William Street and James Street are lined with vintage stores, local fashion, and lively bars, cafés, and restaurants serving everything from single-origin batch-brew coffee to a kaleidoscope of cuisines. Dining suggestions include Bivouac Canteen & Bar for inventive Mediterranean-inspired plates, Sauma for Indian street eats in a trendy Mumbai-style space, and Shadow Wine Bar for creative fine dining from head chef Sue Hutchins and her all-female kitchen team. A casual hole-in-the-wall joint, Varsity Burgers serves epic burgers, hot wings, and fries. Get the scoop on newwave gelato and sorbet at Chico Gelato, with flavors including mascarpone fig and toasted almond, green tea toasted rice, spiced pumpkin gingersnap, and burnt butter popcorn.
Northbridge is where you’ll find Australia’s first crowd funded permanent bar, Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodlebar. Open since 2015, it indeed is a laundromat-themed ramen bar. The industrial décor includes vintage coin-operated laundry machines and a wall of ironing boards, paying hip homage to Northbridge’s pioneering Chinese, Vietnamese, and Malaysian migrant communities who settled here and opened businesses such as Chinese laundries and small eating houses.
Retail choices in Northbridge are just as eclectic. Established here since 1929, gourmet grocer Kakulas Brothers is a hip and rustic grocery store known for its rows of open sacks brimming with spices, pulses, grains, seeds, and exotic ingredients all sold by the kilo. In spite of its name, The Butcher Shop in fact sells art supplies (with an emphasis on spray-paint, stencils, and other street artist essentials) as well as graphic-emblazoned Tshirts, sweats, and accessories for the discerning street dude. Also not to be missed is Planet Book that has a world-beating selection of books and magazines.
The city’s creative hub, Perth Cultural Centre, is within Northbridge and is home to arts and culture institutions including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Perhaps its most important cultural institution, the Western Australian Museum is currently closed for a substantial redevelopment. Set to reopen in 2020 as the New Museum for WA, this landmark museum will integrate the original heritage-listed buildings with dramatic state-of-the-art exhibition spaces, including a vast gallery that visually ‘floats’ over the site.
Perth’s LGBTQ scene is centered in Northbridge and includes sprawling gay and lesbian bar, The Court, with one of Perth’s largest beer gardens, including an outdoor stage where drag acts and DJs perform beneath the stars. There’s even a pizza kiosk here, with iconic choices including the Freddie Mercury (sliced cacciatori, zucchini, olives, hot sauce), George Takei (pesto, cherry tomatoes, spinach) and Jane Lynch (roma tomatoes, bocconcini, fresh basil).
The longest-running LGBTQ club in Australia (and possibly the entire Southern Hemisphere), Connections Nightclub celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. This stylish venue features drag queens and DJs. Its rooftop terrace bar has one of the best views of the city skyline.
A mix of people of all genders, sexualities, and preferences frequent both these venues. For a men-only ambience, gay sauna Perth Steam Works is a steamy alternative.
Perth provides a great environment for gay men and lesbians to live and work. Born in the UK and raised in Australia, designer Neil Sheriff refined his fashion skills by returning to London to study at the London College of Fashion. He later worked as a stylist on fashion shoots (including a Londonset swimwear shoot for Passport magazine) and created freelance pieces for clients including actress Naomi Watts and singer Marcella Detroit. But it was in Perth where Neil launched his own fashion brand Hoodedwept in 2016. Designed and produced in Australia, the signature look is strong, athletic, and sexy silhouettes in textured monochrome. Hoodedwept made its debut at Paris Fashion Week in 2017, and is now available online and in select retail stores in Western Australia, the United States, and Sweden.
“Perth has a very rich and subversive approach to its arts scene,” Neil tells Passport magazine. “There is a lot of contemporary art generated here that stands up against anything produced on the world stage. Several of Australia’s most successful fashion brands originated in Perth and are still based here, which gives rise to a new creativity and enables Hoodedwept to thrive here also.”
“I work well in isolation, and stylistically Hoodedwept is non-typical for Perth with our sexy avant-garde aesthetic. Traditionally a brand like ours excels more so internationally and in eastern Australia, however we thrive here sales-wise which is a testament to Perth’s open and creative outlook.”
Future plans include an underwear and clubwear diffusion line called Darkhorse by Hoodedwept, set to launch mid-2019. Featuring demi-luxe jocks, briefs, singlets, and tees, it’s sure to be a hit with the gay crowd.
Which leads us to ask Neil for his insider tips on what to do in Perth.
“My boyfriend and I love dining at Sorrento in Northbridge—best Italian in town,” he says. “There’s an iconic gay hair salon called Hair Boss run by Ron and Michael, this lovely leather couple who also run a homeless charity. They are just two of the most beautiful people who, finally after 30 years together, are getting married this December (now that we are legally allowed to here after the YES vote). You receive rainbow unicorn cupcakes every time you visit. It’s also always fun partying at Connections Nightclub with their world-class drag queens, and we love having brunch in Northbridge the morning after.”
Standing at the heart of the Northbridge neighborhood is Alex Hotel. This independent boutique hotel looks cool and smart with handcrafted design details, but favors a warm and casual approach to hospitality. There’s a lobby café-bar instead of a reception desk, plus there’s no room service or mini-bar, which encourages guests to venture out and experience the surrounding streets. The hotel provides a fleet of retro-style Lekker Bikes for guests to borrow for free, so there’s no need to use a cab to explore the city. There is, however, an honesty bar stocked with local treats including craft ales and wines from nearby Swan Valley and Margaret River, plus a stunning roof deck open exclusively to guests.