Eating your way around Western Australia is like experiencing a two-speed economy: there's some absolutely superb high-end stuff using regional produce in Perth, the southwest and select restaurants and resorts elsewhere; but below this is a strata of small-town, white-bread and chips-with-everything culinary culture that's hard to shake. In between you'll find consistently good cafes, craft breweries serving creative beery bites, and, as you'd expect with a coastline this long, terrific seafood (with chips) pretty much everywhere. When all else fails, there's always the local pub for a steak or a schnitzel, and the bakery for a ham-and-salad roll or lamington.
WA's superb regional produce includes marron (small freshwater crayfish unique to the southwest), crayfish (rock lobster, from the Turquoise Coast in particular), McHenry Hohnen beef (Margaret River) and barramundi (the Kimberley). Much of WA's best produce is also available at supermarkets and delicatessens. Look out for Browne's iced coffee and yoghurts, Harvey Fresh products (good fresh orange juice) and excellent chilli mussels.
Perth's leading chefs celebrate the state's produce by showcasing Manjimup truffles, Mt Barker chicken and Shark Bay scallops. Top-end spots in the central city include Wildflower and Balthazar, while Mt Lawley has Must Winebar and St Michael 6003. Excellent midrange cafes and restaurants include Petition Kitchen in the city, Henry Summer and Bivouac Canteen & Bar in Northbridge, Pinchos, Duende and Sayers in Leederville, and Mrs S, Tarts and Sayers Sister in Mt Lawley. In Fremantle, Bread in Common, Ootong & Lincoln and Manuka Woodfire Kitchen are all outstanding.
Regional dining highlights include Margaret River winery restaurants, Neaps Bistro in Derby, Yarri in Dunsborough, PumpHouse in Kununurra, Market Eating House in Bunbury, Loose Goose in Esperance, Aarli tapas in Broome, the excellent Karijini Eco Retreat Restaurant and Flic's Kitchen in Mandurah.
If you're scraping the budget barrel, the best budget spots are farmers markets, Northbridge's Asian eateries (in Perth), and the food halls in central Perth's shopping malls.
Cookbooks & Classes
- Wine and Food by Kate Lamont. Winemaker and chef Kate Lamont unpretentiously matches food with wine – chapters are helpfully organised into champagne, light whites, robust whites, dessert wines etc.
- Whole Food by Jude Blereau. A straightforward cookbook devoted to unprocessed food. Blereau has been promoting whole food in Perth for the last two decades or so.
- Must Eat by Russell Blaikie. A nicely done French-style working cookbook that prises out the best of the region's produce – Cone Bay barramundi, Mt Barker chicken, Jarrahdene free-range pork.
- Foods of the Southern Forest by Sophie Zalokar. This book showcases the local produce of the southwest.
- Wildwood Valley near Yallingup in the southwest offers hands-on Thai and Italian cooking classes.
- Also in Maragaret River region, Cape Lodge is a lovely country lodge with regional produce cooking classes.
With some skillful navigation and planning, eating is one of the pleasures of travelling around Western Australia. Tables should be booked in advance at Perth's high-end restaurants, but most cafes and pubs favour a more relaxed drop-in style of eating.
- Cafes Many operate as dining options throughout the day, before morphing into bars after dark.
- Pubs Throughout the region, pub meals are good value.
- Vineyard restaurants & craft breweries Dining at the vineyards and craft breweries of Margaret River and the Swan Valley makes for a particularly enjoyable afternoon.
- Farmers markets Excellent spots for good-value snacks and picking up local produce.