It seems nobody knows the Perth culinary scene quite like Jacqueline Baril. Together with her partner Mark Padgett, Baril runs one of the city’s more popular walking tours dubbed ‘Eat The Street’. But while food is the key theme of these tours, there is also a sharp focus on the inner-city history and diverse hospitality currently blooming in good ol’ Perth town.
You see, even in this current post-resources bust period – when you’d expect drinking and dining to have dropped off the average Joe’s social calendar – tours such as Eat The Street are proving hugely popular, and that is with locals as well as tourists.
Indeed, it might well be the excellent value for money these tours provide clientele that makes them so highly favoured. Put it this way (and to get the money thing out of the way) the price of a ‘Brunch on Beaufort’ tour is just $65 and includes stops at five featured venues, each leaving a great taste in the mouths of clientele (especially if the positive online testimonials are anything to go by).
The tour I went on kicked off at Rochelle Adonis, a quaint high-tea establishment where a sweet and a savoury are savoured to get the tastebuds tickling. The tour then moved on to butcher-of-sorts (yes, you read correctly) Elmar Smallgoods who serve up a sausage sizzle more on the gourmet end of the dining spectrum. Then it was on to Five Bar where a selection of tapas-style dishes were laid out for us to sample, these including delicious morsels of slow-cooked field mushrooms, salt-and-pepper calamari, and melt-in-your-mouth popcorn chicken.
It was then off to famous French patisserie Scents of Taste for the most tantalising leek tartlet and a decadent dessert of lemon/lime broulee.
The final stop was at Clarences, who served up the best mac-and-cheese and patatas bravas (that’s ‘excellent potatoes’ to you) this reviewer has ever relished, all washed down with a glass of quality local wine.
The drinks alone on this tour would cost you around sixty bucks on a night out on the town but here you get to drink… and eat… and be very, very merry; and all at the one economic price-tag.
In fact, wine, cider and beer feature prominently in various guises throughout each Eat The Street tour, particularly the ‘Bars on Beaufort’ tour, and, again, Baril really knows her stuff in the beverage department (I’m surprised this girl hasn’t scored a high-falutin’ F&B position at one of Perth’s prominent hotels!).
As someone who often lets others do the selecting when I go out for a shared meal, I found it a relief to have a food impressario like Baril pick the best of the bunch for me. Food menus are getting more and more expansive these days so to have a true foodie cull this down for you is a coup, and you will be wrapped up in the knowledge of this tour guide who comes across as though she truly loves doing what she does.
To round off on a pop cultural note, I’d like to mention that Bjork once sang a song with the title ‘Eat The Menu’. Well I say why eat the menu at just one venue when there are streets-full of quality places to drink and dine in and around Perth. And getting a little guidance from the culinary-educated likes of Jacqueline Baril makes knowing which to sample that much easier. Antonino Tati
INTERVIEW WITH EAT THE STREET’S JACQUELINE BARIL
Hi Jacqueline. First of all, tell me what brought you into the fabulous world of food, particularly to the point of starting your own culinary tour business?
I guess it all started during my internship with Yelp. That role allowed me to get to know the story behind a lot of Perth venues. Meeting the people that make a place great… it makes you love a venue more than just for their food and drink. You fall in love with their story too. That said, all of our venues have incredible food and drink!
Do you think people can sometimes restrict themselves in dining options in a city like Perth when, in reality, there is just so much out there to try?
Sometimes people in Perth can be suburb-centric; they go out to dine just where they live or work, but there is so much more to Perth than two suburbs! I started Eat The Street with my partner Mark because we wanted to make it easy for people to get outside of their comfort zone.
Why do you think culinary tours such as yours are popular with people, both local and tourists? They’re certainly popular in Melbourne and now with Eat The Street are proving very popular in Perth.
Natural curiosity, and FOMO! Ha ha! But seriously, tourists are looking for a more authentic experience, not that big tour bus, where you’re the “10,000 guests this year” sort of thing. They’re people, not just statistics, so getting to show them an intimate, local perspective of Perth dining and drinking is great.
Would you say the tours are pretty relaxed?
Our tours are all very laidback. We’re about the venues, the food, and the drink – no history lectures, no tedious dates to remember. I can answer the historical questions if a guest is interested but more often than not the questions are venue- and food-based. I believe this is what makes us approachable; and enjoyable for locals as well. They get to discover new venues without feeling like a spectacle in their own city.
Food is a ubiquitous topic – indeed all over television these days. Do you like seeing so many cuisine-related shows on TV, or is it becoming all a bit much, even for a foodie such as yourself?
I’m a big believer in quality over quantity, and I think that can sometimes get away from us when a topic becomes popularised. That said, all the attention and interest around the food industry can only be a good thing for passionate entrepreneurs. More interest means more money, which allows smaller, more ‘eccentric’ businesses to pop up and flourish.
What food trends do you see currently on menus, especially on menus of venues Eat The Street tours take us through?
American grub is the biggest change I’ve noticed in Perth over the last four years. For example, chicken wings were hard to find – especially clipped ones! – and now they are on almost every menu. Burgers and barbeque have also really boomed the last few years. Places like Clarences have been wing- and burger-focused for years but its burger joints like Varsity and Hood Burger that really popularised the Perth Burger scene. Now there are burger places everywhere.
Another trend I’ve noticed, not at my venues but more generally, is what I call ‘Instagram food’. I think a chef and a venue really need to ask themselves, why am I making this, what are we trying to do? And if the answer is marketing through food, although it is a clever tactic it really takes the heart and soul out of what food is all about. At the end of the day, everyone wants to make beautiful food, but if the flavours aren’t there, what is the point?
So your general advice to chefs would be?
Don’t go over the top; just produce great food and the people will come!
For ‘Eat The Street’ tour prices and information visit www.eatthestreet.com.au.