Snow-white beaches. Endless coastline. Sunsets that put on technicolour light shows across the Indian Ocean. Perth might have no shortage of natural beauty, but if you dismiss it as just a good-looking boomtown, you’re only scratching at the surface. In the past few years, the world’s most isolated capital city has seen a cultural awakening, shaping everything from restaurants, bars and cafes to local art – thanks to new licensing laws, serious investment and entrepreneurial energy.
These days, the CBD’s cluster of colonial and modernist buildings are home to inventive eateries that combine spirited food, flawless produce and bold design. And now while once-tired William Street doubles as an incubator for audacious art spaces and rooftop bars. North of the city, the suburbs of Leederville, Highgate and Mount Lawley are serving as a canvas for left-field venues and inspired projects, while Claremont, Subiaco and Fremantle couple elegant architecture with everything that’s good about Western Australian life. Here are some of our favourites:
The Trustee Bar & Bistro
Housed in the former West Australian newspaper offices, this bistro blends a no-holds-barred fit-out – artful chandeliers and leather booths – with industrial touches and note-perfect European fare. Don’t miss the subterranean Wine Vault – a candlelit nook offering 500 wines, 50 of them served by the glass.
Brookfield Place, 133 St Georges Terrace
(08) 6323 3000
A hit with city types and food obsessives, this moody tapas bar serves up kingfish ceviche, braised lamb and jamon along with a well-edited European wine list and an ambience that could rival the backstreets of Madrid.
21 Howard Street, Perth
(08) 9481 0092
Tired of Sydney’s Mexicana obsession? It’s because you haven’t been to El Publico. This eatery’s high-end spin on south-of-the-border dining is ruled by subtle flavours and inspired collisions – the cuttlefish taco and pork belly piloncilo are a case in point.
511 Beaufort Street Highgate
Mary Street Bakery
This light-filled artisanal bakery could be right out of New York’s East Village, if it wasn’t for a focus on WA produce and pitch-perfect coffee, courtesy of local roasters Pound. Pull up a window seat, order the baked eggs and watch Beaufort Street go by.
507 Beaufort Street, Highgate
All pristine white tablecloths and flawless service, this cornerstone of Perth’s culinary establishment still manages to be adventurous and new. Go for the sublime degustation menu matched with a stellar wine list featuring everything from Margaret River reds to crisp whites from Geograph Bay.
483 Beaufort Street, Highgate
(08) 9328 1177
The Mechanic’s Institute
Don’t let the cryptic moniker fool you – the only thing the Mechanic Institute assembles is a killer cocktail. Swap your Dirty Martini for an East Village Athletic, a heady blend of tequila and Grand Marnier that started life at New York watering hole PDT, before sipping it on the rooftop – an upcycled oasis with a fairy-light-lit Northbridge view.
22 William Street, Northbridge
(08) 9228 4189
A bar that takes inspiration from a font was always going to be heavy on design kudos. Luckily, Helvetica – all angular lines, pendant lamps and sleek banquettes – more than delivers. It also happens to be a hub for whiskey fiends, thanks to its international lineup of single malts.
01 St Georges Terrace, Perth
(08) 9321 4422
Named for the country’s third-longest serving prime minister, this playful rooftop bar offers sparkling city views, flashes of neon lighting and seafood platters heavy on oysters, tiger prawns and blue manna crab.
Brookfield Place, 133 St Georges Terrace
(08) 6282 0000
Home to a candlelit fit-out, excellent wine list and menu that’s perfect for late night cravings, this freewheeling Mount Lawley staple has all the makings of a dream local. Pull up a patch of the courtyard, order an oversized cheeseburger and make your way through a bottle of Swan Valley wine.
566 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley
(08) 9228 9474
Chasing a classic Indian Ocean vista? The balcony at Little Creatures on a sunny afternoon is the kind of defining Western Australian experience that trumps typical bar world fads. Get there early to avoid queuing for your pale ale.
40 Mews Road, Fremantle
1800 308 388
Lamont’s Wine Bar
Tucked away in beachside Cottesloe, this well-edited enoteca pours chardonnays, malbecs and verdelhos courtesy of fabled WA winemaker Lamont’s. Its artful tapas and bistro meals are the perfect prelude to a seaside walk.
12 Station Street, Cottesloe
(08) 9385 0666
Perth’s many workers flying in and out from north-western mining towns mean that accommodation can be scarce. The newly revamped Crown Perth is home to a fleet of rooms, along with five-star eateries Nobu, Rockpool and Bistro Guillaume, but brace yourself for the hefty price tag. Alternatively, you may want to opt for a serviced apartment – Adina Apartment Hotel (138 Barrack Street) is a short walk to St Georges Terrace, William Street and public transport, making for an excellent city base.
From sprawling public galleries hosting blockbuster exhibitions to pocket-sized spaces championing local illustrators, Perth’s art scene punches above its weight. Start at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth Cultural Centre/Roe St) before visiting Outre (260 William), Turner Galleries (470 William Street) and Paper Mountain (267 William Street) on nearby William Street.
Margaret River sojourn
Margaret River might be a three-hour car ride from Perth, but this beachside enclave – which also happens to host one of the country’s most idyllic wine regions – is well worth the trip. Make sure you drop into iconic wineries such as Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle and Madfish and set aside time to explore Prevally Park – a much-loved surfing beach known for legendary waves and dizzying views.
King’s Park and Botanical Gardens
Jutting over the Swan River, the world’s largest inner-city park spans 400 hectares of secluded jogging trails, secret picnic spots and 3,000 species of native flora. It’s also home to the high-end restaurant, Fraser’s.