A View from the City: Perth

11 June, 2014

James Connolly, bar manager at Enrique’s, goes behind the bar scene in Western Australia’s capital

Tell us a little about the Perth drinks scene. 

When I arrived here seven years ago there were only a few good bars, but with the introduction of the small bar licence it’s gone crazy – there are loads of cool little places popping up all the time. Luxe bar was probably the first of the modern style bars and really set the bar (pardon the pun) for all other smaller bars to aspire to.

What are the recent trends in bar openings and cocktails – what is hot right now?

Well we’ve just had a Mexican wave come through which was great as people are really getting to know the agave catagory better. The biggest trend for me is focus. People are opening bars that focus on certain things, so instead of being something to everyone now bars are starting to make a niche for themselves.

We’ve had a couple of bars open with a strong American whiskey focus; I worked on our Spanish-style gin and tonic joint. Craft beer is pretty popular too – its not just fridges full of Corona and VB. There are some really cool beers coming out.

In terms of cocktails nothing too out the ordinary but you can definitely get a decent drink in a lot more places now.

Why should people visit Perth’s bar scene? And is Perth’s isolation a barrier to its development?

Hell yeah. Not just the bar scene – we have some awesome beaches (watch out for sharks) and the city itself is very pretty. We have bars with lots to offer, great drinks, great service and great product. 

Our isolation means two things: one, that we develop
and cultivate our own style and, two, that some things are a bit harder to get hold of and some times a bit more expensive.

How far does Perth have to go to rival Sydney and Melbourne – or is it just a matter of Perth being the best it can be?

Those guys are jerks!… (jokes) – don’t forget Brisbane either. It’s all good – we have to keep things in perspective. Sydney has a population of 5 million and Melbourne 4 million, whereas Perth has 1.6 million so they have a slight advantage.

Are there any other projects we should know about? 

Maybe, watch this space… There should be a couple of new bars opening over the next six months or so that are being opened by seasoned operators, so expectations are high.

Are there any new ingredients – perhaps local – that you or other bartenders are using right now?

Well, finger lime season just came to an end – that’s a native species, kinda hard to explain, so get on Google. But they’re pretty awesome.

We have great local produce which is of a really great quality, so we’re pretty lucky.

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