Lookout over the city skyline from Kings Park (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
List 22 January

Top 5 unique bars in Perth

Rich Keam has sipped his way around Perth’s new rooftop and laneway bars to find the best spot to celebrate Australia Day in the sunniest city Down Under

Right now there’s a real buzz of excitement around Perth, following the opening of new cultural spaces, restaurants and bars which are changing the face of the city.

Independent, experimental and often specialist (think dedicated whiskey bars), some of the very best places are hidden away thanks to a clever little project called Forgotten Spaces. This council-funded scheme has added chandeliers and ever-changing street art to alleyways and breathed new life into car parks to create cool little nooks in the city centre. The introduction of quirky venues serving excellent cocktails in artsy interiors is not just happening in the CBD (Central Business District). The transformation extends into hot inner-city areas like Northbridge, Mount Lawley and Leederville.

With Australia Day approaching, here are a handful of establishments which offer some of the best views of the city or tastiest local treats. Cheers!

1. The Mechanics Institute

Northbridge, a five-minute walk from Perth’s city centre, is an area which best combines the city’s heritage buildings, new bars and great value food. You will get all three at this great little bar plus amazing views of the city from their rooftop beer garden. Make the most of Perth’s blue sky days here by taking a seat at the long benches and choose from an extensive wine list and a constantly changing cocktail menu.

The house favourite is Hillbilly Bob’s Ruckus Juice. Juice of rum, lime, orgeat syrup, ginger beer and regular beer. Or opt for the popular epic Bloody Mary, served with a burger, made from WA beef, from the popular Flipside Burgers downstairs. Justified winners of the 2013 Small Bar of The Year Award.

Pull up a pew: Head around the back of 222 William St (the lane runs between James and Francis Streets); Closed Mon, open Tues-Sat from midday to midnight, Sun from midday to 10pm; www.mechanicsinstitutebar.com.au

2. Stables Bar

As the name would suggest this bar and restaurant in Perth’s CBD was originally the site of a horse and hay business and is just one of the many heritage buildings from flour mills to print works that have recently been reinvented. The building’s original timber panels and limestone embedded walls have been retained and give it a rustic feel. Here you get a real feel for how Perthites live life outdoors. Spilt over two levels, floor to ceiling glass doors are thrown back to open the upstairs restaurant and downstairs bar onto a sun-dappled cobbled courtyard. Be warned this place can get busy, especially on a weekend when the locals sip Margaret River wines with panoramic views of the city skyline.

The food menu is a take on modern Australian dining and nothing is left to chance: the kitchen bakes all of its bread, cures its meat and even crafts the condiments from scratch. Local flavours are all important in the pan fried wild barramundi with broad beans, risoni pasta and basil salad, not to mention the cheese board which showcases some of the area’s best producers.

Pull up a pew: 888 Hay Street, Perth; Mon–Sat 11am–Late, Sun closed; www.thestablesbar.com.au

3. The Classroom

For a masterclass in cocktails there is the Classroom in North Perth. They stole the show at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape with their liquid nitrogen espresso martini and it’s worth a visit to North Perth for the -196 degree cocktail alone. Science lesson safety glasses are included. Or you might want to try Ms White served with pipettes of edible “paint” for drinkers to get creative with.

Even the food is playful, like the aubergine jenga with dukkah spices, an Australian favourite, meatball sliders or the orange blossom pears and blue cheese croquettes served with edible flowers.

The setting is pure nostalgia. Decor for the venue was donated by local schools with bicycle wheels twisted into light fixtures, walls adorned with dusty chalkboards, a horror show of school photos and superhero themed lunchboxes. Silly but seriously good.

Pull up a pew: 1/365 Charles Street, North Perth; Tues–Fri 4pm–late, Sat–Sun 12pm–late; Mon private classes; www.theclassroom.com.au

4. The Bird

Another Northbridge haunt, the relatively new Bird is a bar and music venue supporting local artists and touring bands on happening William Street. Although most events are pay on the door or ticketed, there are a number of free events each month to watch out for. They also have open-mic nights on every third Tuesday of the month so a great place to listen to start up bands with a pint of locally brewed Feral Hop Hog or a bottle of Little Creatures Pale Ale. There is a good beer garden too, simple and a bit grungy. Perfect.

If you head here make sure you check out its neighbours too. Just down the road Bivouac offers heaven sent gnocchi, La Cholita is another one of Perth’s Mexican hotspots and Ezra Pound is a little speakeasy with a big reputation, making this one of the coolest roads in Perth.

Pull up a pew: 181 lliam St, Northbridge; Mon-Fri 1pm-12am, Sat 1pm-12am, Sun 1pm-10pm; www.williamstreetbird.com

5. El Publico

There have been a number of modern Mexican restaurants making waves in Perth but this kitchen and bar on Beaufort Street has one of Australia’s best new culinary chef, Sam Ward, at the helm. Not only do they serve great and extremely interesting plates of food straight from the streets of Mexico, they’ve got an extensive tequila and mezcal menu. Its loud, its fun and the food is exciting locals and critics alike. Try the fried chickpeas with burnt tortilla salt, which are dangerously moreish, the prawns with green chilli and the slow cooked pork belly with Oaxacan chocolate. Then kick back in the mix-and-match recycled interior with a mezcal ice lolly with sea salt and cucumber where it all gets pleasantly hazy. You can walk from the city centre or hop on a bus. You will be glad you did.

Pull up a pew: 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate, Perth; Mon-Fri 5pm-late, Sat 4pm-late, 4pm-10pm; www.elpublico.com.au

Passionate foodie Rich Keam has spent the last five months travelling Western Australia, learning to catch mud crabs, brew beer and sniff out truffles as well as blogging about its best bars, restaurants and events along the way. Take a look at Rich's blog here tastewesternaustralia.com