The New Pulse of Perth

  • Northbridge's Alex Hotel provides guests with vintage-style bikes to explore the happening neighborhood.

    Northbridge's Alex Hotel provides guests with vintage-style bikes to explore the happening neighborhood.

  • Sunset crowds at Elizaebeth Quay, Perth's new waterfront development.

    Sunset crowds at Elizaebeth Quay, Perth's new waterfront development.

  • Downtown Perth as seen from Kings Park.

    Downtown Perth as seen from Kings Park.

  • The reception lounge at COMO The Treasury.

    The reception lounge at COMO The Treasury.

  • Lunchtime at Petition Kitchen.

    Lunchtime at Petition Kitchen.

  • A mural by Australian street artists Vans the Omega and Beastman adorns a wall outside 140 William Street.

    A mural by Australian street artists Vans the Omega and Beastman adorns a wall outside 140 William Street.

  • Smoked flank steak with pickled jalapenos, tomatillo, and sour cream at Petition Kitchen.

    Smoked flank steak with pickled jalapenos, tomatillo, and sour cream at Petition Kitchen.

  • Service with a smile at Long Chim.

    Service with a smile at Long Chim.

  • Long Chim's veteran mixologist James Connolly turns out Thai-inspired cocktails like the Pomelo Spritz.

    Long Chim's veteran mixologist James Connolly turns out Thai-inspired cocktails like the Pomelo Spritz.

  • The back entrance to the State Buildings.

    The back entrance to the State Buildings.

  • An en-suite bathroom at Como the Treasury.

    An en-suite bathroom at Como the Treasury.

  • The wine bar at Petition.

    The wine bar at Petition.

  • A banquette with a view at The Shorehouse on Swanbourne Beach.

    A banquette with a view at The Shorehouse on Swanbourne Beach.

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From Elizabeth Quay, it’s a comfortable 10-minute stroll up William Street to the city center. Here, tony King Street is known for high-end labels—Tiffany’s, Chanel, Gucci—but increasingly cooler everyman brands such as Zara and Topshop are appearing on surrounding streets, a sure sign the city is becoming a destination for a broader spectrum of shoppers.

The reopening of 140 on William Street is another coup for Perth. The once-bland office building has been overhauled with ground-level walkways and some of the city’s best casual eateries, including Jamie’s Italian, Rolld (for Vietnamese street food), and BamBamBoo, run by a family that has been making xiao long bao dumplings for generations.

Zara Bryson and Caitlin Irving, founders of PR agency The Peach & Pineapple Co., organized the opening party last June, complete with South American music and a taco caravan. “It was winter and freezing cold and a Thursday night, but it attracted 6,000 people,” recalls Irving, who moved to Perth from Sydney a few years ago. “People in Perth tend to go to bed for three months during winter. It’s kind of like ‘see you in September.’ But it turned out to be a really good test of what we can do in the city. People loved it.” For her part, Bryson, a local, says the city’s burgeoning nightlife can be credited to the recent launch of Uber, the app-based taxi service. “Uber has changed Perth. Before, there were no reliable options to get home from the city. Suddenly Uber came along and boom!—everyone was going out.”

If street art is a gauge for progressiveness, as it is in San Francisco and London, then Perth certainly seems to have come of age. 140’s mural-covered walls, decorated pavements, and installation spaces are nothing short of groundbreaking for an office building. Whimsical commissions by Perth-born muralist Kyle Hughes-Odgers adorn the interiors of Jamie’s Italian; Matt W. Moore’s digital graphics cover the roof of the Murray Street entry; and Nike Savvas’s dazzling shards of glass send colored shadows over one of the inner courtyards.

Other major public artworks come courtesy of FORM, a nonprofit cultural organization that aims to “build a state of creativity in Western Australia.” Last April the group hosted its second annual PUBLIC arts festival, during which 50 artists gathered to transform walls in suburban neighborhoods like Victoria Park, Leederville, Claremont, and Fremantle (where a giant squid now adorns the side of an old naval store building) into canvasses of cool.

You can download maps of the artworks online, but you won’t have any problem finding them in places like Northbridge, Perth’s hipster hub and go-to spot for eating and drinking. Once the dead end of town with strip joints and 24-hour bars, the suburb has been reincarnated thanks in part to the Perth Cultural Centre, an 8.5-hectare complex given over to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, the State Library of Western Australia, the Blue Room Theatre, and the Western Australian Museum (the state museum slated for a major overhaul). More recently, the railway line that once separated Northbridge from the CBD has been sunk underground, connecting the two areas for the first time in 100 years. “Together with Elizabeth Quay, with this project the city has essentially gone from being a long narrow tunnel to a broad space that reaches for the first time from the Swan River on one side to Northbridge on the other,” Mossny says. “It’s changed the face of the city forever.” Future visitors can also look forward to Yagan Square, a public space for art installations, food markets, alfresco cafés, and gardens that is being built where the railway tracks used to be.

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