Your First SUP Yoga Class

For the past few months I’ve been trying to simplify life. It started when I watched a Netflix documentary about minimalism and I later read the excellent book Goodbye Things by Japanese author Fumio Sasaki. I was inspired to reclaim time and space by living more simply, and while I won’t share my decluttering efforts on this blog, I wanted to make decisions quicker. Instead of weighing up pros and cons, researching for days or analysing a menu for 20 minutes, my mantra became ‘if you want it, get it’ and ‘if you’re interested, do it’. I’ve regained so much time by thinking less. It’s incredible. 

This ‘do what you’re drawn to’ mindset is how I found myself at a swimming pool at 7am on a Tuesday, about to do yoga in my bikini. I love the water and had been interested in trying stand up paddle (SUP) boarding for a while. When I saw Precious Breath were offering a three week SUP yoga course at a local aquatic centre, I knew I had to give it a go! I usually workout with my mum on a Tuesday morning so I asked if she wanted to join me. She loves a fitness challenge too so we paid our AU$120 course fee and a few weeks later, we were poolside.

Class Overview

As the name suggests, SUP yoga combines stand up paddle boarding and yoga. You’ll do a range of yoga poses while balancing on a paddle board, with the class duration typically 45 minutes to an hour. There’s no paddle! The sequence can vary but as a guide, most classes will have the standard yoga format of a gentle warm up, sun salutations, warrior poses and then perhaps some inversions or hip opening stretches followed by shavasana (meditation). If you’re confused, terminology is covered below. The challenge of SUP yoga is moving between poses while keeping your centre of gravity, or you’ll topple into the water! 

Before you leave home

As with a traditional yoga class, it’s best not to eat for at least an hour beforehand or you may get an upset stomach. If you must have something, keep it small and energy-dense such as half a banana, a handful of nuts or my favourite – a raw ball. Ladies, you’ll be in swimwear so make sure you’re happy with your hair removal situation. Put on suncream, bring a towel and a water bottle. Consider a hat but it’ll likely get wet. It’s best to leave valuables at home unless you know there are lockers available (unlikely at river or beach locations).

What to wear

I had no idea whether I should wear a swimsuit, yoga clothes or both but thankfully I got an email before our class. It said to wear swimwear underneath yoga clothes in case we got wet. As the pool was chlorinated, I wore my oldest gym shorts and tank rather than damage my latest Lululemon, with a bikini underneath. I’d regrettably tossed my old one-piece out in a recent clean-out, but thankfully my bikini top had a high neck. As for footwear, I wore sneakers for the 20 minute walk from my apartment to the pool but flip-flops are a better idea.

On arrival

Ideally you’ve been given a good description of the class location, whether it be a public pool, lake or at the beach. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the boards and cluster of people. Find the instructor and if it’s not specifically a beginner class, let them know your experience with SUP or yoga so they can give guidance throughout. 

 SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.
SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.

Equipment

Your paddle board will probably be supplied, otherwise you may need to collect a hire board. Inquire beforehand! Yoga paddle boards are wider than regular boards, giving you more space and stability. Getting onto the board can be difficult but look for a handle (a deep groove) in the centre. Then you’re set! 

Terminology

Your instructor will guide you through a range of poses. If you’ve done yoga before, you’ll be familiar with them. If not, here are some basics:

  • Child’s pose: A resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
  • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
  • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: Meditation. Five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 
  • Sun salutations: A flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
  • Warrior poses: A set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 

During the class

I quickly realised I’d be doing the class in my bikini, as we needed to swim a short distance to reach our boards! It’d been years since I’d been to a public swimming pool and the water was mild and refreshing. I felt genuinely excited I’d made this experience happen. I got on the board without any grace, and our class began.

Your main focus will be staying on the board, but honestly, it was much sturdier than I expected. From the first minute, I felt my legs and core instantly engage as if I was balancing on a beam. But I moved through child’s pose, cat-cow pose and to downward dog without any problems. It was 20 minutes later during a Warrior 2 pose that I toppled into the water! It resulted in lots of laughter and others fell off later too. Apart from being a little cold when the sun went behind clouds, I felt peaceful and lucky to have such a unique experience in my hometown’s warm climate.

Our instructor Claudia was fantastic, guiding us through poses with a headset microphone as she stood on the edge of the pool. She had a great teaching style, moving around the pool so our class could still see her when we were facing the side and demonstrating moves where needed. Throughout the class she congratulated us on accepting a challenge, getting out of our comfort zone and choosing to start our day with yoga. As a regular yogi, I was comfortable with the poses but I did regret throwing out my one-piece when my stomach sagged while planking. I told myself it’s just a body – and any onlookers were probably more interested in our unusual activity rather than critiquing my lack of tone. 

The highlights were doing ‘wild thing’ pose and flipping into the pool – what a sense of freedom! I also enjoyed bridge pose and hope to make it to wheel pose by the end of the three week course. I’d earlier joked with my mum that I couldn’t possibly imagine doing ‘happy baby’ pose in a bikini. Well, I did it – until I realised the school group next to us probably didn’t need to see that view! 

The next day & beyond

Forget the next day, my quads were stiff when I stood up after breakfast that morning! I woke up with stiff quads the next day as well as well, and my mum text me she had the same feeling. We must’ve worked harder than we realised. If you’re not a regular yogi, you may also find your hamstrings a little tight. Go for a gentle walk or try repeat some of the poses to loosen your muscles. 

In subsequent classes, have fun exploring and developing your practice. Maybe you lunge deeper, twist further or challenge your balance by closing your eyes. While I was slightly hesitant SUP yoga may be a fad, it was actually a perfect union of two different workouts. The flow of yoga and the movement of the water was calming and they absolutely complimented each other. The feeling must be heightened in natural water! If you get the chance, take your practice outside the studio – and get on board SUP yoga! 

QUESTION: When did you last take your fitness out of your comfort zone? 

Perth’s Healthiest Restaurants

It’s never been easier to get a healthy breakfast and restaurant lunches are typically lighter and brimming with salad options. But when it comes to date night, catching a friend or a group event, dinner is a time where good intentions can be derailed. I love going out, exploring new venues and drinking a good glass of wine – my fitness routine is never going to stop that! But I don’t want to undo all my efforts at the gym by overindulging when I’m dining out. I don’t feel good after I eat greasy or carbohydrate-heavy meals (hence the lack of pizza or pasta in my posts – gnocchi with lots of tomato sauce excepted!) and too much wine makes my 5.30am alarm a struggle. 

While the definition of healthy food is subjective, I consider it as anything that’s minimally processed and eaten in moderation.  I try to avoid anything from a packet and instead eat a variety of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables daily with nuts, wholegrains and proteins. Dark chocolate and occasional home-baked treats like banana bread are all the sweetness I need. Thankfully, perhaps in reaction to fast-food and convenience meals, restaurants are increasingly focusing on fresh, seasonal produce. Whether you have specific dietary needs such as gluten free, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or simply want nutritious yet delicious meals, these restaurants are for you! Options range from casual to special occasion, and all but one venue serves meat and alcohol.

