There are not many hotels that you visit where you walk out of the lift and are able to check how you look in a mirror once owned by Mussolini. This is just one of the many reasons that using the Parmelia Hilton Hotel as a base for your stay in Perth is a wise move.
Having only two days to explore the city and it’s surrounds, I really don’t want to waste time on public transport trying to get to all the places I want to see. Plus, I’m a walker, so I like to get out and about to explore on foot.
That’s exactly what I do as soon as I drop off my bag, change into something cooler – Perth is considerably warmer than the Melbourne I left behind – and take a few minutes to do a happy dance about the truly fantastic room I’m in, but more on that later.
At the suggestion of the hotel staff, I decide to walk up the hill to King’s Park, from where, I’m told, you can get a fantastic view of the city. ‘Walk up the hill’ does not do justice to the near-vertical climb I undertake (note: there are actually people running past me as I try to look nonchalant). However, once my legs stop shaking from the effort, I am indeed impressed by the view.
The view isn’t the only thing that makes the climb worthwhile. As home to the Western Australian Botanic Garden, there are so many flowers and plants on show that are native to the state. Also, given that it’s still spring during my visit and there’s been plenty of rainfall, everything is looking lush and lovely. And if you have a head for heights, then don’t miss taking a walk over the treetop bridge – it’s really not for the faint-hearted though!
I had honestly thought that I would walk up here, take a look around and be back down the hill in about an hour, but time just runs away from you up here. So, rather than explore the city centre, I decide to head back to the very welcoming room that is mine for the next two days.
I’m lucky enough to have scored a Queen suite, which, like all the rooms in the hotel, has been recently refurbished. The furniture, which to my untrained eye has a decidedly French provincial feel, is complemented by restored antiques and a few impressive pieces of artwork, which I’m reliably informed are part of an extensive, original collection. However, after walking further in the warm afternoon than I expected, it’s the Serenity bed that’s calling me. Maybe just a five-minute lie down before dinner …
If you’re a foodie, then the explosion of restaurants that have hit the Perth dining scene won’t disappoint you. But there’s only one place I’m having dinner tonight and that Long Chim – a restaurant by David Thompson, who many consider to be the world’s best Thai chef. Located in the pristine State Buildings, the restaurant itself has an edgy, street vibe, which perfectly matches the food on offer.
With Long Chim meaning ‘come and taste’, that’s exactly what you should do. Don’t feel compelled to sit and have a full meal if your budget doesn’t stretch to it, but if you like spicy food – and I mean seriously spicy – don’t leave without trying the Chiang Mai Larp of Chicken.
The extra three hours I gained flying over from Melbourne are starting to catch up with me and it’s time to call it a night, ready for tomorrow’s trip out to the Swan Valley.
If you’ve got plenty of time to spare over in the west, then you might think about heading to Margaret River to sample some of its renowned local produce and wine. But if time is tight, the Swan Valley is only a 25-minute drive from Perth and it’s a great place to get a taste of the west.
Today there’s something a little different on the cards – an asparagus masterclass! To showcase what’s on offer for Entwined in the Valley, which happens the first weekend in November, I’m off to the Edgecombe Brothers Winery. This unpretentious family-run winery is the domain of Alfred, who today is playing host to a group of 20 guests, all keen to find out more about asparagus. He’s incredibly passionate not only about his asparagus, but the whole of the Swan Valley. Keeping the group entertained and contained is no mean feat, but Alfred takes it all in his stride. After telling us all about the green vegetable we’re here to pick, cook and eat, we’re off across the road to where the asparagus grows.
Knife in hand, Alfred shows his willing pupils how to spot a stalk that’s ready for the chop and then we can’t be stgopped. Soon, there’s what seems like a ton of asparagus and now it’s time to cook it for lunch. As it’s so fresh, there really isn’t much that needs to be done – a quick blanche and then it’s on to an olive-oil laden impressive homemade BBQ. After a few minutes, it on to our plates, sprinkled with Parmesan and a squirt of fresh lemon and we’re allowed to tuck in.
Who would have thought a plain vegetable cooked in such a simple way could be so delicious? But delicious it is. And don’t forget it’s good for you – just ask Alfred, who’s more than happy to explain it’s therapeutic properties as he shares the wine he also produces. As we leave, we’re each given an asparagus plant to take home, but as I’m heading back to Victoria, I have to leave mine behind.
On the way back to Perth, I get the chance to stop off at The House of Honey and Whistler’s Chocolate Company. Now, I’ve always found honey too sweet for my taste buds but I think I’ve just been having the wrong stuff! The range on offer at The House of Honey is mindboggling and each has its own distinct taste. And don’t worry about choosing the wrong one; its honey bar gives you plenty of opportunity to try until you get just the right one. The bees behind The Honey House frolic in local lavender and the fragrant sweet nectar that results is delicious.
If chocolate is your vice, then you really can’t go past Whistler’s Chocolate Company. This family business only sells its wares in WA, so visitors should stock up on their newfound favourites – mine is the chocolate-covered pretzels if anyone’s interested.
After a full day of doing nothing more than eating and drinking, you would think I wouldn’t have any appetite left. You would be wrong. Tonight, I’m off to the Adelphi Grill – the house restaurant of the Parmelia Hilton. The restaurant is actually a well-known and well-loved local favourite – it’s not just a place where guests and out-of-towners eat.
As is popular in many restaurants these days, the open kitchen allows you to watch the chefs, hard at work preparing your dinner. I would heartily recommend the steak and, if you’re one of those people who like your food with a bit of a kick, chef Chad Miskiewicz’s South West fiery fillet won’t disappoint. And, if your budget won’t stretch to steak, the dinner special at $25 is a perfect excuse to sit and marvel at the original bawdy mural, by legendary Australian cartoonist, Paul Rigby. A nightcap in the bar, before a peaceful night’s sleep, rounds off the day perfectly.
With only a few hours left on my last day, I would love to take the ferry over to Rottnest, but I’m probably pushing it for time. So instead, I opt for a walk around the newly emerging Elizabeth Quay. If you’ve got a musical mind, you can have a go at ringing the bells at The Bell Tower. The tower, although all glass and modern, was actually built to house the bells from St Martin’s in the Field Church, Trafalgar Square, London, which pre-date the 14th century. Even if you’re not musical, the view from the observation deck is pretty special.
It’s been a whirlwind trip west and, as I head back to the airport, I’m already planning what I’ll see on my next, much longer visit.
Debbie visited Perth as a guest of Parmelia Hilton Perth.