AUS­TRALIA: PERTH RE­BIRTH

THE WORLD’S MOST RE­MOTE CITY GETS ITS GROOVE ON IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY PENNY WAT­SON

The world’s most re­mote city gets its groove on in more ways than one.

Aleather apron-clad man with two inches of brown beard deftly places a coaster in front of me with one hand and with the other – in a kind of grand hug ges­ture – sets down a salt-rimmed, lime-gar­nished cock­tail with a straw tee­ter­ing from its rim. His big, proud, per­haps-atad-ironic grin is on ac­count of this drink be­ing the house spe­cial­ity. The con­coc­tion is made with Giniver­sity Botan­i­cal Gin (an herba­ceous drop from Mar­garet River), Fever Tree Soda Wa­ter and a syrupy mix of na­tive lemon myr­tle leaves. Best of all, it’s called a ‘quok­tail’, a natty ref­er­ence to the lo­cal Rot­tnest Is­land quokka, a cat-sized noc­tur­nal mar­su­pial that – among other things – pro­vides Western Aus­tralia with one of the State’s best selfie ops. As I sip away, tunes play­ing in the back­ground, well-dressed dudes ei­ther side of me, it strikes me that this is all very young and cool and all very

Perth and that the scene is some­what of a metaphor for a city that is se­ri­ously get­ting its groove on.

The W XYZ bar, where I’m sit­ting, is at the new Aloft Perth Ho­tel in the sub­urb of River­vale, which is roughly half­way be­tween the air­port and the city. The ho­tel is on a main road and sprouts 14 storeys – well above the rooftops sur­round­ing it. But, from the ground up, the build has been about mix­ing a lo­cal crowd with young-ish vis­i­tors to the city. The bar, which hosts live mu­sic on Fri­day nights, is ac­tu­ally in the ho­tel lobby, and sim­i­lar free-flow­ing spa­ces con­nect the re­cep­tion desk with a ta­ble ten­nis area, swim­ming pool and break­fast room.

Ta­bles and chairs at Springs Kitchen, the ho­tel’s mod-Oz eatery, spill onto the foot­path goad­ing lo­cals in for cof­fee, brunch, lunch and din­ner. There’re some awe­some lo­cal art in­stal­la­tions and fur­ni­ture, too. My favourites are Stephen Baker’s 17 m-wide pool­side mu­ral, so big you can see it when you drive by in a car, and, in the lobby, an iconic B&B Italia striped ‘Up’ chair, which en­gulfs any­one who sits in its big bo­somy cud­dle.

The rooftop boasts one of Perth’s best new views (and wed­ding venues if my radar serves me cor­rectly) with the nearby Swan River snaking away to the shim­mer­ing blue-hued metal and glass build­ings of the city. This is a serene space to do morn­ing yoga (tick), catch up on so­cial me­dia (tick) and sip on a latte (tick). With 270-de­gree views, it’s also a lofty spot to take in the lay of the land.

The city cen­tre, I’m told, used to blow tum­ble­weeds, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter when Perth res­i­dents tend to overdo the her­mit thing. But times, they are a changin’. In the past few years some mega gov­ern­ment projects, buoyed by the fi­nances of Western Aus­tralia’s now busted min­ing boom, have helped en­cour­age folk back down­town. The $700 mil­lion re­ju­ve­na­tion of the his­toric Cathe­dral Square precinct and its three in­ter­con­nected 19th cen­tury build­ings has re­sulted in a her­itage-cum-cool, in­ner-city eat­ing and drink­ing precinct that in­cludes The Trea­sury – oft voted one of Aus­tralia’s best bou­tique ho­tels, and David Thomp­son’s pop­u­lar street-food­in­spired restau­rant, Long Chim Perth. Down the road, con­nect­ing the city to the water­front and sur­round­ing sub­urbs via ferry, is the $2.4 bil­lion El­iz­a­beth Quay de­vel­op­ment, which in­cludes an in­let and is­land, shops, restau­rants and pub­lic spa­ces with free en­ter­tain­ment.

