One of the things to keep an eye out for as you explore Perth’s network of inner-city streets, historic arcades and lively, street-art emblazoned laneways is the bounty of small bars — many of which are tucked away in the most unexpected of places.
It’s not by accident that a sassy and sophisticated boutique bar scene has quietly blossomed over recent years in the Western Australian capital. In 2007, the State Government reformed liquor licensing laws — granting small bar licences to venues prepared to cater to a maximum capacity of 120 customers. Other requirements included having food for sale (although optional for patrons to purchase) and keeping the volume of music reasonably low.
A decade-and-a-half on, Perth’s small bar culture is thriving — affording the city a diverse social scene that would be the envy of many larger urban centres around the world. There’s even an annual industry small bar awards night.
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As a visitor, seeking out the hippest and most happening venues in an unfamiliar destination is not about ‘what you know’, but ‘who you know’. Having a local to lead the way is invaluable, and that’s exactly what you get on a Perth Small Bar Tour with walking tour operator Two Feet and a Heartbeat. I’m joining tour guide Rusty and a group of six fellow revellers on a windy Wednesday night tour. We meet at Perth Town Hall, before heading off towards the first of the three bars on tonight’s itinerary. The tour includes finger food at bars one and three, and a house drink at the second.
My favourite venue of the night is Andaluz Bar and Tapas — a very cool basement bar off Howard Street. The place is jumping when we arrive and the hubbub of conversation fills the air. The bar has a relaxed vibe and several intimate nooks — some devoted primarily to diners enjoying the menu of shared plates, and others to casual catch-ups over drinks. By this stage of the tour, everyone in the group is chatting away like old friends. Rusty gets in our included round — a move warmly welcomed by all.
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Later in the evening we head up ritzy retail mecca King Street, and hang a sharp right onto grungy Wolf Lane. It’s home to Cheeky Sparrow, which has a funky warehouse feel and a table with our name on it. Once everyone has settled in, wood-fired pizzas magically appear. This is the final stop on the tour, and I can foresee plenty of late night fun here for those planning to kick on.
The venues visited on this tour change regularly, which keeps things interesting. The tour is a fun and friendly way to tap into the city’s social scene and check out some bars you’d be unlikely to stumble across on your own.
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.