Perth is famous for many things. Its isolated location. Golden sandy beaches. The black swans that idle in waterways. But its vibrant food scene is a more recent addition to the city’s CV. Don’t be mistaken, Western Australia’s capital city has always had delicious food. The trouble was that for so long, the bad options heavily outweighed the good. Gourmands in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne used to crack jokes about “dining” in the west, and many of Perth’s brightest cooking stars fled to other states and overseas in search of more inspired culinary opportunities. Fortunately, the scene has changed. Around the turn of the decade, chefs, restaurateurs and diners, all enlightened by the wonders of travel and overseas experience, returned home with a clearer, worldlier understanding of dining and drinking. And the Internet began to serve as a portal into some of the world’s most dynamic kitchens, restaurants and cities. Ideas and dishes began crossing oceans and time zones more quickly and more intact than ever, and the effect was almost immediately visible.
“Perth is an international city now,” says Clint Nolan, one of Perth’s busiest publicans and owner of the Northbridge venues Joe’s Juice Joint, Pleased to Meet You and Sneaky Tony’s. “Before, we were just a country town. Now, going out is really exciting. Ten years ago you could count on one hand all the places to go. [Now] it’s a struggle keeping up.”
While local commentators like to point to the quantity of new venues, more important has been their quality. National recognition suggests that these success stories are about more than just parochialism. But as nice as awards and accolades might be, the more popular venues understand it’s all about giving customers what they want, which in this case tends to be fun, casual, singular eating and drinking experiences.
“All of a sudden there are these restaurants from people who aren’t from the old guard of the Perth dining scene, who are coming in with fresh, new ideas,” says Joel Valvasori-Pereza of Lalla Rookh, who, like many chefs, had to learn his trade elsewhere. “It’s giving people a lot more variety in what and how they eat.”
And variety there is. From cafés, bars and eateries in step with global food and drink movements to specialized ethnic dining options, there has never been a better time to be hungry (or thirsty) in Perth. The only downside? Deciding where to go.