1. DeJa Vu tapas restaurant, Northbridge

Comprising a rooftop venue and a restaurant, a first glimpse of Dejavu‘s menu reveals cocktails, sliders, and pizza  – where’s the healthy you ask? Look closer. The pizzas are on activated charcoal bases. The hummus is made from carrots and served with vegetable sticks. Slider options include free range chicken and shredded jackfruit (vegans rejoice!) on house-made buns. There are also distinctly Australian flavours – think lemon myrtle, macadamia and damper. As for the cocktails Dejavu uses essential oils and coconut sugar syrups, and you’ll again find activated charcoal… in its tequila! The romantic rooftop setting and stunning service make this a magical night out. 

Cost: Tapas plates $8-16, sangria $8 and cocktails from $17.
Address: 2/310 William St, Northbridge | Website 

 Dejavu Rooftop: charcoal damper, sriracha hummus and vegetable sticks with a cocktail. 
Dejavu Rooftop: charcoal damper, sriracha hummus and vegetable sticks with a cocktail. 

2. New Normal, Subiaco

From the outside, this venue doesn’t look overly healthy. You’ll see wine, a rooftop bar and waitstaff with plates of delicious looking food. But on closer inspection, New Normal completely embodies my idea of healthy eating. The focus is on fresh, seasonal produce and it’s entirely sourced from Western Australia’s South West (drinks menu included). The menu changes so often, they don’t have paper copies (but if you’re shortsighted like me and can’t read the blackboard, you’ll be kindly given a chalkboard at your table). My boyfriend and I dined just before Christmas, choosing plates of tomato, golden beetroot, octopus and rosemary potatoes. I felt like we were in a renovated farmhouse, eating exceptional flavours picked straight from a garden. The atmosphere was intimate, wholesome and just lovely. Don’t wait another minute. Book your table now! 

Cost: Approx. $60 per person, including a bottle of wine. 
Address: 2/23 Railway Rd, Subiaco |  Website

 New Normal: golden beetroot and pumpkin with cranberries (goats cheese on the side).
New Normal: golden beetroot and pumpkin with cranberries (goats cheese on the side).

3. The Raw Kitchen, Fremantle

Remember that time before bliss balls and coconut wraps were widely available in supermarkets?The Raw Kitchen opened in Fremantle eight years ago, pioneering healthy eating in Perth. Today, it’s evolved to beautiful warehouse venue that offers yoga, healthy living workshops and even a zero-waste store. But back to the food. Despite its name, not everything is raw. Think yellow tempeh curries, raw nachos with ‘cashew cheese,’ and a ‘live’ pizza with dehydrated buckwheat base. There’s no dairy, gluten, refined sugar or additives. The wine list has preservative free, organic and biodynamic options too! Eating out never felt so good. 

Cost: Entrees/shares from $7, mains from $19, wine from $36 per bottle. 
Address: 181A High St, Fremantle | Website

 The Raw Kitchen: raw tacos filled with fresh salad and herbs, topped with cashew cheese sauce.
The Raw Kitchen: raw tacos filled with fresh salad and herbs, topped with cashew cheese sauce.

4. Post, Perth CBD

I’ve only been to Post for breakfast but it’s open for lunch and dinner, so it’s going on this list. Set in the city’s stunning State Buildings, the menu features several dishes designed by its Como Shambhala spa, aimed at being light and nutritious. Enjoy dishes such as quinoa spaghetti, salads with carrot top pesto and plenty of local seafood in a beautiful heritage setting (how long can you stare at that ceiling for?). I’ll be returning for Post’s Champagne brunch served Sundays from 11.30am – nut seed ‘real toast’ with avocado, buckwheat cannoli cacoa dessert and a glass of champagne of course! Post perfectly captures indulgence without excess and you can even get a spa treatment before or after, if you wish. 

Cost: Starters from $18, mains from $24. 
Address: State Buildings, corner of St George’s Tce & Pier St, Perth | Website

 Post: Dining feels like a spa experience with its nut and seed 'real toast' with avocado.
Post: Dining feels like a spa experience with its nut and seed ‘real toast’ with avocado.

5. Hanami, Mt Lawley

With a focus on simplicity and minimal cooking times, Japanese is a great option when looking for healthy dining options. But I specifically keep coming back to Mt Lawley’s Hanami because it’s always so fresh. Sure, there are spring rolls on the menu and you could choose fried chicken with a pile of white rice. But there’s also edamame, endless seafood, cold tofu, and the option to have 5 or 10 pieces of sushi (thumbs up for portion control). The ambience is lively and casual, the food is delicious and you can’t beat the prices. Japanese is also the perfect opportunity to skip the beer or wine and drink green tea all night too. 

Cost: Starters from $6, sushi from $6, mains from $17. 
Address: 685 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley | Website

Want More Healthy Dining?

If you’d like breakfast or brunch ideas, check out Perth’s Healthiest Cafes! There are so many new venues opening, I’ll be doing another post soon showcasing the latest additions. Subscribe to my e-newsletter to get an alert. 

QUESTION: Where do you go for a healthy dinner out? 

Perth’s Best Food & Drink Events in 2018

A new year. A new calendar. A lot of empty spaces… for now! Perth’s glorious sunshine and mild winters means there’s never long between food and drink events. I love checking out new festivals but there are some events I look forward to every year. They’re consistently well organised, have a great range of stallholders, a good atmosphere and don’t cost a fortune. Grab a pen or for digital types, grab your smartphone and save the dates for my favourite food and booze events happening in 2018!

February

Araluen’s Chilli Festival, Perth Hills

This festival has travelled around, appearing at Fremantle’s Esplanade and last year taking over McCallum Park in Victoria Park. In 2018, Araluen’s Chilli Festival returns to where it all began – Roleystone’s Araluen Botanic Park. I love chilli and my man does too, so the festival is a great day for sampling chilli-flavoured sauces, snacks, baked goods, and alcohol! If you (or your mate) can’t handle the heat, there’s typically a few ice cream trucks and plenty of beer to cool things down. 

  • Date: 3 – 4 February 2018
  • Tickets: $22 + booking fee, kids free | Website: araluenbotanicpark.com.au
  • Why I love it: A diverse range of stallholders and punters, united by their love of chilli.
  • Tip: Check out the chilli plant displays to learn about some seriously hot and rare varieties.

 Chico Gelato: get the scoop on chilli desserts, from mild to the Grim Reaper! 
Chico Gelato: get the scoop on chilli desserts, from mild to the Grim Reaper! 

June

City Wine, Northbridge

Winter in Perth can be pretty miserable. It rains, it’s dark by 5.30pm but it’s never cold enough to snow. So it’s always a magical time when City Wine takes over Northbridge’s Urban Orchard. Rugged up with a wine glass in hand, you can wander from stall to stall and experience the best of West Australian wine. Tastings are free but wine is also available by the glass or buy a bottle to take home. The green surroundings, live music and of course, the vino make it the perfect catch up with friends or solo night out.

  • Date: TBC, usually a Friday and Saturday night in June.
  • Tickets: $28 pre-sale (2017) | Website: www.wineandfood.com.au
  • Why I love it: It’s like visiting Margaret River, but with one metre between wineries.
  • Tip: Stallholders will look after any bottles you buy so you don’t have to carry them all night. 

 City Wine: producers from across Western Australia take over Northbridge.
City Wine: producers from across Western Australia take over Northbridge.