On the other side of the city, the sub­urb of North­bridge, post­war home of pri­mar­ily Ital­ian and Greek im­mi­grants, has be­come the city’s hip­ster hub, largely aided by the new Perth Cul­tural Cen­tre – a com­plex in­clud­ing the Art Gallery of Western Aus­tralia, along with a pro­ject that saw the rail­way line sunk un­der­ground so as to con­nect North­bridge with the CBD for the first time in a cen­tury. A stroll around its grid of her­itage streets re­veals one-off bou­tiques, street art, a rooftop

cin­ema and night-owl book­store. Places like Shadow Wine

Bar, which has New York-style white table­cloths, dark-pan­elled walls and savvy wait staff, are in­ter­spersed with quirky drink­ing dens such as the split-level Me­chan­ics In­sti­tute Bar, speak easy in­spired Sneaky Tony’s and The Bird, where live DJ sets meet pool and craft beer.

From the top of Aloft I can also see the new $1.6 bil­lion Op­tus Sta­dium, a 60,000-seat sport­ing arena that opened in De­cem­ber 2017. The sta­dium rises from the river­side like a modern-day colos­seum, bring­ing to mind Bei­jing’s ‘bird’s nest’ Olympic sta­dium. The State’s AFL and cricket comps will be held here, but it’s also touted as some­thing of a des­ti­na­tion, with func­tion rooms and cafes that take in glo­ri­ous city views, a play­ground and river boat ac­cess.

In the other di­rec­tion, the ex­pan­sion of Perth Air­port touted as a ‘Gate­way to Asia’ and home of the first di­rect flight to the UK, is ev­i­dence of the tourist dol­lar, as is the up­com­ing de­but of sev­eral big-name in­ter­na­tional ho­tels in­clud­ing a Ritz-Carl­ton at El­iz­a­beth Quay.

On top of all this gov­ern­ment spend, the city’s nat­u­ral beauty com­bined with a full-throt­tle food and drinks scene are like ic­ing on the big Perth cake. Ear­lier in the week, I joined col­leagues at Kings Park, which cov­ers 400 ha and is one of the world’s largest in­ner-city parks. Here, Pic­nics by Design laid a lav­ish ta­ble with food plat­ters and flow­ers and sur­rounded it with pink blan­kets and fluffy white cush­ions. Laz­ing in the sun, we were the envy of all the head-phoned jog­gers lap­ping foot­paths around the beds of wild na­tive flow­ers. I also had a sun­downer and din­ner at Odyssea Beach Cafe, which is plonked on the sand at City Beach, one of 19 pris­tine met­ro­pol­i­tan beaches. This new $18 mil­lion re­de­vel­oped precinct has three glass-fronted restau­rants, which are ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed in sand­stone to com­ple­ment the an­gu­lar lines of the City of Perth Surf Life Sav­ing Club.

Two other beaches – Scar­bor­ough and Cottes­loe – are also get­ting multi-mil­lion dol­lar makeovers.

Away from the wa­ter, you will find gourmet food and wine trails in the Swan Val­ley, which is just 25 min­utes from the city. There’s a choco­late shop here, plus craft beer brew­eries and home-grown bou­tique winer­ies such as Man­doon Es­tate. With its ex­pan­sive park-like lawns and pic­nic ta­bles, craft beer brew­ery, art gallery and kids’ play­ground, there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one. I in­dulge in a de­gus­ta­tion lunch at the win­ery’s restau­rant, Wild Swan, where an out­door pew is per­fect for peo­ple watch­ing. I can re­port that the crowd here on a sunny Satur­day is dressed up like its Mel­bourne Cup Day, fur­ther proof that Perth and its peo­ple have got it go­ing on. •

Open­ing im­age: Perth city views from Aloft Perth’s rooftop. Clock­wise from be­low left: Man­doon beers; Man­doon Es­tate ocean trout; Aloft Perth’s bar area.

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