A cluster of urban villages surrounds the heart of Perth city. Each has its own distinctive personality, whether hipster, grungy, multicultural or trendy, turning an exploration of each into a fun observation of Western Australian society. These buzzing neighbourhoods are also where a bunch of the best restaurants, bars and boutiques are, each reflecting their locale’s defining style.
Hipster heaven: Leederville
Leederville is having a moment. Its eclectic strip brims with people sipping coffee or wine in the sunshine from 10am (when cafes, restaurants and shops open) until late into the night. Most stores don’t close until 10pm and its nightlife, naturally, kicks on much later. The train ride is a mere three minutes from the city.
From the exit, pop out at Oxford St and turn left into Kailis Fish Market, which gives a good insight into local seafood such as marron and rock lobster. If you’re on a tight budget, Siena’s does cheap pasta and pizza, but spend a smidge more and have a tastier experience across the road at Spanish tapas house Pinchos (one of my favourites).
Opposite Pinchos, Bill’s Bar and Bites gets energetic on weekends, while Foam, back on Oxford St, has pavement-facing couches made for people watching. Leederville has free wifi (look for the City of Vincent Network) and freelancers often work from Foam’s big inside table. For shopping, local shoe store Hunter is hard to beat, ditto Varga Girl (best be cashed up). Moving away from the main strip, there are some hideaway stars. Kitsch has excellent mod-Asian in upcycled surrounds; next door Italian alimenteri the Re Store does the best continental rolls in town, and across the road, Pixel Coffee Brewers gets high-fives for its brews and breakfasts.
Multicultural mish-mash: Northbridge
This is the city centre’s gritty little delinquent sister. Divided from the shinier city zone for the past century (and due to be reunited early in 2018 by a huge pedestrian zone), has evolved into a hotbed of cultures. Waves of Chinese, Italian, Greek, Indian and Vietnamese migrants have arrived in the West, bringing cheap and cheerful restaurants to the concrete and neon landscape. New Moon does excellent all-day dim sum, Viet Hoa aces steaming pho, Lucky Chan’s specialises in ramen and a funky rooftop and, for something upmarket, Shadow’s sexy interiors give way to sharp modern European fare. Start your Northbridge immersion with a wander along William St, where you’ll find home grown designers (I love Merge, run by a WA fashion graduate, Periscope for its upmarket tailoring and Fi and Co for whimsical, vintage pieces) and, up the far end, a brilliant edit of unusual gifts at William Topp.
If you’re starting later in the day, head upstairs to Mechanics Institute rooftop bar – it’s accessed via a narrow laneway leading off the Perth Cultural Centre. Kick on to Sneaky Tony’s (get the password from its Facebook page), swing back to The Bird for a hit of live music then on to Ezra Pound for grungy cocktails. Finish off at a dive bar with a rocking, after-midnight dancefloor, Joe’s Juice Joint. Two other little secrets for you: ChiCho Gelato does the finest handmade gelato this side of the Nullarbor and Rooftop Movies is an open air cinema on top of a car park – go when it’s showing golden oldies. Bonus tip: Alex Hotel is the coolest and best located accommodation in the city.
Stylish and smooth: Subiaco
One of Perth’s ‘leafy’ suburbs, its residential areas are split by a cross shape, cut by Hay St and Rockeby Rd. There’s plenty on each, from cafes to boutiques, bars and big, beer-focused pubs. One of its quirks is a cat café named Purrth. You can book in for 30 or 60 minute sessions with the resident rescue cats (and yes Purrth cat cafe has an animal welfare policy, we asked). Another magnetic force is the Saturday Subiaco Farmers Market. From 8am to 12 noon, you can fill your hessian shopping tote with local fruit and veg, crusty bread, instagram-worthy cupcakes and cured meats.
While much of ‘Subi’ has an up market-meets-commercial feel, if you head south on Rockeby to the Kings Park end, you’ll find a cluster of gems. On the corner of Heytesbury Rd, Juanita’s bar is a local’s haunt that spills onto the pavement. A bit tiki, a bit upcycled and a lot of fun, it has a well curated wine list and excellent mezze platters (the owner’s artworks grace the walls). A couple doors down, Lady of Ro does char grilled Mediterranean dinners by candelight. Then there’s Boucla Kafenion, a chaotically busy cafe with a Moroccan den vibe. I’ve been drinking great coffee and inhaling even greater cakes here for years.
For foodies, Subiaco has two standouts: Lulu la Delizia, for handmade pasta using recipes from Italy’s Friuli region (pinched from the chef’s nonna) and New Normal, a slick modern eatery where vegetable dishes often give their meaty equivalents a run for their money. Both venues are off Subiaco’s well beaten main drags.