August

Good Food & Wine Show, Perth CBD

Don’t let memories of your last work conference put you off heading to the Perth Convention Centre. The Good Food and Wine Show is the biggest event of its kind in Perth, with food stalls covering everything from cheese and antipasti to desserts and health food products. There are huge areas dedicated to wine, beer, cider and spirits too. There’s also a strong local presence – last year I discovered Noshing Naturally vegan cheese and also met the founder of Turban Chopsticks meal kits! Tastings are free and there are plenty of bargains if you’re buying products to take home.

  • Date: 24 – 26 August 2018, various day and night sessions.
  • Tickets: About $25 – $35, depending on session (2017) | Website: goodfoodshow.com.au
  • Why I love it: One ticket, hundreds of exhibitors. I’ll be honest. It’s pretty boozy. 
  • Tip: Bring a reusable bag for all your shopping, or buy a trolley from the merchandise stand.

 Good Food and Wine Show: get your map, grab your glass and go! 
Good Food and Wine Show: get your map, grab your glass and go! 

October

Beauvine, Highgate

This is hands-down one of the most organised and well-curated events in Perth’s food and drink scene (congrats JumpClimb!). Held at Birdwood Park near the Brisbane Hotel, your ticket includes four hours of beer, wine and cider tastings. Each year I discover a new winery or find a new beer at an old favourite stallholder. There’s a big emphasis on local producers with a few east coast surprises too. Food options are equally boutique, with pop-ups from some of Perth’s best eateries. It’s outrageously good value if you get pre-sale tickets. 

  • Date: TBC, usually a Friday night, Saturday day/night and Sunday day in October.
  • Tickets: $29 + booking fee (2017) | Website: www.beauvine.com.au
  • Why I love it: Meet the smaller brewers and producers in a hip but not too crowded space.  
  • Tip: Bring a hat and sunscreen, as there’s serious competition for shade during the day.

 Beauvine: the most organised, well-curated food and drinbnk festival in Perth! 
Beauvine: the most organised, well-curated food and drinbnk festival in Perth! 

November

WA Beer Week, various locations

 WA Beer Week: celebrate the best of the state's brews!
WA Beer Week: celebrate the best of the state’s brews!

This massive celebration of WA craft beer has been happening since 2002. I’ll confess, last year was the first time I got involved with WA Beer Week but I’m already excited for 2018! This 10 day festival features events across the state, including beer launches, masterclasses, dinners, quizzes and even a beer run (yep, the exercise kind). It’s a great chance to visit bars and breweries beyond Perth too, with events held in regional Western Australia too. 

  • Date: TBC, late November 2018.
  • Tickets: There are free events! Others are ticketed | Website: www.wabeerweek.com.au
  • Why I love it: It’s a huge celebration of WA’s beer industry, no suits or heels required.
  • Tip: Get your tickets early! Events will sell out. 

Ones to watch…

  • From the team behind Beauvine, Kegs by the Quay gets underway at Elizabeth Quay next week featuring more than 20 breweries and cideries. 
  • Seafood lovers can rejoice as Fish and Sips Festival makes its debut at Port Beach in early February. If you prefer sweets, De Lish Expo takes over Crown Perth the same weekend. 
  • South West in the City was a huge success on the South Perth foreshore in 2017 and has promised a return in early 2018.
  • I’ll be closely following Perth Craft Beer Festival, which last year swapped the awful token system at Northbridge for the much friendlier PayPass at Claremont Showgrounds. 
  • I’m still yet to make it to the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, but with the State Government renewing funding for another year and the promise of it expanding to Perth’s Swan Valley – 2018 may finally be my chance!

Stay up to date with all of Perth’s food and drink events with my dedicated guide Perth Food & Booze Events or sign up for my e-newsletter. Got an event? Get in touch.

QUESTION: What’s your favourite food or booze event in Perth?

A Night at Crown Towers Perth

When you think of a family vacation, what jumps to mind? A camping trip or a week away in Bali, Florida or Spain? In my family, we can barely meet for dinner without a month’s notice. It was therefore a rare and special treat when my family and I stayed at the brand new Crown Towers in Perth, Western Australia. Granted, it was only for one night in the middle of winter. But we were going on a family holiday!  

The 500-room hotel opened in November 2016 at a cost of $650 million. It’s reportedly the most expensive hotel ever built in Australia and is the largest in Perth. It’s strategically located in Burswood alongside the greater Crown complex, about 10 minutes drive from Perth’s CBD and 15 minutes from Perth Airport. 

Our stay at Crown was devised months in advance by my youngest sister (a travel agent) and her boyfriend. We sat around the Christmas tree last year and they gave us mysterious gift wrapped packages with our names on them. We took it in turn to open our gifts, revealing cardboard clues with images of keys, some numbers and a crown. After 15 minutes or so, we solved the puzzle. We were having a night at Crown Towers in July 2017! A week before our booking, my sister and her man sent an an elaborate email detailing room inclusions, dinner reservations and breakfast. My first staycation was looking exceptional!

arrival & check-in

My boyfriend and I caught an Uber from our city apartment and arrived at Crown Towers within 15 minutes. Like most West Australians, we’d been to Crown complex before but driving up to Crown Towers’ entrance was distinctly different. Perth’s humble skyline looked world class alongside the sweeping Swan River views. Equally as striking was the Crown Towers’ building itself. It was tall, glistening and commanded your attention. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in my own city. 

We arrived at 2.30pm for a 3pm check in but it wasn’t exactly smooth. Reception were confused as my sister had booked four rooms but we’d arrived separately (albeit within an hour or so of each other). I didn’t think this would be an uncommon situation but the issue was resolved within a few minutes. I was surprised when we were told our room wasn’t ready. It may have been because of our request for adjacent rooms but it was only 30 minutes before the official check-in time. Staff told us they would call or text when the room. Again, confusion arose about whether to call me or my sister who’d made the booking (and already had her room). I was beginning to doubt whether Crown could live up to world class standards. 

 The Waiting Room: my underwhelming cocktail ($18).
The Waiting Room: my underwhelming cocktail ($18).

The delay provided a perfect chance to head to the The Waiting Room for a cocktail. It was a beautiful, art deco style space adjacent to the lobby that would’ve fit neatly in The Great Gatsby. Tables of mostly women were enjoying afternoon drinks, and I spotted a few people enjoying the bar’s signature “High Coffee” which consists of a coffee-based cocktail and four matching desserts for $35. I’m not a coffee drinker but I made a note to take friends. 

I ordered a spiced winter cocktail ($18) while my boyfriend had an expresso martini ($20). His drink looked and smelt wonderful, but the presentation of my drink was underwhelming. It tasted fine though. A moment of redemption came when I inquired about one of the ingredients in my drink, Lillet. The waiter explained it was a French aperitif, mostly made from white wine and some citrus. I was happy with the information but then he returned with the bottle a few minutes later so I could see the label. My afternoon cocktail had become a liquor lesson! I was very grateful (and I’ll be buying some Lillet for my liquor cabinet too). We got a text that our room was ready at 3.15pm. As we left, I noticed one of the television screens was showing live football. The 1920s ambience was suddenly very 2017. 

the room  

Memories of the awkward check-in and my average cocktail were washed away the instant we walked into our room. The Perth skyline and river views filled the floor to ceiling windows. I felt as far from home as you could with a 15 minute drive. My boyfriend and I spent at least 10 minutes staring out the window. A family holiday had never looked so good! It was time to crack the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, which was included with our booking. Except it wasn’t there. I made a quick call to the front desk and it arrived 10 minutes later. It was another slip in customer service, but the view was so good I didn’t care. 

