Sunday, December 30, 2018

Eating, drinking and exploring in Perth

Now that you’ve read my previous post and have an idea of how many days to spend in the different areas around Perth (or I’m going to assume you have!) - this post will go into a bit more detail on exactly what I did, ate and enjoyed in Perth CBD itself. 

We bookended our trip, by staying in Perth Northbridge the first few nights, and then right by Kings Park the night before we left (since we had a 12pm flight the following day!) 

We flew in on Friday night after work - which I liked, as we got to have the whole Saturday to enjoy, but also disliked, because our flight was delayed an hour, which means we only took off at 9:45pm, landed in Perth at 11pm (which is 2am in Melbourne), and by the time we got to our hotel it was 11:30pm (2:30am in melbourne if you’re playing along). We were also still hungry so we went to get supper, and didn’t get to bed until about 12:30pm (3:30am Melbourne). Did I mention I had woken up at 5:30am in Melbourne time that morning? 

Anyway. I didn’t know what to expect of Perth, I didn’t really have any expectations! 

I had heard so much about Alex Hotel, so was so looking forward to our stay there and it was beautiful. Minimal, beautifully designed, gorgeous pastels and jewel tones everywhere - the perfect balance between painterly colours and scandi aesthetic. Plenty to love. 

Except the location late on a Friday night.

Probably didn’t help that Brad and I got in so late, and I hate to sound like an old lady, but there are so many clubs on the street, with one right across the road, which you can very clearly hear from the 6th floor of the Alex Hotel. Bring good earplugs (I did, thank god!) 

The crowd at that time of night also had me a little uncomfortable, and if I wasn’t with Brad, I probably won’t have left the hotel - but that might be me being overly cautious. 

Fortunately though, once the sun is out and people are more upright and less stumbly, the Alex Hotel actually proves to be an amazing spot to explore and see Perth CBD and nearby suburbs - plus there’s so much good food right on it’s door step. 

We started our first day with the complimentary continental breakfast - because why not? The communal area in Alex Hotel is so inviting, and the spread put on is actually quite impressive - Brad got both the sweet and savoury muffins (because why not have both?) and I got solidly into the gluten free granola. 

Once fuelled up, before the day got to hot, we wandered over to Kings Park - wandering past Jacob’s Ladder on the way. Jacob’s Ladder is a popular exercise spot with the locals, a series of 242 100 year old stairs, which is a serious session on the glutes - but you’re rewarded with a great view from the top!

King’s Park is ginormous! With absolutely gorgeous views over Swan River. We spent an easy couple of hours wandering the trails, pausing to drink in the views and for me to snap away at the lovely flowers and wildlife. After the week in Western Australia, I really enjoyed the different shrubbery and wildflowers that had a different feel to the east coast. A little more rugged, but still very spirited. 

I think what makes holidays actually feel different to weekends, is that we often end up having breakfast, lunch and dinner - whilst on regular weekends we just do brunch aaannd...skip the lunch business and snack. 

So after a solid few hours walking (Apple Health app said we did 22,000+ steps that day!) we popped in to Open by Duotone, which was one of the many suggestions Paul from The City Lane offered (all his suggestions were awesome for the record).

A relatively new cafe to the Perth dining scene in Northbridge, Open by Duotone is clean, crisp lines and quite an open space. The menu is cafe with a Korean/Japanese twist, which I absolutely loved and instantly knew I had to order the Omurice with Japanese style smokey chicken fried rice topped with omlette and mushroom demiglace. 

Loads of egg, loads of gravy - although the dish was pure comfort, I did feel it lacked something. Maybe a bit of wok breath, another dash of salt - it just needed a little more oomph for me personally.

I did however, love Brad’s miso cha-soba eggplant bowl with deep fried eggplant in miso infused sauce, cha-soba noodle and seasonal veggies - hello dressing, hello umami, hello refreshing deliciousness! 

After seeing a couple of other tables order this, I also had to give the yuzu slushie with bitters (that is made with their own house-made yuzu marmalade) a go! Dee-licious. Smooth, cold, refreshing, zesty and still sweet - in the evenings they spike this with alcohol to make it a lush cocktail, but during the day it’s a super refreshing treat. Do yourself a favour - get it!

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around town - popping into a few op shops (Good Sammy is heaps of fun if you’re into thrifting too!) and having a look around the Art Gallery of WA which is small, but with some interesting pieces - I wouldn’t go out of my way to check it out if you’re short on time!

To give our legs a little break, we popped into The Flour Factory - which despite its name, doesn’t actually serve anything bread related. It was a mill in a previous life, but is now refurbished into a spacious bar, where they are most well known for their ‘Gin Wheel’. You pay $10, the wheel is spun, and there are 24 numbers, with each referring to a different gin. So you could get a very nice gin for just $10...or you could just get a $10 gin!

However, as I’m a control freak, I opted to choose my gin, and tried out a local gin from the Margaret River area, the Ginversity botanical gin. Aromatic, and delicious, loved the dried lemon and touch of strawberry in the garnish - something a little different that worked so well, the guys at Flour Market know what they are doing! 

