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Jan 16, 2012 03:44 AM

Food and restaurants in WA?

Me and a friend are spending 3 weeks on the west coast of Australia and would be very happy about any tips - both when it comes to produce and restaurants (we will be self catering for a bit as well).

I would also be interested in any typical Aussie food stuff - odd or plain. I do a bit of freelance journalism on the side and typical things are always easier to sell in and means some of the trip can pay for itself.

We are renting a car and will be driving up as far as Exmouth, will then use Freo/Perth as a base for daytrips (possibly overnight) down south.

Let me know if you have any good tips!

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  1. Pearlmeat - a cross between scallop and abalone meat.

    1. Ok, where to start? Heading up North will be fun, I'm assuming if you're possibly driving up to Exmouth you're looking to dive with whale sharks? There's not a huge amount happening other than natural beauty as you head north. Amazing beaches, great fishing and long stretches of road with nothing but the hoizon, but as for excellent food I can't offer many suggestions. Pearl meat, as kersizm has suggested is a WA delicacy, but is very rarely found outside of Broome. If you are into fishing etc., the coastline will provide you amazing fishing and photo opportunities. Stop by Monkey Mia to check out the dolphins and if I remember correctly (this is going back 12ish years ago) there was a cool aquaculture farm where they were doing really interesting fish farming things. They also kept a shark for fun.

      As for Perth/Freo area and typical Aussie things. Foods you may want to try are Western rock lobster, commonly known here as crayfish (I am further assuming now that you're not from Australia - please tell me to shut up if you're actually from the east coast!). It's native to the South-West coastal waters and is one of my favourite things to eat. Other local foods (that may also be cool to photograph) is marron/yabbies, which are a local freshwater crustacean and very good to eat.

      About 45 minutes drive from the Perth CBD you have the Swan Valley wine region which is very pretty and home to some excellent wineries and restaurants that use local produce. My personal favourites are Jane Brook and Sitellas.

      A few very Aussie (and Western Australian!) things for you to do are:

      Have fish 'n' chips at Fremantle on the water
      Have a drink at the Quokka Arms on Rottnest
      Have a drink at Little Creatures brewery in Fremantle (I will note that I don't personally like Little Creatures, but lots of other people seem to really enjoy it)

      For places to eat around the Freo area I have always liked Moore & Moore cafe. They do fantastic breakfasts and lunches and are usually exhibiting a local artist. I was once given a painting by an artist arranging an exhibition 'cause he liked my dress :) From memory there is also a place called Cafe 55 that did really respectable Vietnamese for lunch. On Friday/Saturday/Sunday the Freo markets are open and they sell loads of stuff from terrible jewellery to fresh produce. Freo also has a little 'cafe strip' that has loads of Italian, Lebanese etc. restaurants. I can't recall any of these as being particularly outstanding but they're generally not terrible either. It can be pleasant to sit outside one of these cafe's and watch the world go by. For one more Freo idea (and going by word of mouth as I have not yet eaten there) Harvest in Freo is meant to be fantastic and do do (from what I've been told) an excellent degustation. Otherwise the tea smoked duck is meant to be a sensation.

      Heading closer to the city The Walk cafe in Subiaco is very good for breakfast and lunch. They do multi course dinners on occasion (about once a month), which are very well worth getting in for if you can. I believe the next one is Valentines Day and I have been sent a menu for one in April which is going to feature Australian Seafood. Hobart Deli in Mt Hawthorn is also good for breakfast and lunch and West End Deli is worth a look in too - WED also open for dinner Fri-Sun.

      Other good places for dinner is Must Wine Bar in Highgate, especially if you're into wine. I have always enjoyed the food at The Greenhouse in Perth CBD, but I have always felt the service has been particularly lacking. Credit where it's due, however, and I have been reassured several times that it has improved since I last visited. The Greenhouse will also be good to get a showcase of local produce.

      I feel like I've raved too much, so I shall give it a rest for now. Don't hesitate to ask if you want more info :)

      9 Replies
      1. re: TheHuntress

        Second the marron! Fairly sure Balthazar (in the city, on The Esplanade I'm pretty sure) still does their out-of-this-world marron dish. WA has some beautiful seafood actually; my best bet would be to hit up one of the suppliers that also sells to the general public, such as Kailis Bros in Leederville, and cook your own delicacies. Gold Band Snapper is a fantastic fish for grilling with skin on.

        Lots of good cheese from the Margaret River region as well; Simon Johnson in Subiaco is a good place to find this. Or you can always go straight to the source/s!

        Agree with The Walk also - breakfast menu is fantastic and really good value. Otherwise, though, I don't think there's much to write home about in Subiaco (although Bistro Felix has quite a good rep) - it all seems to be trying a bit too hard. Highly recommend nipping a bit further northeast (v easy on train line): Leederville (Kitsch, Duende); Mt Hawthorn (Divido); or Mt Lawley (Clarences, Beaufort St Merchant, Must Winebar).