 Crown Towers: Perth skyline and the Swan River from our Premier King room. 
Crown Towers: Perth skyline and the Swan River from our Premier King room. 

It turns out we’d been upgraded to a Premier King room (hence the view) although we only discovered this later when speaking with family. I explored our abode for the night, which featureda huge bathroom (with a television by the bath), an iPad to control room settings, and thick, luxurious bathrobes. The mini-bar was excellent and showcased local goods, including Hippocampus gin and a wide range of Koko Black chocolates. There was time for a quick soak in the tub and if it wasn’t for our dinner reservations, I wouldn’t have left the room! 

 Crown Towers: the bathroom was spacious and had a television by the bathtub.
Crown Towers: the bathroom was spacious and had a television by the bathtub.

facilities

 Crown Towers: the mini-bar is perfect for chocaholics.
Crown Towers: the mini-bar is perfect for chocaholics.

Crown Tower’s outdoor pool is as much about striking aesthetics as it is about leisure. However, it was a cloudy 17 °C (62 °F) during our winter stay so I didn’t make it out there. The fee for renting a pool-side lounge started at $65, and rose to $375 for a luxury cabana on weekends. The pool is strictly for guests only, so no chance of making a day visit in warmer months. It was taunting us from our room!

I didn’t have time to check out Crown Towers’ gym, despite it being open 24 hours. I didn’t visit the day spa on this occasion either, although I’d previously been for some birthday pampering over summer. I used the Aqua Retreat area for about 20 minutes before my treatments, which consisted of a Wild Kashmir Purifying Facial ($200, 1 hour) with turmeric and lavender and a firm relaxation massage  ($180, 1 hour). The facial was soothing yet detoxifying while the massage was calming but also addressed tight spots. I felt liked I’d had a full night’s sleep when I left! While hotel spas can be known to take advantage of their captive market, Crown Spa truly stands on its own. 

dinner  

Our family had booked a table at Crown’s premium Chinese restaurant Silks. I’d dined here a few years earlier with my boyfriend, but we’d both agreed it was a venue better suited to groups so you can try more of the menu. Silks was about 10 minutes walk from our hotel room and it was much more ornate than I’d remembered. Our party of seven included chilli lovers and chilli haters, a vegetarian, some serious carnivores and my mostly vegan self. We were promptly seated at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle – my favourite setup for group dining. 

 Silks Restaurant: Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt, marinated cucumber and three serves of Signature Dim Sum. 
Silks Restaurant: Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt, marinated cucumber and three serves of Signature Dim Sum. 

We ordered white wine (Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc $65) and some beers while we looked over the menu. We decided on a few small dishes to share and each chose a main, making sure there were no duplications. The feast that ensued was incredible. The Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt ($18) was devoured by all. My Sweet & Sour Gluten Dumplings ($28) were a delicious, chewy main that had all the flavours of childhood takeaway elevated in mock meat. My vegetarian mother declared it her favourite dish. The carnivores were seriously impressed with the tofu, and also said the Signature Dim Sum ($25 for three pieces) was a highlight. The Fried Egg Noodles with Barbecue Pork ($28) and Peking Duck ($11) received praise too, while the Stir-fried Chicken with XO Sauce & Cognac ($48) was reportedly satisfying but not sensational. There was a second bottle of wine (Plantagenet Riesling $55) and some spirits and cider as our chatter and chopsticks continued. There was no room for dessert.

The bill came to $625 for the seven of us ($90 a head), although the final total was closer to $550 once we used our Entertainment Card discount. Would I return to Silks a third time? I find it hard to separate Chinese food from memories of plastic takeout containers and pyjamas, but I’m yet to find anywhere in Perth that can rival Silks’ crispy tofu. Combined with the lure of sweet & sour dumplings, I’ll likely revisit with my mum in another year or so and truly tackle that wine list.  

casino

Half my family went back to Crown Towers to enjoy their rooms while the rest of continued our night at the casino. Crown’s gaming area is much like any casino in the world (I’ve been to several in Las Vegas and oddly enough one in Zimbabwe). It’s a labyrinth of bright lights, felt-covered tables and slot machines without a clock in sight. I quickly lost $20 in Blackjack and my boyfriend had a few wins before losing at the same table. My sister and her partner were on a winning streak but lost shortly after. It was an expensive hour but a novelty. By now, we were full of food and alcohol, and some of us had work the next day. It was time to say goodnight. 

turndown service 

My boyfriend and I returned to our room to discover two boxes of Koko Black chocolates and breakfast menus on the bed. A pair of slippers had been placed on a small mat each side of the bed too. It’s the most attentive turndown service I’ve ever seen. We took some time to enjoy the night time views before sinking into the luxurious bedding. I slept until our alarm at 8am, a reluctant but necessary measure to ensure we made it to breakfast. 

 Crown Towers: the turndown service included two boxes of Koko Black truffles (one set was dairy-free too!).
Crown Towers: the turndown service included two boxes of Koko Black truffles (one set was dairy-free too!).

breakfast  

Our family met at 8.30am in Crown Towers’ buffet restaurant Epicurean. This venue has been on my list of places to try since the first photos from its opening day flooded Instagram. The space itself is at ground-level and it’s light, bright and airy. The combination of marble and rose-gold features is fun and classic. It wasn’t very busy but it was also a Monday morning. I was excited. 

 Epicurean: Hot section on the left, fruit in the centre and a chocolate fondue tower to the right! 
Epicurean: Hot section on the left, fruit in the centre and a chocolate fondue tower to the right! 

I’ve had buffet breakfasts at five star hotels across Asia and Europe, and Epicurean is up there with the best of them. Even at breakfast time, you could choose from antipasti, cheeses and an extensive salad bar to fresh pretzels, tortilla chips and guacamole. The continental section included sweet and savoury breads, bagels, crumpets, cereals, yogurts, four types of poached fruits and even healthy bliss balls worth several dollars at any cafe.

 Epicurean: The hot section had an array of Indian dishes and breads, along with Asian and Western options.
Epicurean: The hot section had an array of Indian dishes and breads, along with Asian and Western options.

Epicurean’s hot section boasted multiple Indian curries and breads, noodles, and Western options such as Tuscan potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans. There was a dedicated meat section too, with delicate individual pieces lined up in a window. Then there was desserts! The standout was a chocolate fondue tower (both milk and dark varieties) with bowls of churros and an entire cabinet of fresh fruit. You’ll also find trays of croissants, cakes, pastries, donuts, pancakes and muffins.

 Epicurean: you'd need to stay a week to sample all the breads and pastries! 
Epicurean: you’d need to stay a week to sample all the breads and pastries! 

I chose Indian dahl and paratha for starters, plus hummus, guacamole and crispy wafers. My second bowl was poached figs and granola, which were both packed with cinnamon and spices. I was tempted to have a fresh pretzel but my buffet strategy told me no. Instead, I rounded out breakfast with a churro, dark chocolate and fresh pineapple for good measure. I was impressed by not only the extraordinary range of food, but also the quality. My sisters adored the jaffa cake, while my mum said the super fluffy scrambled eggs were an unexpected highlight. 

 Epicurean: cheese, assorted crackers and fresh pretzels.
Epicurean: cheese, assorted crackers and fresh pretzels.