After a little more wandering around Northbridge, and a change of clothes into something cute for dinner, it was back out to Northbridge to assess dinner options. 

The Alex Hotel is perfectly located to a whole lot of great restaurants within a minute of each other, so if one place is too full, or not quite what you’re in the mood for, it’s easy enough to bounce somewhere else!

Fortunately for us, my first preference for the evening, Bivouac Canteen, managed to fit us up at the bar. 

Oh and I just couldn’t be happier. The place was buzzing, and the food? Perfect. 

Hearty Mediterranean flavours, big plates and just so delicious. We realised at the end of the meal we had unintentionally gone all vegetarian - which is always a bonus. 

Tabbouleh crunch with fava beans, puffed rice, soft herbs, sunflower verde and gnocchi pumpkin, shanklish, spiced pepitas and raddichio made me so happy. A bit of texture, rich good.

Also get the Moroccan carrots with tahini, and crispy chickepas, and please, please order the potatoes. So crunchy, so many! I was so sad I couldn’t finish them because I was so full. 

For dessert, save yourself and pop down the road, literally just a few doors down, to Chi Cho Gelato for some of the best gelato ever. Interesting flavours, creamy, intense flavours - I absolutely loved the pistachio - my go to for gelato. 

The next morning we strolled down to the old state buildings in Perth - over 140 years old, they used to be home to the treasury, land and title offices, post office and many other state government purposes. However, the beautiful old buildings have now been repurposed into a number of hospitality outlets, and a very, very fancy hotel that I looked at briefly but was comfortably out of the budget. Couldn’t resist a peek through the lobby when we were there though!

We had brunch at Petition Kitchen, very slick, very contemporary, very now. Brad tucked into the botifarro hash brown roll with bbq streaky bacon, fried egg, gherkin mayo and brioche - which would be amazing for a hangover in all its protein and carby goodness. 

I went the other route and went a bit healthier with the egg white omelette with silverbeet and kale pesto, with ras el hanout, pumpkin and feta. Although a touch on the salty side for me, still very tasty. 

Following that, we then popped over to Freemantle for a couple of nights, then Margaret River for a few nights after that. But I’ll (eventually) cover those visits in future posts!

When we came back, instead of staying in Northbridge, we spent a night in Tribe Hotel, which is just next to Kings Park.

I personally loved the vibe at Tribe Hotel. The interior is so funky, the lobby in particular is full of contemporary artwork, pastel colours, fuzzy couches, that seperately look pretty quirky, but all together look so chic. The rooms were much smaller than the Alex Hotel, but the big windows overlooking the park were definitely a perk. The only minor downside to the Tribe Hotel is that it’s not quite as central, so ubers/buses/a bit more walking is required to get from place to place.

It is however, closer to the suburb Subiaco, which is home to a stretch of road with some great restaurants, including our final dinner in Perth, Lulu La Delizia. 

It’s owned by Joel Valvasori, who was one of the first chefs I got to know on Twitter way back when I first started blogging when he worked at Balzari (now closed) on Lygon Street. I still remember the delicious spanner crab linguine we were served all those years ago! 

Lulu La Delizia is such a cute spot for dinner - feeling so cosy, intimate, Italian. Waiters and waitresses are cheerful, and professional, but also relaxed, it’s all good vibes.

And the food! 

Please, please order nonna’s meatballs, with soft polenta and parmigiano. I’m so used to getting meatballs in red sauce - so it was so refreshing to have something different. The meatballs come nested in the most pillowy and delectable polenta, positively blanketed by parmigiano shavings. I couldn’t even see the meatballs until I went digging with my spoon. Could honestly just eat a bowl of that to myself as a meal in all honesty!

And of course - you must, must order all the things pasta (you don’t really have much choice with the menu)! 

The smoked spaghetti ‘ai funghi’ with mushrooms, garlic and sage is one of the most divine pastas I have eaten in years. The smokiness is this magic, giving such a meaty flavour...when there’s not really any meat in there at all. And I just loved the texture of the pasta as well. 

We also had a special - I think it was a buckwheat pasta with silverbeet, which was also so delicious. Smooth, rich - and far too easy to eat. And to finish, the pannacotta vera - smooth, silky, and the perfect wobble. Not too sweet either. 

Our very last meal before heading to the airport was at Hylin in Leederville - about a 20 minute walk from the Tribe Hotel. It was a very popular cafe, but was quite surprised that it wasn’t full table service - and that we ordered at the counter and then took a number to the table. Can hardly think of many trendy cafes in Melbourne that would do that!

However. I do have to say that I was far more impressed by the food that I thought I would be. After a pretty heavy week of eating, I figured the green veg bowl was a pragmatic option, with poached egg, grilled haloumi, blanched seasonal greens on a herb and quinoa salad...and I actually really loved it. The haloumi, with the perfectly seasoned quinoa salad hit the spot immensely. 

