Perth reinvented: Hip new places to eat and drink

The Western Australian capital has been reinventing itself to shed its mining past and become a hip social centre. These cool new places to eat and drink will change what you think about Perth.

Perth yagan square precinct.
  • Fleur Bainger
  • October 2018

Perth continues to surprise with its constant metamorphosis: First beach babe, then bar hopping party hound and now, sophisticated cosmopolite. Across the city, glitzy new precincts are emerging, heritage buildings are being renewed and walls of curated street art are appearing. Modern Perth opens in new window looks nothing like the city that used to crown the West.

WA’s capital has undergone a seismic shift over the past decade, but there are no signs of slowing. The new way seems to be one of reinvention, with the city’s mining past in the rear-view mirror. A lively new pedestrian zone unlocks the heart of the city; a once-dark corner is transformed into a hip social centre. There are more new watering holes and eateries, and a village-feel inner-city neighbourhood that keeps adding layers.

The Eastern Revolution

Garum by Guy Grossi opens in new window is perhaps the biggest name in a bevy of heavy-hitters to have opened in Hibernian Place. The new east-end precinct is a stone’s throw from the city centre, in an unlikely concrete landscape populated by law courts and corporate buildings. Long seen as a shadowy side of the CBD, the east is now becoming an enviable destination. Since opening in April, Garum’s lofty ceilings, caramel-hued wood floors and climbing greenery have become a magnet for those chasing polished Roman dishes.

The venue leverages the historic bones of Hibernian Hall – which opened in 1902 – and tall, arched windows illuminate the chic space. “Perth has certainly evolved in recent years, the hospitality scene especially,” says Guy. “The locals are so friendly and welcoming, and the produce is some of the best in the world, so when the opportunity arose to open a venue there, it was a pretty quick yes.”

Rooftop bar Hadiqa is a short stroll away. It’s a Moroccan haven cloaked in ornately decorated tiles, patterned blue cushions, atmospheric lighting and leafy, green ceilings. “It’s somewhere you visit and completely forget that you’re in Perth,” says Andy Freeman, who is behind several top small bars. He says Hibernian Place is like water to a socially parched area. “So far the response has been overwhelming. There is such population density within 200 metres – some 20,000 people work and live here – and they have long been starved of good options. Plus, it’s only a seven-minute walk from our other CBD venues.” Offshoot Coffee opens in new window also arrived in the area in May and all-day eatery Arthur & Co in June.

The zone is anchored by the new Westin Hotel, which holds the Bodhi J Wellness Spa opens in new window. Across the water is Perth’s AUD $1.6 billion sports arena, Optus Stadium opens in new window, open since January. As of June, the stadium became accessible to pedestrians and cyclists coming from the east end with the opening of the Matagarup Bridge over the Swan River.

The New City Hub

Perth’s train lines cut through the CBD, separating it from gritty sister suburb Northbridge. In March, after more than 100 years of division, a stretch sewing the two back together opened to the public. Yagan Square is a pedestrian precinct that looks into the past, to a time when the reedy land was a meeting place for Aboriginal people. Reminders of the former hunting and gathering grounds are woven into the architecture, wildflower gardens and a slender, nine- metre-tall statue titled Wirin.

The culture of coming together, eating and talking is echoed in the square’s Market Hall. The covered venue packs in shoebox-sized eateries doling out bliss bowls, burgers, yakitori (skewered and grilled meats) and pasta, plus the almost-too-pretty-to-eat handmade chocolates by Sue Lewis Chocolatier. New additions continue to arrive, with clean-eating outfit Primal Pantry opens in new window landing in May, and Shy John Brewery opens in new window, complete with dim sum, in July. Farm-to-plate eatery Ficus is due to open soon too.

Open-air community events are further establishing Yagan Square as a local hub. The artisan-goods treasure trove Perth Makers Market opens in new window will kick off come twilight on 24 August, while the September school holidays will see kids rush between cooking classes, face painting and a rooftop playground.

Western Verve

A few minutes’ walk to the west is another emerging city sector, QV1 plaza. Smaller and crowned by a skyscraper, this long-dormant urban zone has been attracting punters since new restaurant-cum-winebar Tiny’s opens in new window opened in May. Dishing up inventive fare garnished with rooftop garden goodies and live DJ sets, it was an instant hit.

Side project Tiny’s Liquor Emporium opens in new window opened in June. Unlike typical booze stores, Lunching Perth-style there is a record player spinning behind the counter, more than 300 varietals of wine on the shelves and a bar for leaning on as customers request songs, sip on a cocktail or get a growler filled with craft beer.

Co-owner Paul Aron says Perth’s evolution has involved the spread of better, more interesting concepts in the more neglected east and west ends of the city. “The last few years have been tough on the hospitality industry so we are seeing people focus on what they do well and really trying to perfect it,” he says.

The buzz from Tiny’s reaches across the road to The Melbourne Hotel opens in new window, which re-opened in autumn after three years and a AUD $40 million reconstruction. The boutique accommodation is fronted by a traditional pub, which leads past the original 1897 walls to polished Cantonese restaurant Grand Orient. The view-blessed rooftop bar – the highest public watering hole in the city – remains a local secret. For now.

The Happening Hood

Even as Perth’s once-overlooked areas emerge, the characterful inner-city neighbourhood of Leederville manages to maintain its cool reputation. Casual restaurant seating spills onto the pavement, colourful street art is splashed on the walls, carpark spaces are given over to parklets (public seating constructions) and independent boutiques reign supreme.

Institutions such as Urban Records and Oxford St Books remain, but there are new injections here. Queen of Leeds café opens in new window has just taken up residency, thrilling coffee buffs with its bean selection and cold and filtered brews, while the recently opened Hoki Poké poké bowl window at Kailis Bros Leederville opens in new window is doing a roaring trade.

A few blocks from the main café strip, local secret Kitsch Bar Asia opens in new window has engaged a hot new chef who’s shaking up the Thai menu, while The Garden opens in new window at the iconic Leederville Hotel has revamped its food line-up to focus on fresher options. The hotel, which has operated continuously for more than a century, has added a weekend-only nook, The Blue Flamingo, within its airy laneway bar. Leederville Hotel opens in new window manager Jason Antczak says he’s watched the surrounding urban village flourish over the past eight years. “Leederville’s quirky. It’s student-y and it offers cheap and cheerful eating options, but there’s more for any gastronomy aficionado. It can get loud and fun later in the night with clubs, bars and live music venues, and it’s funky with fashion.”

Perth being Perth, there’s plenty more still on the cards, which is what makes the far-flung city so exciting: every time you visit, there’s something new to explore.