a few days in the West Australian sun is just what the doctor ordered.
There’s something about travelling by yourself; I suddenly realise what that thing is after just a few hours at the Alex Hotel – the hip bolthole in artsy Northbridge – Room 401, one of the Alex’s ‘large’ rooms, still looks much as it did when I’d arrived. My coat – unnecessary here, due to Perth’s glorious weather – is hanging neatly on the chic unit that combines a light, mirror and a couple of hooks; the bed is still made; a glass of the bottled water provided is sitting on a coaster; and my bag is placed neatly in a corner. Hours later, the Mr Smith bomb hasn’t gone off. It’s an unexpected joy.
If you must be somewhere by yourself, it may as well be the Alex. Apart from the room, which is a sublime minimalist grey, with crisp white linens and a couple of splashes of daffodil yellow, there are a number of immaculate public spaces. A free breakfast is served on the first floor: slice from the loaf of fresh sourdough, pop a couple of spoonfuls of home-made strawberry jam and blood-orange marmalade on them, and grab a freshly baked muffin (sweet or savoury, depending on your morning tastes), then take a seat. Being on East Coast time, I find myself reading the paper on the sunny patio one morning, the next at a table in the lounge. Here, you can plonk on a faded-pink or mustard velvet sofa, or hang around the huge communal table, put an album on the record player and flick through cool magazines and hefty art books. You might want to mind jammy fingers on the latest, pristine copy of Kinfolk, though…
This lounge is also home to the honesty bar. Grab a glass of Margaret River ‘cab sav’, a bottle of Eagle Bay Brewing Co’s Kolsch or even a Karma Cola; write in in the book and it gets charged to your room when you leave. Just a quick tip: take it up to the sixth floor, where there’s a rooftop terrace with sensational sunset views.
It would be easy to just laze around the Alex enjoying its relaxed atmosphere, but the hotel’s other drawcard is its location. Just steps away is the public art and performance hub, Perth Cultural Centre, where you’ll find the Art Gallery of WA, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Blue Room Theatre and the closed-for-renovation Western Australian Museum. Take a shortcut through the main train station and you’re in Perth’s city centre. I spend my days wandering aimlessly, eating a lot – dumplings and bubble-tea cocktails on the roof at laundromat-themed Lucky Chan’s Laundry & Noodlebar, or beer and burgers on the deck at Mechanics’ Institute are highly recommended – checking out the redevelopment of the historic State Buildings, enjoying the sunshine by the Swan River and exploring the spectacular Kerry Hill Architects-designed City of Perth Library. Imagine doing that with Mr Smith in tow…
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Alex Hotel’s Guestbook below.
Loved the style of the hotel. Great areas to chill out and catch up over a drink. Rooms can be a little noisy over the weekend but ear plugs are provided. Breakfast table was a great inclusion. Overall would definitely book again and recommend.
Stayed on 19 Jan 2019
The proximity to Perth city, the comfortable bed and pillows, water pressure in the shower… communal breakfast area, papers, general ambience. Staff incredibly helpful and charming.
Stayed on 3 Sep 2018
We absolutely loved the style of the hotel, which immediately felt like a welcoming home rather than a hotel which was beautiful but unusable. We spent time in all the public spaces of the hotel, just as though it were our home. The breakfast was fantastic and very generous, and the honesty bar was a great option and worked so well! There is a fantastic Italian gelato shop a few doors from the hotel, and more amazing restaurants than you could count within walking distance. The difficulty is choosing where to go!
Friday and Saturday nights to be quiet - this hotel is in a lively part of town so plan to join in rather than sleep through.