For the most part, I was pretty impressed with Perth’s food scene overall. Although Melbourne still takes the cake when it comes to brunching, there are definitely some divine dinner spots, which were all very reasonably priced for what we were getting. I for some reason was under the impression that it would be more expensive in Perth but did find we were spending less per person on a meal that I may have initially anticipated (which I’m definitely pleased about)! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A 7 day Perth/Margaret River Itinerary

Perth had always been overlooked as a travel destination for Brad and in the past. Let’s be honest, the allure of Singapore or Thailand, for around the same airfare, with food that’s going to be so delicious and way’s hard to pass up going overseas.

However, I’m not sure what kind of travellers you are, but Brad and I basically do the following things when we travel:

  1. Wander around town and explore
  2. Pop into interesting museums, and points of interest
  3. Go to a zoo/aquarium/equivalent animal interaction (no surprises that I’m the instigator of this)
  4. Eat. Obviously.

You may notice shopping isn’t on that list, and that’s because Brad does not shop. I do, and usually Brad will just chill out in the hotel room, which is fine now and again, but not everyday, all day.

Keeping the above list in mind, I had been wondering if it was worth doing another visit to Singapore, but considering we had explored most of Singapore already, and seen the museums - I wasn’t sure what we would do other than eat (and wait for me while I go shopping).

Which isn’t a problem for me, but as a unit? We need to have an activity to do together than we haven’t done before.

So Brad made the suggestion, why don’t we go to Perth then? We had racked up some Velocity points so the flights weren’t going to cost too much and I had never been! How would I know if I liked it or not if I didn’t go?

Since Perth is a bit of a hike to get to, we thought it made sense to go for a little longer, to check out Perth, and also get out to Margaret River to check out a bit of the countryside and drink all the wine.

So if you’re contemplating a west coast trip, here’s a little taste of how we broke down our week to see how we distributed our time and how long you might want to spend in each area.

Friday night
  • Take evening flight (we flew Virgin) from Melbourne to Perth. 
  • Check into Alex Hotel in Northbridge. 
  • Get supper.
  • Pass out.

Saturday - Perth CBD
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Wander over to King’s Park and go for a stroll.
  • Lunch back in Northbridge/CBD. 
  • Explore the CBD and shops.
  • Pop into the art gallery. 
  • Grab a drink.
  • Play in timezone (cause I’m a nerd).
  • Dinner in Northbridge (you’re spoilt for choice!)

Sunday - Freemantle
  • Brunch at a cafe in the CBD (again, spoilt for choice).
  • Check out of hotel and into Freemantle Airbnb.
  • Explore Freemantle markets for lunch.
  • Wander around Freemantle and poke your nose into one of the many cute little shops, or walk along the coastline for a bit.
  • Pop into Little Creatures for a beer tasting platter, and never leave. Seriously. 

Monday - Rottnest Island
  • Get the 9:30am ferry over to Rottnest Island.
  • Do a lot of cycling. 
  • Take a lot of photos of quokkas.
  • Take the ferry back over to Freemantle at 4:30pm. 
  • Eat dinner in Freemantle. 

Tuesday - Drive to Margaret River
  • Have a quick breakfast in the apartment.
  • Pick up rental car.
  • Drive down to Busselton to check out the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere and eat fish and chips near the beach.
  • Drive into Margaret River and check into Airbnb.
  • Dinner in Margaret River town.

Wednesday - Margaret River
  • Yahava Coffee for morning sustenance.
  • Check out Jewel caves in the morning
  • Leeuwin Estate visit.
  • Lunch at Voyager Estate (which goes for 2-3 hours)
  • Pass out from drinking (because Brad’s obviously designated driver on this particular day) in the evening back at the Airbnb.

Thursday - Margaret River
  • Check out Mammoth cave in the morning.
  • Cape Grace Wines.
  • Howard Park Estate.
  • Lunch at Vasse Felix.
  • Cullen Wines. 
  • Margaret River Chocolate Factory.
  • Repeat yesterday.

Friday - Back to Perth
  • Brunch in Margaret River town.
  • Gabriel Chocolate.
  • Windows Estate. 
  • Windance Estate. 
  • Swing by to check out the views at Sugarloaf Rock. 
  • Lunch in Dunsborough at Yarri Restaurant.
  • Drive back to Perth.
  • Check into Tribe Hotel.
  • Dinner in Subiaco. 

Saturday - Time to go home
  • Brunch in Leederville. 
  • Uber over to Corica bakery to buy an apple strudel to bring home (worth the Uber fare).
  • Check out of hotel.
  • Catch 12pm flight home to Melbourne.
  • Cry because you’re back in reality. 

Now I haven’t gone into detail into exactly which restaurants we went to in Perth, because I’ll cover that in another blog post (...well if I get around to writing it) but have given you an indication of which wineries we went to in Margaret River as I roughly tried to group wineries that were closer together to make for easy driving.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas for your very own jaunt out to Perth and Margaret River!