My sister had pre-paid breakfast when booking our room for $36 (it’s usually $42 Monday to Saturday). Given this includes endless cups of coffee and tea, it’s exceptional value. I left for work very full, but very happy. I will absolutely be returning to Epicurean for lunch and dinner. 

departure

We delayed check out as long as I could, but by 10am I had to get to work. One night wasn’t enough to feel fully refreshed or appreciate all the services at Crown Towers but it was a luxurious way to hit ‘pause’ on life and make some lovely family memories. I’m already dreaming of my next staycation! If Crown Towers can raise all guest experiences to the heights we saw, this hotel will be strong a drawcard for international tourists and locals alike. 

 Crown Towers: the view from our room as we reluctantly checked out. 
Crown Towers: the view from our room as we reluctantly checked out. 

more details

Crown Towers

  • Cost: A Deluxe King starts from AU$268 per night on Sunday and Monday nights, but I’d highly recommend the Premier King room for the dramatic city views (from $322). Access to Crown’s Crystal Club with breakfast and evening drinks and canapés starts from $448 in a Deluxe King room or $508 for a Premier King. Prices climb mid-week and hit a peak for Friday and Saturday nights. 
  • Address: Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | Ph: +61 (08) 9362 8888
  • Website: www.crownhotels.com.au/crown-towers-perth

Dining & spa 

QUESTION: Have you had a staycation? If so, share below! 

My Perth Italian Food Bender

If you had to eat just one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mexican immediately jumps to my mind. So does Asian, specifically Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and dumplings. Does Indian count as Asian? And I couldn’t live without hummus! What cuisine does avocado on toast come under?

Needless to say, Italian is a little further down the list. Excuse the sweeping stereotype, but pasta doesn’t woo me. It’s just so… heavy. I’d fall asleep if I had spaghetti at lunch and risotto to me is just nutritionally unappealing. I know many of you are finding this blasphemous but I didn’t grow up with an Italian nonna and a basil-scented kitchen (rather, my Polish grandmother cooked cabbage and meatballs). I did have a life-changing moment at Unravelled in Perth’s western suburbs, when a simple tomato and basil spaghetti took my breath away. But the venue closed a few years ago so my love for Italian was once again sidelined. 

Given this background, it was with some surprise I realised I’ve been on an Italian food bender lately. Not one, not two, but four restaurants across Perth in rapid succession. And you know what? I’d return to to all of them! From creative plates to classic dishes, put on your best white shirt and check out these inner-city Italian eats:

1. Solo Pasta, Mt Lawley

Confession: one of my all-time favourite Instagram searches is #noodlelift. If you go to Solo Pasta on Beaufort St, you can compete in the noodle lift Olympics! This venue opened a few months ago and has a simple but delicious concept: choose your pasta flavour (classic/spinach/beetroot), choose your length (3 metres is standard) and pick from one of the 19 sauces, neatly divided into tomato, cream and olive oil bases.

 Solo Pasta: My beautiful beetroot ribbons.
Solo Pasta: My beautiful beetroot ribbons.

 Solo Pasta: Because I love #noodlelift!
Solo Pasta: Because I love #noodlelift!

I ordered the tomato and eggplant sauce with spinach pasta ($18) and sipped my BYO chardonnay ($5 corkage per person). The wide tagliatelle-style noodles were like diving headfirst into a basket of ribbons. The sauce to pasta ratio was perfect: every bite had a rich, glorious coating with a few bonus spoonfuls at the bottom. The chicken coconut curry ($21) and WA beef fillet with mushrooms ($22) ordered by my friends were also met with applause. 

In a rare move, I went back a week later with my sister and ordered the same dish except this time with beetroot pasta. I thought the spinach was a better match, but it was still tasty. We also had bread, butter and olive oil ($6), which we agreed was wholesome and delicious. Will there be a third visit? Absolutely!

  • Food: creative takes on classic noodles.
  • Price: entrees & sides $6-14, standard size pasta $18-$23. Quite the bargain.
  • Atmosphere: casual, light and airy.
  • Perfect for: relaxed catch ups, carb loading, creativity, fussy eaters.

Allergies? Any of the sauces can have ingredients omitted, except the seafood. Solo’s is vegetarian heaven, although the pasta by the metre contains eggs. They offer gluten-free pasta which is also vegan, and GF and nut dishes are clearly marked on the menu. Buon appetito!

Address: 628 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley | http://solopasta.com.au

2. No Mafia, Northbridge

The word “sharing” makes some people shudder. Not me! Tapas is like creating a personalised buffet at your table, having precise control over dishes, portions and price. It also lasts longer than your typical one-course affair. When I saw No Mafia had a Chef’s Selection Menu ($45 a head), I was keen to check it out. We booked a table for five on a Thursday night and were seated in a cosy booth at the rear. With no need to choose our dishes, we could get straight into the wine (No Mafia Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $42). The chef was happy to accommodate for a vegan in our group.

 No Mafia: I remembered to take a #flatlay halfway through our meal (I was more than halfway through my wine). 
No Mafia: I remembered to take a #flatlay halfway through our meal (I was more than halfway through my wine). 

 No Mafia: House white in their custom glasses! $42/bottle.
No Mafia: House white in their custom glasses! $42/bottle.

An array of dishes were brought to us over an hour or so. A bowl of Bread in Common sourdough was the first to arrive, followed by Sicilian olives, gnocchi, several meat dishes, salads and some banging crispy, triple baked potatoes. Our table was covered in plates! I’ll be honest, we ordered a second bottle of wine… and a third… and there was beer too. I can’t remember if we had dessert. I do remember struggling at my 6am gym class the next day.

The food was absolutely delicious, although I couldn’t try the gnocchi as it contained dairy. My carnivore comrades were grinning with their options. When the plates stopped arriving and we’d cleared their contents, we agreed we could’ve eaten a little more. However, I suspect a few hearty dishes were replaced with vegetable dishes to cater for the vegan. Definitely give the Chef’s Selection option a go!

  • Food: modern, stylish and beautifully presented. 
  • Price: antipasti, cheese & salads/sides $3-25, seafood & meat $24-39, desserts $12-13.
  • Atmosphere: casual but classy, mostly thanks to the high quality of dishes. 
  • Perfect for: date night, double dates, light bites, sharing and pre-theatre. 

Address: 189 William St, Northbridge | http://www.nomafia.com.au

3. julio’s, west perth

Julio’s is no newcomer to West Perth but it had a serious makeover in 2016 with the arrival of Sage Hotel. I walk past this Hay St venue almost daily on my way to the gym and I’ve been keen to check it out for months. My sister craving Italian and we hadn’t caught up in ages, so I booked a table for 7pm on a Friday. 

 Julio's: vegan gnocchi and cocoa tagliatelle in cosy but classy surroundings.
Julio’s: vegan gnocchi and cocoa tagliatelle in cosy but classy surroundings.

The restored heritage building has a stunning interior. Think wooden floorboards, exposed brick and several connected but open rooms that make you feel like you’re at a friend’s home. Our waitress was patient as we were too busy talking to actually look at our menus! I eventually ordered the hand rolled vegan gnocchi ($25) while my sister chose the cocoa tagliatelle with venison ragu ($26). I was envious when her meal arrived – wide, chocolate coloured noodles topped with crumbled hazelnut and asparagus. Mine arrived without any garnish. The tomato sauce was very light, too light for my tastebuds, but the gnocchi was firm and satisfying. Neither of us finished our meals, possibly because we had homemade focaccia ($8) too. It was an elegant two hours of wining and dining. I immediately told my boyfriend we had to go there!