        I think we actually seem to do drinks better than food in Perth, in general! Places that achieve both are my favourite type of eatery; thus most of the ones I have mentioned fulfil this: especially Must (awesome French & Australian wine lists). Also, Andaluz (in the city; Howard St I think; smaller eclectic wine list and VERY well-renowned for their cocktails while also having a full tapas menu!), Pata Negra (Nedlands), Il Lido in Cott beach, and apparently (I haven't been there but have heard really great things about it) Red Cabbage in South Perth.

        For a night out, fantastic drinks can be found at Ezra Pound, 399 Bar, the Bird, Helvetica.

        For cheap and cheerful you absolutely can't stray from Northbridge. Disregard what our Premier says about the likelihood of getting mugged; I've always found it to be pretty harmless, and I've spent a LOT of time there late at night! :S

        Avoid: the Aviary/Birdcage (real name) in the city; the Conservatory (city); any of the Siena's.

        1. re: verysimple

          I love Helvetica's, it is my favourite bar in the city and I never seem to get there often enough. Duende is really good and I've not been, but heard that Clarences is excellent.

          I keep hearing really BAD things about The Aviary LOL I can't help but think it's the kind of place that a lot of Perth people seem to love - super trendy, super expensive yet super ordinary.

          1. re: TheHuntress

            Oh my god, it's so nasty (the Aviary that is!). I went once purely because I was Christmas shopping in the blazing heat, really wanted a Campari soda, and it was the closest place open --> hence less time to be spent in the blazing heat walking there! The astroturf smells of stale beer, my Campari was in a warm glass and I had to ask for an orange slice, and the crowd was totally cashed-up-bogan. AND the menu/wine list were full of spelling and grammatical errors. (I know, I'm uptight. Whatever, it seems like if you can afford that many security guards, you can afford a proofreader!)

            1. re: verysimple

              Yep - super trendy, super expensive and super ordinary. As demanded by the CUB's who feel the need to flash their cash and pretend they're sophisticated. I think my favourite thing I have seen so far was at DeVille's pad (work get together. Never, EVER again!). They had a drink on the menu which is described as "a massive ruby goblet with a fruity selection of house syrup, spirits and liqueurs topped off with a full bottle of Moet and Chandon". I maintain that they pour the dregs tray into a glass and top it with Moet so the people drinking it can pretend they're classy and then be charged $150 for the privilige. The mining boom has a lot to answer for in Perth.

              1. re: TheHuntress

                Thanks, lots of really good tips!
                kersizm - I am not from Australia, I'm Swedish, but lives in the UK, so all the explanations are appreciated.
                Does sound like I am in for a treat in a couple of weeks time, can't wait. With all that food and drink and only 3 weeks there I am going to be stuffed and slightly tipsy the whole time I think.

                I have one additional question - I was in Namibia in November and did a small story on south African style braii. Would like to complement that with something about Australian bbq. What would be a good bbq restaurant? If I want to interview someone about Australian bbq, who is the best/best known person to show me the tricks?

                Once again - thanks! Let me know if you come to the UK/Sweden and I will share all my tips here with you.

                1. re: malino

                  Ah how wonderful, you will have an excellent time in Australia! I have recently made very good friends with a Swedish woman who is on a working holiday here and she absolutely loves it.

                  As for Australian BBQ I don't believe there is any such thing as a BBQ restaurant - it's more a thing that is done at home casually. I also don't know about any one person being particularly good at BBQ. What I probably can offer though, if you're interested, is a proper Australian BBQ experience in our little backyard. My husband is an ex-chef and we have some close friends who are chefs (including the owner and head chef of the above mentioned 'The Walk' cafe) who would all be very happy to talk about Australian BBQ. If you are interested I can give you my email address to organise something for you :)

                  1. re: TheHuntress

                    Sounds lovely - if it isn't to much trouble. We're in Australia from the 20th Feb to 13 March and are planning to start driving north and coming back to Perth around the weekend 3-4 March. After that we are planning to stay in the area, just go on daytrips. I am travelling with another lovely Swedish lady who lives in Copenhagen. If you ever come to our neck of the woods she can cook you up some mean elk meatballs!

                    My email is malintravels[at]

                2. re: TheHuntress

                  Do either of you know when the Aviary Perth opened? I'm wondering if they're trying to rip off Grant Achatz's Aviary in Chicago.

                  Which, if you ever find yourself up in Chicago, definitely check out the Aviary there. Excellent, well made drinks with a twist.

                  1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                    I'm not too sure, to be honest, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were doing a rip off. I think Perths trademark is trying to be everywhere it isn't, instead of just being what it is LOL But Chicagos Aviary sounds good, I must remember that.