It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider recommendations. This week, we asked Australian singer-songwriter Katy Steele, frontwoman of Perth indie rock band Little Birdy, for her picks in Western Australia’s state capital.
“The isolation makes Perth an anomaly — you won’t see anywhere as untouched. The best thing about Perth is the beaches. It’s a huge part of our lifestyle. We have some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. City Beach, Cottesloe, and Fremantle are just some of the beaches that will absolutely blow your mind. Cottesloe Beach is my top pick. It looks like a postcard. It’s beautiful for swimming but also to sunbathe and to enjoy the view. I love going there at dusk and getting takeaway fish and chips from North Street Store (16 North St.) and watching the sun go down. It’s peaceful and romantic. Otherwise you could head to Il Lido (88 Marine Parade) for a sit down meal. The best time to visit is January and February when Fringe Festival and PIAF (Perth International Arts Festival) take over Northbridge. The whole city is really buzzing. The consistently beautiful weather makes Perth a great place in the summer, when it’s so hot all you want to do is cruise in shorts, singlet, sandals, and a big floppy hat. I really recommend a really great sunscreen too as the sun is brutal here — you can burn within five minutes of full sun. Summer here is December to February but usually continues all through March. Perth doesn’t have much of a winter, but even then the sun shines.”
Her Other Musts
“Alex Hotel (50 James St.) is right in Northbridge and close to The Bird, which is a great intimate venue that has music most nights. The rooms are pretty minimal and contemporary and some come with private balconies. It’s a nice modern, boutique hotel with a rooftop bar and restaurants all within walking distance. Rooftop Movies (68 Roe St.) is a few blocks away and also across the road is PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 51 James St.) and the Blue Room Theatre.”
“Fremantle is probably the most happening neighborhood. Bread in Common (43 Pakenham St.) is a fantastic restaurant. I would either get a takeaway lamb roll, or sit in and order the duck fat roast potatoes and the kangaroo with cucumber, miso, sesame, and horseradish. High on 55 (55 High St.) has really great cheap Asian food. I would order the laksa, which is a coconut curry soup. There are loads of cool cafés and bars everywhere. Little Creatures Brewery (40 Mews Rd.) is another stand out. It’s inside the brewery with lots of shared plates and pizzas so it’s perfect for a group. Or Madalena’s bar (406 South Terrace), which is inspired by the botecos of Rome, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo. It’s perfect for drinking Aperol spritz — my summer drink of choice — in the sun. There’s a real focus on seafood (I usually order whole fish, chips and salad), so this is perfect in the summer after a dip or swim in the ocean at South Beach, Fremantle.”
“Wildflower (1 Cathedral Ave.) serves a farmer-and-forager-driven menu of dishes revolving around the indigenous six seasons. You can either get a five-course tasting menu, which I would try, or order from an à la carte menu. The menus have loads of indigenous ingredients, including gilgie (freshwater crayfish) and lemon myrtle. Capri Restaurant Fremantle (21 South Terrace) is an institution. It’s a family run business which is always busy and no frills. I would just order whatever special they have on or get a spaghetti bolognese. Good Fortune Roast Duck House (354 William St.) in Northbridge is extremely consistently good, super traditional Chinese food. I recommend the Peking duck pancakes as a starter. For a main I would order a whole duck. The salt and pepper tofu is really good too. This is also a no frills place but a well oiled machine that hits the spot. The Standard (28 Roe St.) in Northbridge does an amazing special on Sundays called the Lazy Susan; for $50 you get a huge selection of food served on a lazy Susan which changes each week. Right now, they have jumbo tiger prawns, pan-roasted octopus, lamb, sweet potato, and ‘Maggi’ noodles. Definitely recommend. They also do carafes of cocktails that are really yum. Hoodburger (123 James St.) is the best burger in Perth. If you are really really hungry get the double cheeseburger, but the cheeseburger is still pretty epic.”
“A lot of upcoming bands play the Bird (181 William St.). It’s a tiny little venue with exposed brick throughout and attracts all the younger hipper crew who are into seeing bands that are still figuring out their sound. The outdoor area is great in the summer. Mojo’s (237 Queen Victoria St.) in Fremantle has music every night of the week, and you’ll also see a range of national and international artists playing here. Both venues are small and vibey and well run. Obviously the bigger acts play at the Perth Arena (700 Wellington St.), which is really great too. There are some cool outdoor venues like Kings Park (Fraser Ave.) and Quarry Amphitheatre (1 Waldron Dr.), which I am playing on December 13 and 14 alongside a 20-piece gospel choir and a string quartet. In the summer Kings Park has concerts under the stars, which is really lovely night out. You will see international and national artists, such as Bryan Ferry and Rodriguez. You cannot bring your own alcohol, but you can bring your own food and picnic blanket. The Quarry is a great outdoor venue that’s more family-oriented. You can see ballet, opera, and jazz shows there. Belvoir (1177 Great Northern Hwy) is another amphitheater out in the Swan Valley, which is a fantastic place to see music. Usually international artists play and it tends to have a younger audience, especially when electronic artists or DJs are there.
“Perth City or Claremont is probably the best area for shopping. In Claremont you’ll find DILETTANTE (4 Bay View Terrace), which stocks brands like ACNE, Comme des Garcons, and other high-end designer stuff. The best place for swimwear is local label Hickey Hardware, which you can find at Periscope boutique (274 William Street) in Northbridge. A lot of Fremantle locals such as Tame Impala and POND have worn her clothing. Her designs are super unique and eye catching, but also really comfortable and wearable.”
Galleries and Attractions
“Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth Cultural Centre) has a good selection of Australian art and a nice selection of aboriginal art. Right now, there is an exhibition called ‘The Botanical: Beauty and Peril’ that explores the abundant beauty of the botanical world and the threats that assail it, which is quite poignant for the Australian landscape. At PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 51 James St.) in Northbridge, you can expect to see art exhibitions as well as contemporary dance and theatre performances. The Blue Room Theatre (53 James St.) is a quaint theater that focuses on contemporary independent productions for the past 30 years. State Theatre Centre (174-176 William St.), on the other hand, is a part of the Perth Theatre Trust and home to Black Swan theatre company, which tries to nurture Western Australian talent — right now there’s a new adaptation of Medea co-written by local playwright and actress Kate Mulvany.”
“Rottnest Island is really dope for a day trip. You just jump on the ferry which takes about an hour and head over. Once there you can hire bikes and ride the whole island in two to five hours. You can go snorkeling and see some exotic fish and meet some quokkas. Quokkas are a species of marsupial that looks like a small squirrel crossed with a wombat with a rat’s tail. I have no idea why people are obsessed, but they’ve been called the ‘world’s happiest animal’ and are only found on Rottnest. They just roam around everywhere, and you have to be careful you don’t ride over them. If you have more time, I highly suggest heading down south to see some of the coast. Hire a car and go and see these towns: Yallingup, Margaret River, and Walpole. The beaches have some of the best surf in the world and the wineries and restaurants are beautiful. At Leeuwin Estate (Stevens Rd.) in Margaret River, they have concerts. Near Walpole, you can do the ancient tree top walk and walk amongst some of the tallest trees out there. Seeing the forest and nature so far down the coast is just breathtaking. Swan Valley is another nice idea for a day trip. There are loads of wineries and restaurants and it’s only 30 mins from city centre. Stop in at French Accent Restaurant (100 Benara Rd.) for some dinner.”