  • Food: generous plates, minus the cliches. 
  • Price: entrees $8-19, cheese/dessert boards $21-41, mains & pasta $25-39, desserts $15.
  • Atmosphere: warm and romantic, with a hint of history. 
  • Perfect for: date night, after work drinks, wine and cheese platters.

Allergies? They do vegan gnocchi! Gluten-free and vegetarian options are marked on menu. 

Address: 1309 Hay St, West Perth | http://www.juliosrestaurant.com.au

4. Pappagallo, Leederville

This venue isn’t in the heart of Leederville but that’s a good thing, otherwise it would have people lining up at its doors! Pappagallo is a sizable restaurant a little further up Oxford St with indoor and outdoor seating. I went here for a dinner with colleagues on a cold, windy weeknight but our al fresco table was sheltered by large, clear blinds and gas heaters. The menu was extensive in addition to the day’s specials of osso bucco, truffled beef ravioli and mushroom risotto. The smoky scent of woodfired pizzas was tormenting me, but I chose gnocchi ($19) because it was dairy-free. The wine list was dominated by Italian varieties, and I went with a Pecorino ($8) as my first choice had sold out. Others had brought BYO, $8 for corkage. 

 Pappagallo: my dairy-free gnocchi ($19) with fresh basil, but I was jealous of my colleagues' pizzas. 
Pappagallo: my dairy-free gnocchi ($19) with fresh basil, but I was jealous of my colleagues’ pizzas. 

The pasta arrived first. The truffled ravioli looked and smelt sensational – three flat but giant pillows covered in cheese. My dish was a bowl of rich red, but I instantly regretted my choice when I saw the pizzas. Enormous plates were placed in front of the lucky individuals, creating a halo of woodfired aromas above our table. Pizza is clearly where Pappagallo shines! I put my food envy aside and got stuck into my pasta. The tomato sauce was luscious and rich, exactly as I like it, but the gnocchi was in a dead zone of neither firm or fluffy. I’d asked for my dish without parmesan, and suspect it played a vital role in breaking the dish up.

I still ate most of my meal, which was another amateur move. No room for dessert! The Italian donuts had sold out but the affogatos, tiramisu and even the biscotti my colleagues ordered looked incredible. I’ll be returning for Pappagallo’s pizza very soon and will be sampling more of that wine list too!

  • Food: the menu has something for everyone! Italian classics of every kind. 
  • Price: antipasti $4-18, pizza $14-26, pasta $19-24, mains $26 – market price.
  • Atmosphere: a vibrant Italian eatery, family-friendly. 
  • Perfect for: groups and crowd pleasing. 

Allergies? The gnocchi is dairy-free if you ask for no cheese, likewise with the pizza! Gluten-free pasta is available too, with all mains available gluten-free too. 

Address: 1/250 Oxford St, Leederville | http://www.pappagallo.com.au

honourable mentions…

While I did declare my indifference to Italian food earlier, I should state Il Lido in Cottesloe is one exception. I didn’t visit this beachside venue on my current Italian bender but it’s consistently outstanding. Jamie’s Italian is also worthy of mention for its excellent CBD location and good value for money. I’m yet to visit Lulu La Delizia, but this small Subiaco eatery was just named one of Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants (read more here). Also on my list are Lalla Rookh in the CBD and Mt Lawley’s ThreeCoins. It looks like my Italian bender is going to have a sequel! 

QUESTION: Where’s the best Italian you’ve had in Perth?

Perth’s Top Health Food Stores

Remember going to the movies as a child and standing in awe of the pick and mix candy? It was a rare treat during school holidays for my sisters and I, who would carefully scoop a few freckles, raspberries, a milk bottle or two and a snake into our paper bags. As an adult, I still love to go into a store and select my favourite goods from the endless rows of tubs. I prefer to scoop up healthier treats nowadays like nuts, dried fruits and unusual flours but the experience still has the same childhood magic. 

Below are my favourite stores in Perth where you can buy health foods in bulk. It’s much cheaper than buying packets from the supermarket and better for the environment too, as it’s less packaging. If you don’t live locally, some offer online shopping and deliver across Australia for reasonable prices. One store even has outlets on the east coast. Enjoy!

1. The Clean Food Store – Subiaco

 The Clean Food Store: outdoor dining on a quiet street.
The Clean Food Store: outdoor dining on a quiet street.

Nestled in a suburban street in Perth’s west, you’ll find the prettiest health food store you’ve ever seen. The Clean Food Store opened in March 2016 and is light, bright and minimalist. You’ll find cookbooks and cleaning products, organic and non-organic foods and some refrigerated items along with the bulk buying section. The Clean Food Store stocks Honest Goods Co baked treats, Clean Slate candles and beauty products and Loving Earth grocery items among other brands. There’s also fresh bread and a barista if you fancy a coffee or matcha lattes. If that’s not enough, there’s a cabinet stocked with treats (raw, paleo and vegan options), paninis, patties and NOOD meals to enjoy in store or take away.

I dropped by on a recent Saturday morning and staff were happy and welcoming. It was quite busy but largely because of people grabbing coffees. Despite being fairly small, the store never felt crowded. I loved choosing my health foods and scooping the items into paper bags, weighing on the scales if needed. The Clean Food Store has a good variety of nuts, flours, dried fruit and more plus lots of organic options too. I can’t wait to return!

 The Clean Food Store: the cleanest, prettiest health food shop I've ever seen!
The Clean Food Store: the cleanest, prettiest health food shop I’ve ever seen!

My prized pick: a team member recommended the dark chocolate coated goji berries ($2.90/100grams), which barely lasted the journey home! My 500g of raw walnuts ($22/kilogram) were fresh and delicious, and good value too. 

Unfortunately, The Clean Food Store doesn’t have online shopping or delivery options. However, it’s open 7am to 6pm, 7 days a week!

Address: 214a Nicholson Road, Subiaco WA | www.thecleanfoodstore.com.au

2. The Source Bulk Foods – Various locations

I love having healthy family and friends! My sister introduced me to The Source Bulk Foods at The Park Centre in Victoria Park. This health food franchise began in Byron Bay, New South Wales in 2007 before expanding across Australia. You can find the store’s other West Australian locations at Clarkson and Floreat, and there are plans to open The Source in Cottesloe, Fremantle and Subiaco too.

 The Source Bulk Foods: a warm and welcoming interior at its Victoria Park store. 
The Source Bulk Foods: a warm and welcoming interior at its Victoria Park store. 

 The Source: affordable, natural cleaning and beauty products.
The Source: affordable, natural cleaning and beauty products.

On my visit a few months ago, I was greeted by two lovely women who explained how The Source works. Grab a paper bag, write down the product code and fill it with your desired amount. Easy! I slowly walked along the rows of tubs, reading labels and imagining recipes. I was fascinated by the more unusual ingredients, such as native Australian herbs and flours I’d never heard of. About 30 minutes later, my basket was filled with everything that had inspired me including puffed buckwheat, vegan caramel buttons and natural cleaning products. While the Make Your Own peanut butter was incredibly tempting, I abstained for fear the tub wouldn’t make it home. 

