Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep in Perth

A lot of Perth locals are friendly, easygoing people… who will lie to you. They’ll tell you there’s “nothing going on” or “nothing to see here”.

Some of them have been saying it for so long, they even believe it themselves.

On first impression, Perth does appear to be nothing more than a sprawling suburbia, reliant on cars and sunshine. But spend a bit of time here and you’ll get to know the cheekier and slightly darker side of this sunny city. Hop out of your car, jump on a pushbike, hire a scooter or take a walk to the other side.

Raising the Bar

The bars in Perth may be getting smaller and harder to find, but they’re definitely worth the scavenger hunt. “I love the small bars in Perth,” says local soul and funk singer Odette Mercy. “They give you an intimacy with friends, and you can hold a conversation without it being drowned out by speakers. You feel like the moments you share with people there are special and, when they bring live music, there is less of a divide between audience and entertainer.”

If you like your bars to be sophisticated yet personal, Helvetica is worth getting your map out for. It’s hidden between the city’s skyscrapers, and you’ll need to wander down an alleyway, pass by some street art and push through the easily missed entrance to find this whiskey hideaway, frequented by local professionals and inner-city dwellers. Those who really love their whiskey can reserve a bottle of their favourite, and Helvetica will hold it for subsequent visits.

Follow the Fremantle train line a few stops north-west of the city to get to Llama Bar. A smooth bar with drinks to match, Llama Bar’s unexpected treat is when the lights go down. Every Saturday night nearly every inch of bare wall becomes a film screen for VJs (like DJs but with visuals) who play black-and-white films, 1950s colour classics and memorable movie moments synced to modern beats. 

If you have a penchant for jazz  and undercover spy shenanigans  find The Jazz Cellar, a closely guarded secret among the locals. The entrance is through a phone box behind a shoe shop, though you’ll need to plan ahead—the venue is only open on Fridays, so arrive by about 5.30pm to make sure you get a table. You’ll be rewarded with a retro interior, soulful jazz sounds, and a BYO food and wine policy. 

Venture further south to the coast of Fremantle, which is scattered with beautiful cafes and watering holes, including the boutique brewery Little Creatures. Embraced by a giant industrial building and boasting sky-high brewing barrels, Little Creatures is like a bear hug from a friend who loves a beer and a belly laugh. Multiple tables on the ground floor give bigger groups a place to gather, while  upstairs in the loft area  comfortable chairs and softer lighting complement a sparkling waterfront.

Sounds of Slumber

Where you choose to spend the night depends on what you’d like to get out of Perth. If you seek serenity and historic architecture, then Fremantle Bed & Breakfast is a peaceful cocoon from the hubbub of the outside world. Hotel Northbridge has a similar historic feel, but is located in the heart of the main city and is skipping distance from an assortment of Asian restaurants and the nightlife of Northbridge.

If you prefer your independence when travelling, then Mounts Bay Waters Apartment Hotel offers self-contained kitchens, personal laundries and separate dining and lounge areas in clean, well-lit apartments to suit your needs. The hotel is just a few minutes walk from the iconic Kings Park (perfect for morning exercisers) and is barely five minutes walk in the other direction to the central business district.

For those who like their entertainment to be by their bedside, Burswood Entertainment Complex offers bright lights and a late-night buzz with restaurants, bars and casino. The elegant suites at InterContinental Perth Burswood hotel offer uninterrupted views of Perth’s skyline from private terraces, and the view inside is just as impressive with luxurious furnishings and amenities. 

The Cafe Set

Perth is a hive of intimate cafes, vintage shops and independent clothing stores. Every shop on Angove Street in North Perth has given exquisite attention to the clothes it makes, the food it cooks and the coffee it brews. A few blocks east, Oxford Street in Leederville is home to independent bookshops; Luna Palace Cinemas, with double-feature screenings on Mondays; and The Re Store delicatessen to cater for all your Italian gourmet-food needs. 

Continue along the street and you are likely to stumble upon Distracted. Self-described as a curiosity, haircut, coffee and art shop, it is definitely a place of hidden treasures. For more local art and culture, get to the top of William Street in Northbridge  longer than you’d think  to find a hub of art galleries, odd shops and local designers selling their wares. 

Some hidden gems require travellers to venture off the beaten track and into Perth’s laneways. Discover Shafto Lane’s golden vein of food and clothes shops, or track down Wolf Lane (just off King St) and take refuge in Tiger, Tiger. According to Perth’s coffee aficionados, this place serves the best brew in Perth (the food is pretty great, too). There is a quiet peace to this place where laptops, books, solo patrons and groups of friends coexist comfortably.

Just a few blocks east, you’ll find the Bon Marche Arcade, home to Cabin Fever. True to its name, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a little bungalow with quaint second-hand furnishings, lamp-lit corners, and walls adorned with antique teacups and local artworks. Cabin Fever occasionally stays open after hours for special craft nights where you can meet local artists and see their works, some of which remain exhibited in the cafe.

“The cosy, secret-squirrel location makes it feel like a special place—they have a beautiful selection of crockery that is chosen carefully for you, and the staff is friendly,” says artist Lauren Brown. “When the queue isn’t out the door, they happily chat about art, love, politics—we’re already on a first-name basis.”

Next to Cabin Fever is Pigeonhole, a shop stocking independent designer fashion and all things quirky. Most inner-city bustle settles after work hours, so venture back across the train line to Northbridge and you’ll find Frisk. It’s open till late from Wednesday to Sunday, and its comfy lounges and dining tables will make you feel like you’re hanging out at a friend’s house. If the night is warm, set up with friends on crates outside and challenge them to a game of Jenga. 

On a Plate

In recent years, there’s been something of a burger revolution in Perth—ask anyone to name their favourite burger, and you’ll get a different answer every time. Jus Burgers will win over the mince-patty fatigued with its graffiti interior and taste-packed burgers. “It has to be fresh, locally sourced food,” explains owner Justin Bell. “We have a ‘no freezer allowed’ policy here, something we are very proud of and our customers love. The key is our urban feel and staff that have fun.” Other notable mentions include Alfred’s Kitchen, the Flipside Burger Bar and Burger Bistro.

Going for a decent meal these days often means your wallet gets cleaned out, but not if you visit Annalakshmi on Perth’s foreshore. Masters of vegetarian Indian food, Annalakshmi is run by volunteers who happily dole out as much as you can eat and, at the end, you pay whatever amount you feel the meal was worth. This restaurant has no budget air to it either—simple but well-set tables overlook a stunning view of the Swan River.

Another cultural treat is Perth’s miniature Chinatown on Roe Street in Northbridge, just down from Perth train station—a small square of late-night Chinese eateries, with many staying open till the early hours of the morning, or until the last guest leaves.

And now for something completely different...

While Perth is well known for its music scene, it is now discovering a similar notoriety for its comedy talent. Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den at The Brisbane Hotel is one of the best venues to see touring talent as well as homegrown heroes. 

Those feeling torn between going out or staying in to watch a film can have the best of both worlds at the Northbridge Piazza, aptly nicknamed ‘TV Park’ by US comedian Tom Rhodes. The venue screens free films, sports, creative presentations and even train timetables for late-night party-goers.

Sport enthusiasts should check out Perth’s Roller Derby competition, while creative types can express themselves at Cottonmouth. A monthly poetry and spoken-word night, Cottonmouth is where budding wordsmiths and anyone filled with narrative art can ‘spit diction’.

Truly, the best discoveries in Perth are the ones you find yourself. From someone who calls this sunny city home, I advise you go beyond the tourist track, hunt for the places you’ve heard rumours about and remember which way you went so you can find your way back again.  

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