In the immortal words of Adele, hello from the other side. After two years of up-again-down-again borders, passenger quotas and scuttled travel plans, Western Australia is finally open to the world again. We can't wait to show you what we've been up to.
Like everyone else, we've had casualties – we pause here to remember legendary wine bar and bistro Must – but buoyed by a relatively good run through COVID and a strong local economy, the openings have outnumbered the closures out west. The following are the best of a not-insignificant crop, and speak loudly and clearly to the west's exciting new food and drink landscape.
Essential new restaurants
Taking over the historic Coogee Hotel site on Cockburn Road, the sprawling Coogee Common is an easy-going bar and restaurant that epitomises produce-first cooking and eating. The onsite garden means guests can point and coo at pristine vegetables and fruit before retreating to the dining room proper – a warm, farmhouse-inspired space that draws parallels to Fred's in Sydney – to hook into vegetarian betel leaf parcels, wood-fired cabbage, smoked kohlrabi and other minor miracles of the delicious, seasonal kind.
Modern Asian isn't a category Perth is short on, yet the precision of Will Meyrick's cooking (perhaps you've enjoyed our man's cooking at Sarong, Mama San or one of his other Balinese it-restaurants?) denotes Will Street as another arrival of note. Come for the herbal Chiang Mai-style sausage and head-turning goat curry, stay for sharp cocktails and other spice-friendly libations.
Native ingredients might be all the rage, but a deep respect for First Nations culture ensures the food at Old Young's Kitchen in the Swan Valley is anything but tokenistic. Chef Rohan Park, a long-time sous chef with native food pop-up Fervor, brings together old and new via kangaroo tartare with youlk (a native radish), and scallop crudo sharpened with native lemongrass.
The makeover of historic two-storey CBD hotel The Royal Hotel is as notable for publican John Parker's forensic attention to detail as it is the kitchen's prawn and glass noodle salads, surf-and-turf steaks and other riffs on pub classics. (His latest project, the 450-person Dandelion, sees Parker bring similar ambition to Karrinyup Shopping Centre.)
It's been a bumper couple of years for the kingpins of Perth's burger scene.
While not a restaurant per se, FOMO at Fremantle's new Kings Square development is a new-wave food court that brings together Asian food vendors offering everything from banh mi to Hong Kong-style roast meats. Our pick of the bunch is Suku, Ria Zulkarnaen and Nick Mailenzun's spirited Indonesian kitchen where terrific nasi Bali and handmade tempeh are par for the course.
It's been a bumper couple of years for the kingpins of Perth's burger scene. Cult pop-up Bad Love Burger Co moved into a permanent home in West Leederville and loyal fans, lured by the promise of Oklahoma-style onion burgers (think a cheeseburger fortified with a heroic amount of sweet, caramelised onions), and other smashburger marvels gladly followed.
Short Order opened a new licensed Fremantle flagship, making it possible to enjoy local wines and beers alongside Simon Kony's juicy, grass-fed beef burgers. Brothers Tom and Matt Shaw, of Hoodburger fame, meanwhile, not only established an HQ in Applecross, but tacked a wine bar onto their long-standing Inglewood outpost, an ode to '80s-era fun and American-style burgers.
Staying in Inglewood, after a year of well-supported pop-ups, Deli's Continental has just thrown open the doors to its new deli and bakery and will be slinging delicious contis (short for "continental roll", Perth's own Italian-inspired sandwich starring deli meats and antipasti in a chewy roll) and Roman-style tray pizzas.
A terrific conti showcasing house-cured meat is one of many astoundingly good sandwiches at East Fremantle's Ethos Deli & Dining Room, a fresh-faced NYC-style deli that Melissa Palinkas and Susan Whelan of Young George opened in 2020.
Northbridge bakery Miller & Baker also sells a fine conti, not least because the bread – like everything that comes out of its ovens – is baked using flour that's milled on-site. The Saturday-only ham and gruyere croissant is worth planning a weekend visit around.
Sharp prices, a well-stocked salad bar plus a homely, no-frills dining space makes Northbridge cafe-bakery and "hipster Sizzler" People's Cafeteria one of 2021's best, if somewhat unexpected, debuts.
With its plus-sized katsu sandwiches, tonkotsu congee and other Asian-inspired brunch items, Forklore is another newcomer that deserves to be on visitors' radars. Ditto Drasko's Hot Chicken: the Nashville hot chicken project from former Noma stagiaire Drasko Jankovic.
Revisiting the classics
While this round-up might be about celebrating the new, it's important to shout out to the veterans that continue to deliver. Places like Lulu La Delizia, say.
Despite being just five years young, Subiaco's little pasta bar that could has established itself as one of Australia's must-do dining experiences, with guests drawn as much by Joel Valvasori-Pereza's northern Italian-inspired cooking as the room's up-tempo swagger and champion Aus-talian drinks package.
Cucina Italiano remains a cornerstone of Perth's food culture. A very west coast trifecta might feature a conti roll at one of the two The Re Store outposts (Saturday at the West Leederville branch is a vibe); cotoletta, a side serve of spaghetti and complimentary soup at Fremantle institution Capri; and pizzas at BYO favourite Monsterella (perhaps with an apertivo/nightcap/all-of-the-above at its small bar side hustle, Mummucc).
Rockpool Bar & Grill has been delivering big night out thrills for more than a decade: the appointment of new talent throughout the restaurant suggests the casino's safest bet will continue to bring the noise for another decade.
South-east Asian cooking is another important cog in the west coast's dining scene, with veteran Northbridge addresses Tak Chee House (chicken rice), Tra Vinh (pho and Vietnamese noodles) and the prosaically named Northbridge Chinese Restaurant (dim sum) frequently name-checked in best-of discussions.
For those happy to travel, the food court at Spencer Village – home to no fewer than three hand-pulled roti options – continues to reward intrepid eaters.
Another road trip worth making is lunch at Millbrook, a winery restaurant in the Instagram-perfect Perth Hills that grows all of its own fruit and veg. Its value-packed No-Waste Monday remains one of the country's best meal deals, as evinced by a months-long wait-list: book early. Heck, book your plane ticket around a reservation.