Top 5 small bars in Perth

by Rich Keam on 05 March 2014, 12:03PM

Rich Keam has sipped his way around Perth’s new rooftop and laneway bars to find the best spot in the sunniest city Down Under.

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Right now there’s a real buzz of excitement around Perth, following the opening of new cultural spaces, restaurants and bars which are changing the face of the city. Independent, experimental and often specialist (think dedicated whiskey bars), some of my favourite places are hidden away thanks to a clever little project called Forgotten Spaces. This council-funded scheme has added chandeliers and ever-changing street art to alleyways and breathed new life into car parks to create cool little nooks in the city centre. The introduction of quirky venues serving excellent cocktails in artsy interiors is not just happening in the CBD. The transformation extends into hot inner-city areas like Northbridge, Mount Lawley and Leederville.

Right in the heart of Perth's summer festival season, now is the perfect time to be exploring the social scene and here are a handful of establishments which offer some of the best views of the city or tastiest local treats. Cheers!

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1. The Mechanics Institute
Northbridge, a five minute walk from Perth’s city centre, is an area which best combines the city’s heritage buildings, new bars and great value food. You will get all three at this great little bar plus amazing views of the city from their rooftop beer garden. Make the most of Perth’s blue sky days here by taking a seat at the long benches and choose from an extensive wine list and a constantly changing cocktail menu. The house favourite is Hillbilly Bob’s Ruckus Juice made of juice of rum, lime, orgeat syrup, ginger beer and regular beer. Or opt for the popular epic Bloody Mary, served with a burger, made from local Western Australian beef, from the popular Flipside Burgers downstairs. They are definitely justified winners of the 2013 Small Bar of The Year Award.

To find The Mechanics Institute head around the back of 222 William St (the lane runs between James and Francis Streets)

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2. Stables Bar
As the name would suggest this bar and restaurant in Perth’s CBD was originally the site of a horse and hay business and is just one of the many heritage buildings, from flour mills to print works, that have been reinvented. The building’s original timber panels and limestone embedded walls have been retained giving it a rustic feel. Here you get a real feel for how Perthites live life outdoors. Spilt over two levels, floor to ceiling glass doors are thrown back to open the upstairs restaurant and downstairs bar onto a sun-dappled cobbled courtyard. Be warned this place can get busy, especially on a weekend when the locals sip Margaret River wines with panoramic views of the city skyline. The food menu is a take on modern Australian dining and nothing is left to chance - the kitchen bakes all of its bread, cures its meat and even crafts the condiments from scratch. Local flavours are all important in the pan fried wild barramundi with broad beans, risoni pasta & basil salad not to mention the cheese board which showcases some of the area’s best producers.
888 Hay Street, Perth

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3. The Classroom
For a masterclass in cocktails there is The Classroom in North Perth. They stole the show at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape with their liquid nitrogen espresso martini and it’s worth a visit to North Perth for this -196 degree cocktail alone. Science lesson safety glasses are included. Or you might want to try Ms White served with pipettes of edible “paint” for drinkers to get creative with.
Even the food is playful, like the aubergine jenga with dukkah spices, an Australian favourite, meatball sliders or the orange blossom pears and blue cheese croquettes served with edible flowers.

The setting is pure nostalgia. Decor for the venue was donated by local schools with bicycle wheels twisted into light fixtures, walls adorned with dusty chalkboards, a horror show of school photos and superhero  1/365 Charles Street, North Perth

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4. The Bird
Another Northbridge haunt, the relatively new Bird is a bar and music venue supporting local artists and touring bands on happening William Street. Although most events are pay on the door or ticketed, there are a number of free events each month to watch out for. They also have open mic nights on every third Tuesday of the month so a great place to listen to start up bands with a pint of locally brewed Feral Hop Hog or a bottle of Little Creatures Pale Ale. There is a good beer garden too, simple and a bit grungy. If you head here make sure you check out its neighbours too. Just down the road Bivouac offers heavenly gnocchi. While La Cholita is another one of Perth’s Mexican hotspots and Ezra Pound is a little speakeasy with a big reputation, making this one of the coolest roads in Perth.
181 William St, Northbridge

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5. El Publico
There have been a number of modern Mexican restaurants making waves in Perth but El Publico kitchen and bar on Beaufort Street has Australia’s best new culinary chef, Sam Ward, at the helm. Not only do they serve great and extremely interesting plates of food straight from the streets of Mexico, they’ve got an extensive tequila and mezcal menu. It is loud, it is fun and the food is exciting locals and critics alike. Try the fried chickpeas with burnt tortilla salt, which are dangerously Moorish, the prawns with green chilli and the slow cooked pork belly with Oaxacan chocolate. Then kick back in the mix-and-match recycled interior with a mezcal ice lolly with sea salt and cucumber where it all gets pleasantly hazy. You can walk from the city centre or hop on a bus. You will be glad you did.
511 Beaufort Street, Highgate, Perth.

Check out Rich's video guide to Perth’s culinary highlights.

For more information about holidays to Perth and Western Australia visit www.travelbag.co.uk

Author bio: Passionate foodie Rich Keam has spent the last five months travelling Western Australia, learning to catch mud crabs, brew beer and sniff out truffles as well as blogging about its best bars, restaurants and events along the way. Take a look at Rich's blog here tastewesternaustralia.com


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