 The Source: one of two walls lined with spices, slices and things nice! 
The Source: one of two walls lined with spices, slices and things nice! 

My prized pick: The Source’s cinnamon is by far the best I’ve ever bought, as it’s really fragrant and flavoursome. The Lemon Myrtle cleaning products ($9.33/500ml) have transformed housework, as I now look forward the fresh, cleansing scent every time I clean!

The Source offers online shopping with delivery across Australia. Prices start from $9.95 for up to 5kg to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, $15.95 for up to 5kg to South Australia and Tasmania and $18.95 for up to 5kg to WA and the Northern Territory.

Locations: Victoria Park, Clarkson & Floreat WA | thesourcebulkfoods.com.au

3. Kakulas – Northbridge & Fremantle  

Established in 1929, it’s quite likely Kakulas Brothers in Northbridge is Perth’s oldest and original health food store. The large sacks of legumes, rice and flours with cardboard signs are an unsung Perth icon and the store has a distinctly sweet smell of coffee beans. You’ll find an exceptional variety of bulk ingredients, and those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed as there are plenty of chocolate coated fruits and nuts. Kakulas Sister opened in Fremantle in 1994 and despite being much younger than its sibling, it still has the classic Kakulas feel. 

The Northbridge location was my go-to for health foods when I lived in Northbridge and whenever I’m in Fremantle, visiting Kakulas Sister is a must. On top of an excellent health food range, the variety of imported groceries is exceptional. From antipasti and pastas to teas and tahini, you travel the world on their shelves! 

 Kakulas Sister: every shelf and aisle is a journey of discovery! 
Kakulas Sister: every shelf and aisle is a journey of discovery! 

My prized pick: a few squares of crystallised ginger, covered in dark chocolate, always make their way into my basket. Occasionally some chocolate coated macadamias follow them! Dried dates are a bargain at around $3/kg and when buying beans, I always grab some chickpeas to make my own hummus.

Unfortunately, neither stores have online shopping. And given Kakulas Brothers was cash-only until last year, it’s likely to remain strictly bricks and mortar for some time! But then, that’s half of Kakulas’ charm. 

Address: 19 William St, Northbridge & 29-31 Market, Fremantle WA | www.kakulassister.com.au

4. 2 brothers Foods – online only

I’ve been regularly buying my health foods from Perth website 2 Brothers Foods since 2012. Every few months I order a few kilos of essentials – nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruit and flours – along with grocery items like pappadums. It’s so convenient! Their products are excellent value, with raw almonds at $16/kg, spelt flour at $4/kg and raw cashews for $19.50/kg to name a few. The choice is exceptional, particularly for less common spices and gluten-free flours. 

The website is simple and easy to use. I like being able to choose from 250g, 500g, 750g and 1kg quantities and enjoy browsing each category for inspiration or new items. Best of all, delivery is fast and affordable! Shipping is a flat $3.50 within WA and SA, and from $6.95 for up to 5kg to capital cities in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. It’s $7.95 for up to 5kg to Tasmania and $10.95 for the NT. Gift vouchers are available. As with any online checkout system, you can keep track of your total spend which isn’t as easy when shopping in bricks and mortar stores. 

My prize pick: the textured vegetable protein (TVP) is an effortless, high-protein replacement for mince at $4.50/kg. I can’t imagine life without quinoa either (white organic $16/kg). The wasabi peas will make your nose sting every time, but less so if you mix in the yummy Chinese rice crackers. 

Postal address: PO Box 1152, Nedlands WA | http://2brothersfoods.com

Need some recipe inspiration? Grab some oats, buckwheat and quinoa and get into Breakfast With Benefits!

QUESTION: Where do you buy your bulk health food items? 

Perth Running Routes

Runners in Perth are spoilt for choice and climate. With 300 days of sunshine each year and endless paths along the Swan River and coast, there’s little stopping you from grabbing your sneakers and getting sweaty. I run 10K once a week and pick from one of three routes, depending on my mood and energy levels. Having variety in my running ensures I strengthen different muscles so my body can handle hills, grass and pavement but it also reduces the risk of injury through repetition.

My favourite Perth running spots are all easily accessible from the CBD (and not surprisingly, my apartment). Each of these routes has its perks along with a potential drawback or two. If you’re not a runner, you can walk all of these options or check out my post on Learning to Run

Here are my top Perth running spots: 

1.     Kings Park

 Kings Park: you'll get stunning views of the city and Swan River
Kings Park: you’ll get stunning views of the city and Swan River

Where’s better to work up a sweat than Perth’s premier park? Located 10 minutes walk (up a very steep hill) from the CBD, Kings Park is a West Australian treasure. Watch the city wake up as you run along Fraser Avenue, or power past picnics at sunset. I’m certain my sweaty face has featured in a few hundred tourists’ photos! The trick with Kings Park is knowing where to run because you want to crush goals, not wildflowers. I love that I can divert to the Kokoda Trail or Jacob’s Ladder for an extra challenge or variety. Download a map if you’re not familiar with the park. 

  • Distance: You can run for as little or as long as you like here. I have routes ranging from 4K-9K, depending on how much time and energy I have. All of them start and end at the city entrance, going along Fraser Avenue and past the State War Memorial. Different landmarks signal where to turn around. 
    • 4K: City entrance to Rotunda 2 and back. An easy run for the time-poor. 
    • 7K: As above, but continue on the Law Walk and turn around at the Dryandra Lookout. Stunning views. 
    • 9K: As above, but continue beyond the Law Walk until you reach May Drive. Endurance required! 
  • Terrain: Don’t be fooled. There are hills in this park, most notably what I’ve dubbed “the butt blaster” after Rotunda 2. My 7K and 9K loops include three hills but whatever goes up, must come down right? Therefore you’ll get some occasional relief. 

 Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance
Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance

  • Interest: The Swan River views as you run on the Law Walk (parallel to Mounts Bay Road) are simply gorgeous. The path itself is surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers and once I even saw a bobtail on the trail. 
  • Amenities: There are restrooms and parking at the city entrance near Frasers Restaurant and the Kings Park Café area. There’s a water fountain at Rotunda 2 and all three of my routes are partly shaded, depending on the time of day. I’d still bring a hat!  
  • After your run? Refuel at Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Health Freak Café.

 

2.     Lake Monger reserve

 Lake Monger: you're guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 
Lake Monger: you’re guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 

This spot is an absolute jewel just 10 minutes walk from the heart of Leederville, or a 10 minute drive from Perth’s CBD. The main feature of Lake Monger is, not surprisingly, the huge lake. Back in the day, it used to be an important camping and hunting ground for Aboriginal people. Thanks to land reclamation in the early 1900s, the lake now has water year round and is popular with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. 

 Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch
Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch

  • Distance: The paved loop is exactly 3.5 kilometres with every 500 metres marked in blue paint. If you’re new to running, try running one lap and walking the next. It’s perfect for building distance.
  • Terrain: The route is completely flat, which is ideal for focusing on technique but can become repetitive for your mind or body.
  • Interest: The lake is stunning and seeing swans and other birdlife is a highlight. There’s a one kilometre stretch along the Mitchell Freeway where you can’t see the water which can get tedious, especially if you’re fatiguing. 

 Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway
Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway

  • Amenities: There’s a toilet block on the Lake Monger Drive side, and at least three water fountains. Parking is available at two entrances (Powis Street & Lake Monger Drive) and there’s plenty of shade on the one kilometre freeway stretch. Slather on the sunscreen though – you can cook on the rest of the loop.
  • Refuel: at any of Leederville’s sensational eateries! My favourite is NOOD for the ultimate in health foods or Sayers for breakfast classics done beautifully.

 

3.     Freeway South (perth to canning bridge)

 Freeway South: you'll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)
Freeway South: you’ll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)

The name for this route isn’t glamourous, but it’s accurate. The stretch between Perth’s CBD and Canning Bridge is a one I do mostly out of convenience – I want to squeeze in a workout and I need to be at the other location. It’s also my preferred route for night running as unlike Kings Park, it’s well lit. The hoards of bikers and commuters also make it a busy and bustling route – definitely a place to feel the city buzz. This point-to-point run works from either direction and if needed, you can catch the train or bus back to your starting point.

  • Distance: I start at State Parliament and it’s a nice 7K to Canning Bridge.
  • Terrain: The route is mostly flat but there are some inclines at the city end. Starting at Parliament offers some gentle downhill for your first five minutes, but if you’re starting at Canning Bridge you’ll endure some slight hills at the end. 
  • Interest: A loud, fast freeway on one side and stunning river views on the other. It can be idyllic if you block out the traffic. If you start at Parliament, the 3-4K section (after Mill Point Road and before South Terrace) can be pretty dull as you can’t see the water (that’s 4-5K in the reverse direction).

 Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty
Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty

  • Amenities: Mill Point Road jet ski area has plenty of facilities include restrooms, parking, shade and water. There are also newer facilities around the Como Jetty – no parking but restrooms, water and even a playground (in case you run with kids).
  • Refuel: If you finish at Canning Bridge, head over the bridge to the 24-hour IGA for fresh fruits or deli items. If you finish in the city, Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Gordon Street Garage both beckon!

 

QUESTION: Where’s your favourite Perth running spot?

Perth’s Healthiest Cafes

My mum was a health freak way before #rawfood #crossfit and #paleo were trending. She was one of the original lycra leotard, aerobics devotees of the 1990s and had the perm to prove it. As a teenager, my jaw dropped when mum announced she’d made a cake. It turns out this “cake” was zucchini, yogurt and wholemeal flour. There was no icing and it certainly didn’t resemble the cookies and cakes the other kids at school had. I wasn’t impressed.

In hindsight, my mum was actually about 15 years ahead of the food scene. If Instagram was around in 2000, we could have had a booming franchise across Australia and parts of Asia by now. Instead, she had four ungrateful children telling her what a weirdo she was. I’m sorry Mum.

Putting those teenage years aside, I’m delighted my family, friends and my boyfriend all enjoy the healthy side of life nowadays. And there’s never been more venues catering for the health conscious or people with specific dietary needs. If the thought of zucchini cake makes you salivate, here are my favourite healthy Perth cafes:

  NOOD: Strange Grains toast with avocado and beetroot hummus
NOOD: Strange Grains toast with avocado and beetroot hummus

1.     nood cafe, leederville

It’s hard to beat this Leederville spot  – from the first bite, you know you’re nourishing your body with wholesome food. Everything on the menu is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free and each meal is designed to be nutritionally balanced. The liberal use of citrus, nuts and makes already delicious dishes shine. There’s no table service but the grab and go boxes can be heated and brought out to you on a plate. The array of smaller goods on display is perfect for snacking or an extra treat to go. Bonus? The take away boxes have full nutritional info on them.

I recommend: Vegan Breakfast Bowl ($12) for post-workout brunch or Cauliflower Nasi Goreng with Satay Chicken or Tofu ($15) for a healthy, pre-movie dinner.

NOOD Cafe: http://www.nood.net.au/ 114 Oxford St, Leederville. 

 Stimulatte: Assorted mushrooms, avocado and winter green
Stimulatte: Assorted mushrooms, avocado and winter green

2. stimulatte, subiaco

My oh my. There’s health food porn and then there’s Stimulatte. This Subiaco café has become so popular, it’s started Sunday trading at a time other businesses are shutting their doors (*). The menu centres around ethical, sustainable produce and the quality of ingredients is sublime. I’ve had herbs and mushrooms so fresh it was like I’d poked my fork in a garden. Where Stimulatte really shines is in their creativity and presentation – the latest winter menu included fried king oyster mushroom “chicken” pancakes (vegan). There are plenty of baked goods and various boxes you can have to dine in or to go, with paleo, gluten-free and vegan choices too.

I recommend: Anything with mushrooms.  The vegan croissant with cashew cheese ($9) is delightful for those whose allergies/ethics prevent pastries.

Stimulatte: http://www.stimulatte.com.au/ 361 Hay St, Subiaco. 

*Unfortunately Stimulatte has closed since this post was first published. But you can visit its sister cafe Someday Coffee Co. in Floreat!

  Health Freak Cafe: Vegan pumpkin spice protein pancakes
Health Freak Cafe: Vegan pumpkin spice protein pancakes

3. health freak cafe, various locations

I visited this franchise for the first time in October at their Applecross location. I was nervous when I entered. The café almost resembled a day care centre – not so much children everywhere, but a lot of toys and tables. But my apprehension eased as soon as the smell of cinnamon wafted my way and a stack of warm pumpkin spice pancakes was placed before me. It was at least 20 centimetres tall, with caramel sauce, berries and stewed fruits dancing around the plate. But I knew this indulgent breakfast was only 380 calories and included a whopping 20 grams of protein! Everything Health Freak Cafe sells is gluten and refined sugar free, and nutritional information is listed for most menu items. You can’t get more health conscious than that! I’m not surprised this concept has boomed, with locations in Subiaco, Jacob’s Ladder, Mt Lawley, Joondalup, Halls Head and more.

I recommend: The protein pancakes ($18.20), hands down! I’ll buy a paleo dish for my boyfriend next time and let you know his verdict. 

Health Freak Cafe: http://www.healthfreakcafe.com.au/ (multiple locations) 

  Jujuberry+Co: cafe exterior
Jujuberry+Co: cafe exterior

4. jujuberry+co, mount hawthorn

My first visit to this Mt Hawthorn store was on a glorious spring day – a perfect pairing with Jujuberry’s casual outdoor seating. Inside, the long, narrow space made me instantly feel like I was in New York. I had to pinch myself when I saw a Pumpkin Spice Latte on the menu! Everything here is gluten free and vegan although they do offer cow’s milk for coffees. Curried sweet potato frittata, breakfast wraps, assorted salads and plenty of baked goods abound. The vibe is homemade and hearty rather than gourmet. It’s refreshing to find a venue that’s so down to earth.

I recommend: The menu changes frequently but if you’re in luck, there’ll be a crispy-edged curried sweet potato frittata with your name on it ($10.50). 

Jujuberry+Co: http://jujuberry.com.au/ 135 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mt Hawthorn.  

a final word…

It’s important to remember there are plenty of buzz words around health food, but their use isn’t well regulated. Something may be labelled paleo, gluten free or vegan but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. For example, sugar, oil and plain potato chips are vegan and gluten free. Bacon and eggs is paleo. A typical raw slice can pack in 500 calories and 30 grams of fat compared to a 200 calorie handful of almonds. Your bliss ball is better than a donut, but be wary of eating four in a day!

QUESTION: Where’s your ultimate health food spot in Perth?