The Best Bars in Perth According to a Local Insider
Perth might be the most remote capital city in the world, but you wouldn’t know it judging by its buzzing bar scene. Home to world-class wine bars, classic Aussie pubs and cocktail lounges, the city brims with a wide array of must-visit venues.
Culture Trip sat down with James Connolly, the group bars manager for hospitality group Ark. With his hand in several successful and award-winning venues across Perth (as well as Sydney, Melbourne, Seoul and Hong Kong), Connolly is one of the leading and most influential bartenders in Australia. Who better to speak to about the best bars in Perth?
Palace Arcade, in the buzzing neighbourhood of Northbridge, is something of a nostalgia-fest, with classic arcade games and an impressive cocktail list. “Maybe I’m a big kid, but the combination of cocktails, video games, pizza and beer is a winner for me! They have recently opened a second one in Victoria Park, so they must be doing something right,” says James. The retro classics include PacMan, Space Invaders and Mortal Kombat, while the kitchen serves pizzas, salads and tasty side dishes – think mozzarella sticks and mac’n’cheese bites.
The Galway Hooker is a classic Irish pub right next to Perth’s favourite strip of sand, Scarborough beach. Originally built in Ireland, the pub was disassembled, shipped to Perth and reassembled at its beachside location. “The Galway Hooker has the best Guinness in Australia, arguably the largest collection of Irish whiskey behind a bar in Australia, live music five nights a week, all while being able to look out over the Indian Ocean. You can go for a good time or a long time. Why not both?” says James. Add in cheery hospitality and a great range of pub food at a venue that overlooks the ocean, and you’ve got a winner.
Beer enthusiasts, rejoice! And head straight to Caboose. This craft beer bar in Mount Lawley, a suburb famous for its nightlife and dining scene, has a dark interior, beer garden and al fresco area. “There are a few specialist craft beer bars in Perth, but this one is my personal favourite. They continually rotate their tap selection, and the staff are knowledgeable. It’s a great spot for people-watching and having a few craft frothies,” says James. And come hungry, as Caboose has got you covered with its selection of juicy burgers, pizzas and fried chicken.
This Mexican bar and taqueria enjoys a prime location on Scarborough Beach, offering stunning views of the Indian Ocean. Chow down on a tasty selection of tacos and nachos, paired with a shot of tequila. If you’re here at the right time, you’ll have live bands and DJs spinning, and the party keeps going long after the sun goes down. “El Grotto is the best tequila and mezcal bar in Australia and that’s a fact! Great booze selection and great for a party! Food is also excellent,” says James.
L’Chaim is an intimate and stylish cocktail bar in the basement of the Old Synagogue at one end of the bustling Cappuccino Strip in Fremantle. Built in 1902, the building is ingrained in the history of the town, adding old-school vibes to this modern and classy bar. “Some of the most inventive cocktails in Australia can be found in this tiny basement bar. It even has a secret entrance,” says James. Intimate and mysterious, the bar is also a popular hangout for Perth’s top bartenders.
Foxtrot Unicorn, in the heart of the Central Business District, located inside an old bank vault, is a great place to escape the city bustle. Enjoy high-quality cocktails and spirits, excellent wine and a hearty selection of beers, with a cool, eclectic assortment of boozy memorabilia on the walls. “The lack of natural light means it’s easy to lose track of time here. The bartenders are great and make some amazing drinks. It has one of the best back bars in town,” says James.
Bar, restaurant, liquor store – Tiny’s has it all. In the QV1 Plaza in the Central Business District, this sophisticated venue is famous for its selection of drinks and food. The extensive wine menu has been put together by top sommelier Rachael Niall. But just as great are the cocktails and food. “Cocktails, beers, wines, great food – and even a boutique bottleshop out back for some rare treats. Go see Jimmy, the big guy with the beard, and he will mix you a super tasty beverage,” says James. If you’re looking to learn more about your favourite wines, there are frequent tastings and masterclasses for wine connoisseurs.
In the heart of Kings Square in the Central Business District, Market Grounds is an upscale, modern, multilevel pub that pays homage to the building’s historic roots as a marketplace. The menu is built for sharing, with pub classics such as wood-fired pizza, mouthwatering steak and chicken parmigiana. “A big, modern, Australian pub that transforms from corporate hangout midweek to party central on the weekend. Saturday nights always have an awesome DJ line-up – make sure to get there early, as the queues can be long,” says James.
Live la dolce vita in Perth with a visit to Si Paradiso in Highgate. With its vibrant, retro interior – comprised of Mediterranean tiles, an abundance of plant life and big umbrellas – it brings a slice of the Amalfi Coast to Perth. “Wine bar, restaurant, cocktail bar, nightclub and event space – this venue can do it all. There’s a reasonable wine list, and the food is banging!” says James. Enjoy an aperitif in the lobby bar before heading to the indoor amphitheatre where they hold film screenings, live music and events. End your night by dancing the night away in the basement nightclub.
This wine enthusiast’s dream, in the State Buildings entertainment complex in the Central Business District, has floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with local and international drops. The choice is almost overwhelming, but luckily the staff know their stuff. “Run by top sommelier Emma Farrelly, this wine bar and liquor store has an ever-rotating glass list, delicious food and great service,” says James. “Nothing on the shelves is stuff you can find anywhere else in Perth.” Pair your wine with one of the excellent charcuterie boards.