New Zealand travellers are more familiar with the restaurant scenes in Sydney and Melbourne, but the capital of Western Australia and the nearby port city of Fremantle are also exciting dining destinations. Here's our pick of the best of recent openings.
A longtime resident of Bangkok, Australian chef David Thompson's new opening in Perth's restored State Treasury Buildings offers Australia's most authentic Thai flavours. Harnessing the street food of the Thai capital and the fiery Isaan flavours near the border with Laos, there's little appeasement to Western palates in dishes like roast duck red curry, chilli-and-ginger-laced Chiang Mai sausages, and prawns wrapped in betel leaves and coconut. Expect extremely big but balanced flavours – online diner reviews attest the level of robust spice is definitely not for everyone – but Long Chim is a must-visit destination for adventurous travelling foodies. And if the authenticity gets a little too challenging, cool things down with a Thai basil-infused cocktail.
It's just a short hop from downtown Perth to sweeping beaches facing the Indian Ocean – Cottesloe is deservedly popular – but the city's ocean-side dining scene has traditionally been lacklustre. A few kilometres north of Cottesloe's Norfolk pine-trimmed esplanade, The Shorehouse at Swanbourne Beach looks set to hijack that reputation. In a cool setting channeling a Cape Cod ambience, especially on the umbrella-studded deck, local seafood is served with surprising twists. Smoked cod croquettes and a hearty stew crammed with tiger prawns and calamari both come with a European accent, but the view could only be quintessential Western Australia. Time your visit to combine a gin and kaffir lime cocktail with a horizon-stretching Indian Ocean sunset.
Celebrating a rooftop location on the top floor of Australia's most impressive new hotel, Como The Treasury, Wildflower's spectacular glass and marble dining room is Perth's newest essential dining destination. Local Western Australia produce fills the menu – most popular is the ever-changing five-course tasting menu reflecting the six seasons of Western Australia's indigenous Noongar people – and ingredients could include fragrant truffles from the town of Manjimup, marron (a freshwater lobster) from the state's southwest, and scallops from Shark Bay to the north. Bahen & Co chocolate from Margaret River is often used in dessert, and traditional bushtucker flavours like peppermint tree, lemon myrtle and finger limes are combined with kangaroo or WA's iconic Dorper lamb.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen
Chef Kenny McHardy grew up on Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf – the restaurant's name comes from childhood memories of collecting manuka branches for firewood – and a laidback Kiwi vibe instills this compact brick and timber eatery in Fremantle. A strict adherence to local produce sees octopus, prawns and Western Australian lamb all cooked in the open wood-fired kitchen, and the concise drinks list is focused on Margaret River wine, craft beer and cocktails made with gin and vodka from Perth micro-distilleries. The wood-fired pizza is also excellent – combine the chorizo and bocconcini one with Nail Brewing's hoppy Red Ale.
Located in the up and coming area of North Fremantle, Propeller is a versatile all-day cafe with some of the best coffee in town. Locals in need of a java fix queue at the converted shipping container out front, while a spacious dining room segues to a sunny garden at the back. Decor including glass fishing floats hints at Fremantle's maritime heritage, but the menu is infused with a Middle Eastern and Moroccan vibe. Flatbreads and pizza emerge regularly from the oven while shared plates include a refreshing fennel, blood orange and witloof salad and a rustic pork belly sausage teamed with delicate pickled vegetables. Cocktails include more educated spins on the humble gin and tonic – including one combining rosemary, olives and grapefruit – and the concise wine list travels from Marlborough to Margaret River.