Perth – capital of a state ten time the size of Great Britain – is as close to the nearest big city (Adelaide) as London is to Leningrad. Perth is a large, clean, modern city much like many others, but its balmy climate, position by the wide, blue Swan River and radiant sunlight bouncing off the skyscrapers gives it a unique charm all of its own. It is, in every sense, very polished with a smart, high-sheen finis. The vibe here is very relaxed, the people open and friendly and the coffee is good, hot and strong. Having a free bus service in the central zone really adds to its easy going feel. There are some interesting old buildings on some of the streets, but overall, the feel is modern and young. According to one of our taxi drivers, back in the 1980s (I know – it’s over twenty years ago, but it still seems like recent history to me) – everyone knew everyone else in Perth. At that time, half an hour out of Perth, the roads were gravel roads – some pretty rough too. So this is a very young state – part of a growing New World. The Carillon in the centre of town is set to chime for lunchtime and the end of the working day, which maybe tells you that Perthies have got their priorities just about spot on. It’s also the only city I’ve visited that has a solar powered mobile device charging bench and an open air bed cinema! By the end of the day, we were surprised to have covered a grand total of 23 kms.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden – We had time to explore this beautiful free attraction in more detail today and it was well worth a second trip in the daytime. All of Western Australia’s diverse and unique flora is here, beautifully displayed amongst meticulously maintained lawns – which must be a real challenge in this climate. A great place to hang out for a while, stroll and take in the city views.
Ferry ride across Swan River – a bargain at $3.20 for two hours (you can get on and off as often as you like in that time). It runs every 15 minutes. To save us missing a ferry, a very friendly Aussi guy lounging by the ticket machine actually bought our ticket for us to save us working out how to use the machine. How many cities would that happen in?!
Dinner: Wildflower Restaurant – COMO The Treasury Hotel
We had reserved a table well ahead at the Wildflower Restaurant situated on the rooftop of the refurbished COMO the Treasury building. It’s a 15 – 20 minute walk from the big hotels on Adelaide Terrace – or take the free local bus. This is definitely not a restaurant you can just stroll into and expect to have any chance of finding a table. It was jam packed on a week night and for good reason. The restaurant doesn’t advertise itself much – it doesn’t need to – it’s reputation deservedly goes before it. You could easily walk past the building and not know there was a restaurant there. It isn’t marked on the city of Perth map either. Even when you are inside, it is quite hard to find- the ground floor is quite a maze. Look for the lift that takes you up to the rooftop terrace and enjoy a great view of the city at night as you choose from an extensive cocktail menu. We opted for a local gin and tonic, which did a great job offering up the taste buds. They offer a five course tasting menu or à la carte, if tasting menus aren’t your thing. You can choose paired wines from WA or (for $50 more) from around the world. We opted for the WA wines and were not disappointed. Tasting menu experiences can vary so much. Sometimes, each plate is a work of art and you eat with your eyes really. Sometimes, the food is great and you can’t really remember the wines afterwards. Sometimes, it is the other way around. The Wildflower menu is clever – very clever. The food and wine were perfectly symbiotically paired – each bringing out the best in the other. This was a tasting menu to enjoy one sip and one mouthful at a time. It showcased all the abundant produce this region has to offer to its very best. I took no photos – I was enjoying the journey far too much – so your imagination will just have to do the work for you. Lasting memories (apart, of course, from the exquisite food and wine): the infectious enthusiasm of the very knowledgeable sommelier; the passion of our Italian waitress and the delighted diners on neighbouring tables who were travelling on the same journey with us tonight. The portions were the right size too -just large enough to really enjoy the flavours. If you like tasting menus, definitely treat yourself to this one if you are staying in Perth – but be sure to book ahead.
Rough sleepers are sadly a growing problem in Perth these days, especially around the Riverside.