The Elizabeth Quay development in Perth is not the only new and thriving part of this spectacular Western Australian city where art, culture and history are paramount to its appeal.
Looking up from where I sit in a rustic open-air courtyard with a blazing blue sky above, a display of blood red, hot pink and cool blue Asian umbrellas float above like an impromptu artwork. Covering most of the wall is an enormous, joyous mural of a toddler called Mardi in a bunny suit by Thai graffiti artist Alex Face. I could be in a Bangkok laneway, but I am actually in Perth’s Long Chim restaurant, imbibing in David Thompson’s rightfully renowned cured pork ribs and green papaya salad for lunch.
That’s when it dawns on me – that over the past decade Perth has transformed itself into a mecca of the arts and a master of the kind of laneway-loving fixation that Melbourne always claims as its own. It’s a place where food, wine, craft beer, cafes, live entertainment, galleries, outdoor social spaces, cool hotels and even cooler street art come together to create a city that is as vibrant as it is welcoming and unpretentious.
The history of Perth
With art and history in mind, I head off on an exploration with tour guide Vaughan from Two Feet & a Heartbeat Walking Tours. We kick off in the CBD of Perth, with Vaughan making sure from the outset that I look down at what I’m walking on. Hand on my shoulder, he stops me in the street and says: “Meet some of Perth’s former locals.”
I look down and am immediately riveted. Engraved in the stone pavement are the names of some of the city’s former crims and vagabonds, who were once held in captivity below the city street where we stand.
I read out loud, images of these people from the past – knickerbockers, layered skirts, bonnets and hats askew – from the 19th century filling my head. Their rampant crimes, amusing misdemeanours and unruly behaviours stand out like silent rebukes from the past. Mr Callaghan was a carpenter who on February 8, 1875 was declared a ‘drunkard and disorderly’. In that same year Mr Green was slammed with being a ‘loiterer, rogue and vagabond’. And Mrs Gregory? “Her taste of strong drinks is insatiable.”
Hotels and drinks in Perth
Speaking of drinks, next stop at midday is dedicated to a cooling ale (all that walking, you know) and nibbles at Petition Beer Corner tucked into the impressive five-star COMO the Treasury development.
The hotel is housed within the city’s State Buildings, built in 1875. Adrian Fini, one of the four Little Creatures team who sold Australia’s first craft beer empire for $362 million, spent 20 years lobbying to have the buildings redeveloped, and now it’s another example of how well Perth does things, architecturally and artistically.
Back to beer. Petition has 18 independent taps, and an extensive bottled list, and the aim of the Cicerone Program Certified Beer Servers behind the counter is to ensure that patrons enjoy a set of different flavours and styles. Meanwhile Head Chef Jesse Blake’s bespoke beer menu adds another level to the fun, entertaining and informative experience. “I don’t really drink much beer,” I say. The beer guy claps his hands together and smiles at Vaughan and I. “Good! I am here to change that!”
Public art around Perth
We wrap up my first day in Perth on a sentimental note, by visiting the thousands of Love Locks attached to rails at the base of The Bell Tower. The padlocks are inscribed with the names of couples to signify everlasting love, and they create a colourful, rustic sculpture bursting with stories of locals and visitors alike. As I wander into the beautiful surrounds of the $440-million-dollar Elizabeth Quay development, the stunning 29-metre-high Spanda sculpture rising behind me like ripples of water flung eight storeys into the sky, I reckon I might be developing an everlasting love for this city.