Perth and Northbridge
Perth, Western Australia, is often described as the most isolated city in the world. It is also known for its beautiful beaches, magnificent scenery and for its unique blend of peaceful multiculturalism.
Over the bridge (or north of the bridge) from the city centre is the exciting precinct of Northbridge. Locals and tourists alike come into Northbridge to wine, dine and be generally entertained. In the late 1970’s this area was really starting to come into its own, but it didn’t have a name. A group of enterprising businessmen, led by journalist Bill (The Night Owl) Thompson and the Sunday Times, ran a competition to come up with a name – and so Northbridge was named. The competition attracted thousands of entries and the winner got free meals for a year from various restaurants. The name was made official by Australia Post in October 1990 when the precinct was allocated the postcode 6003.
A world class destination, just 1 km from central Perth, and soon to be linked to the city by the sinking of the railway, Northbridge is a vibrant and exciting area with cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, nightlife, cultural events and festivals, and of course, its own unique Chinatown.
Wandering Wok Tours is dedicated to opening up the area of Northbridge to both locals and visitors and to celebrating the unique foods and products that our many migrants have brought to this city.
Below is a short history of the development of Northbridge and a link will bring you to the special Wandering Wok Tours which showcase different aspects of Chinatown and Northbridge.
Perth has two Chinatowns: an official and an unofficial. The official Chinatown on Roe Street in Northbridge is guarded by two lion statues on either side of the pagoda archway. Roe Street Chinatown was officially opened in the 1980s as a commercial development to celebrate Chinese presence in Western Australia since early colonisation of Australia, following the earlier demolition of the last Chinese building in Wellington in the 1970s. View our Northbridge Ramble and Relish Tour for more information.
In Northbridge, the development of Asian shops and restaurants along William Street and Brisbane Street has created the real Chinatown. Here, shoppers purchase their provisions from oriental groceries, butchers, bakeries and specialty shops. This is the place to purchase the freshest fruit and vegetables, hard to find ingredients such as fresh lotus roots and live fish for your pan. You can get special herbal advice from a traditional Chinese Medicine shop and the freshest cuts of meat. For more information, please see our Chinatown Discovery Tour.
In 1829 Moon Chow was the first Chinese person to settle in Western Australia. It was not until 1847 that another 51 Chinese men arrived from Singapore as a source of cheap labour for the growing colony. Chinese people migrating to Perth came as labourers and farm hands and ran businesses such as market gardens, laundries, bakeries, furniture factories, tailors shops and grocery stores. In 1904, there were at least 50 Chinese laundries in the Perth and Fremantle area. (Anne Atkinson, Asian Immigrants to Western Australia 1829-1901, p.6).
Influence of other cultures
Northbridge has been one of the first places to see cultural changes throughout the history of Western Australia.
The grid of streets in Northbridge is no longer visible, the freshwater swamps where we now have the sunken railway lines and railway station. As a result, the streets have a different solar penetration of the sun in winter, which makes it a really pleasant place to sit and have a cup of coffee or to go for a stroll and peer inside the shops.
The joy of sitting at outside cafes was introduced in the 1950’s, in particular by the post-war migration of the Italians and Greeks.
Greeks first settled in sizeable numbers in Western Australia during the 1890’s, attracted by the goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie and economic opportunities. They originated mainly from the coastal regions of Greece, Asia Minor and from the islands, particularly Kastellorizo.
In 1929, one of the newly arrived Kastellorizons, Angelo Kakulas, began what is today, a very special iconic grocery store – Kakulas Bros in William Street. This store has a huge range of goods and spices from all around the world and also offers a wide variety of organic goods. The spices, flours, rices and grains are sold from their original hessian or cloth sacks and this store is an absolute treasure to be seen.
This is covered in more detail in our Northbridge Ramble and Relish Tour
The Italians increased their numbers in Perth in the 1920’s after the introduction of direct shipping services between Europe and Australia, the Unites States imposition of an immigration quota, and the decision to allow women and dependent relatives to join their menfolk.
The Italians were, and still are, very good at running shops, butchers and restaurants and today, these often family run businesses are still a thriving part of the Northbridge community.
In 1936 the Re Store was born and it has developed to become one of the most loved emporiums in Northbridge (and Leederville), bringing its customers products from all around the world and truly famous for their delicious Continental rolls and fresh pasta.
Other well-known and long-established Italian stores in this area include Terranova and Torres Butchers and Corica Pastries which was established in 1957 and is well-loved for its world-famous apple strudel, continental and custom-made cakes and a choice of unique pastries. For more information view our Northbridge Ramble and Relish Tour
I wanted to say again how much I enjoyed our tour on Saturday. It was a great way to spend the morning and opened up a whole new world of possibilities. It is easy to be oblivious to the rich cultural heritage on our doorstep.