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EVERYONE WILL AGREE THAT GOING
OUT IN PERTH AIN’T CHEAP. WE ASK
TWO PERTH LOCALS TO WEIGH IN ON
THE TIME-WORN QUESTION: IS OUR FAIR
CITY REALLY OVERPRICED?
is the prolific
Dine Whit Me,
as well as
a writer and
I grew up spending
flitting back and
forth between Perth and my hometown,
Singapore. Upon every visit to Singapore, I was spoilt
by perfectly crisp roti and chicken rice sets for just
the rattling coins in my pocket. Even though earlier
on this year, the BBC named Singapore as the world’s
most expensive city, the average Joe can still eat like
a king. I found myself in the same position while working
overseas in Moscow, Russia and Shanghai, China. They
have been respectively noted as some of the most
expensive cities in their continents, and yet I could still
eat well every day without feeling a single pinch.
After exploring Perth’s local dining scene extensively
over the last couple of years, I have grown rather
accustomed to dutifully explaining the high prices that
grace a majority of our restaurant menus. ‘It’s Perth’ has
become a cookie cutter response for $5 suburban coffees
and $25 ‘Asian-style’ noodles that were mediocre at best
and served in a bowl the size of my palm.
You’ll be hard tasked to enjoy a night out for dinner
and drinks for two in Perth’s inner city suburbs without
the budget tipping the scales to a near $50 per person.
On the rare occasion that you pay around $30 per person
and leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, you’ve found
a keeper! In comparison, I recently enjoyed a night out
in Sydney at a Mexican joint in Surry Hills (the equivalent
to our Northbridge) that didn’t break the bank – I left full
of delicious food and perplexed as to why the people of
Perth couldn’t enjoy $5 tacos every day of the week.
I’m sick of forking out $10 for a single flowerpot of
chips and over $30 for bowls of pasta. The profit margin
makes my head spin. There are noticeable patterns within
our dining scene; a restaurant with a view is synonymous
with overpriced and underwhelming, while the words
‘fusion’ or ‘tapas’ justify measly portions. We live in
a city where cocktails are priced like entrees, and entrees
resemble amuse-bouches. The simple solution could be
don’t order it, or don’t go to that restaurant – but unlike
our east coast neighbours, we aren’t always spoilt for
choice. Avoiding expensive establishments would mean
that my options for a somewhat decent, well-priced feed
would dwindle down to McDonalds, southern suburbs
Asian cuisine, or breakfast at IKEA on Saturdays.
Personally, I believe that Perth punters are starting to
distinguish between restaurants charging high prices for
a quality, well-prepared meal, and restaurants charging
high prices just because they can. While I’ve got
a handful of favourite local restaurants that are either
well priced or well worth paying for, I think Perth still
has far too many establishments that are missing that
trifecta – quality, consistency and value for money. If
we’ve got to pay top dollar, then we should at least pay
top dollar to establishments that deserve it.
Perth is expensive, damn
expensive. But here’s the
truth – it should be.
To be honest, I love
a good ‘I just paid one
year’s wage for an
espresso, Perth’s so
expensive, the sky is
falling’ rant as much as
the next guy. But before we sharpen the pitchforks
and storm the Bastille, let’s order a side of perspective with
that dinner for two you took out a second mortgage for.
Instead of telling everyone you bought a macchiato
on Chapel Street for $2.60 (bet it was a single shot with
a dash of milk, wasn’t it?) as proof of Perth’s priciness, lets
instead look at the idea of living here as a commodity – as
something you’re buying.
Thinking of life in Perth that way, you start to look
at the question of whether Perth is too expensive as
a value proposition. For starters, if Perth was a product,
it’d be a luxury good. We’re the Prada or Ferrari of places
to live. It’s not just weather and beaches. What about the
other things that make it a place to live, not just the cost
of your coffee?
If you’re a person who ever needs access to healthcare,
wants a job, might start a business or raise a family, likes the
THE GREAT DEBATE
Andrew Bennett is the co-owner of The Classroom in North Perth
and upcoming Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodlebar in Northbridge.
great outdoors, and multiculturalism, and enjoys a lack
of armed conflict, dictatorial rule or social unrest, as
a package deal where’s better than Perth?
Or put another way, isn’t Perth the most attractive
product on the market?
If you’ve travelled or lived elsewhere, how we stack up
compared to other places around the country or overseas
really puts Perth (and being a citizen here) in a very enviable
league. Perth is routinely listed as one of the world’s most
liveable/best cities. Why would we think that desirability
would come without the price tag – a cost reflective of our
exclusivity, our cachet?
I could tell you about high-cost environments, the
expense of isolation, transport costs and the other arguments
brought out to justify why living here, eating here and
drinking here tends to be more pricey than other places.
I argue that instead of the question being ‘Is it too expensive
to live here?’, it should be ‘Is Perth value for money?’.
To answer that question, I look around and see my
friends’ and family’s quality of life, and I say, unequivocally, it
is. So yes, we all wish things were more affordable, and
yes, the good old days of affordable living seem to be
behind us, but if you’re looking at your $38 pint of Asahi
and moaning that it’s half full, maybe stop and be thankful
you’re one of the blessed few who get to enjoy it at all, in
the middle of paradise...
to Perth’s best
§ Alfred’s Kitchen
§ Ace Pizza Highgate
§ Is Donburi
§ Le Vietnam CBD
§ Mama Tran CBD
§ Noodle Forum CBD
§ Nao Japanese CBD
§ Old Shanghai
§ Pad Thai Cafe
§ Pinchos Leederville
§ Run Amok Fremantle
§ Tak Chee House
§ Tra Vinh Northbridge
§ Big Bowl Noodle
§ Taka Japanese Cuisine
§ Tasik Northbridge
§ Toastface Grillah CBD
§ The Moon Cafe
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