Less pub but a lot more grub
Aided by a relaxation of licencing laws, a select strip along the long, straight road that leads due north of Perth's central business district has become the 'it' zone for wining and dining in Western Australia's state capital - and for good reason. While it is home to some of the city's most fashionable cocktail bars, its focus is on more than transient food and beverage trends.
Alongside plush, velvet-upholstered lounges stand new independent mod-Oz restaurants, and renovated pubs that have been revamped to include quality food and drink. The area buzzes on weekday evenings as much as at weekends. It is now looking ahead to the second annual Beaufort Street Festival in November.
The six-kilometre road begins at the city's state museum and art gallery complex. But savvy locals agree the downtown end and its passage through Northbridge can be happily ignored. The section that runs through desirable Highgate and Mount Lawley has recently turned out a string of good Aussie gastro pubs and restaurants with decent menus.
The starting point for rewarding eating and drinking along Beaufort Street starts at the Brisbane Hotel (292, Highgate; 0061892272300; www.thebrisbane.com.au). In Australia, the name hotel is as often applied to a public house as it is to a place to stay. 'The Brissie', as it used to be known, was a run-of-the-mill pub, but no longer. The early 20th-century structure, with its grey-washed facade and metallic extension, serves modern pub food featuring local ingredients and Western Australian wine and beer.
Snacks and starters include house-made sourdough with grilled chorizo and olives, and French fries with roast garlic aioli. Fancy Australian-style fish and chips with crispy beer-battered snapper, fries and tartare sauce?
Next up, a 10-minute walk north is Beaufort Street Merchant (488-492, Highgate; 0061893286299; www.beaufortmerchant.com). The sofas on the street make it easy to spot. It functions in equal parts as gourmet food and wine shop, bar, cafe and restaurant, and is a favoured spot with residents.
Many swear by its freshly ground single origin coffee selection, which might feature Rwandan one week and Colombian the next. Food here is in the modern Australian tradition - plenty of Mediterranean and Asian influences, all using tip-top produce. Expect the likes of duck macaroni and cheese, or coconut and galangal beef korma with basmati, raita, jackfruit chutney and garlic naan. Check out the in-house shop's local cheeses, chocolate, beer and wine.
Five Bar (560, Mount Lawley; 0061407469732) looks like a British gastro pub with the additional bling of chandeliers. Local seafood and meat are used to concoct wholesome pub favourites and sunny European-inspired dishes. The home-made burger patties are very popular with the mixed neighbourhood and after-work crowd. The roast Mount Barker chicken breast is very moist and brims with flavour, as does its saut?ed mushroom, cherry tomato and tarragon. A long wine and beer list include a very good selection of microbrew beers.
A few paces north, Clarences (566, Mount Lawley; 0061 8 9228 9474; www.clarences.com.au) has a wine bar (with 30 by the glass) and cocktail bar with a small outdoor terrace. There is a restaurant up front; snack and restaurant starter plates for sharing include a salumi board; pork rillettes with pickles; and spiced squid and tofu with coriander and lime. Mains showcase local produce with dishes including char-grilled Mediterranean lamb, herbed yogurt and spicy harissa.
More of a nightspot, Defectors cocktail bar (639, Mount Lawley; 0061893286200), is perched above The Flying Scotsman pub. It marks the end of the main Beaufort Street strip. Just over two years old, it looks like a hybrid of a gentlemen's club lounge and a bar. Its low lighting, velvet sofas, flock wallpaper, wooden decked terrace and DJ booth draw a fashionable crowd.
The open bar counter is strewn with premium spirits. Multi-award-winning manager James Connolly, who says it's the best-stocked spirits bar in the state, produces inventive cocktails such as The Pommie, which is Lemon vodka, pomegranate liqueur, Aperol and fresh lime juice. Tapas and pizzas are the mainstays of the food menu.