You know how when you meet someone and they introduce themselves, but within five minutes you’ve completely forgotten their name? That’s how it was with one of the blokes on the International Food Tour of Perth which I undertook today. Thankfully, I knew he was the father of Justin, our tour guide. We shared a few interesting stories throughout the day, including memories of condensed milk. He also told me a little of the background to these tours which are reasonably new in Perth.
The idea came from a visit to New York last year, and a tour called “Food On Foot”. He spoke with a real passion about the tour; it must have had a real impact. He and his family have been passionate about food and wine, and his son Justin had spent about half his life working in hospitality. And so when Justin returned to Australia after living overseas for a while, it seemed like a logical connection between his working life and his interests. On top of that, Perth has probably been crying out for something like this.
It’s a decade since I lived in Perth, and to be honest, I don’t have great memories of a particularly strong food culture here. Sure, there’s Margaret River and other places like that. But I always remembered Perth as a bit of a surf and turf kind of town. Memorably from a couple of years ago, Perth was also a town I began to associate with overpriced meals and particularly overpriced coffee.
But Perth seems to have changed a little bit in the last couple of years. You can see it instantly as you walk through the city: the town is far less Anglo and far more culturally diverse than it was ten years ago, even two years ago. This is reflected in many more interesting places to eat, and, thanks to legislative change, a far greater small bar culture. So in some ways, it sounds like Justin and his aunt (who co-owns the business) have tapped into the wave of change.
Today’s tour covered a range of food establishments around Perth, ranging from the older established businesses (an old Greek supermarket) to more modern ones (enjoying Banh Mi and Vietnamese coffee, and a toasted sandwich at a laneway hipster bar). The tour was well-paced. Justin (the guy in the cap with a beard) was a really good tour guide, displaying both knowledge and passion. Highly recommended.