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The Great Debate

The Great Debate

Whitney Ng.

Everyone will agree that going out in Perth ain't cheap. We ask two Perth locals to weigh in on the time-worn question: is our fair city really overpriced?

Andrew Bennett is the co-owner of The Classroom in North Perth and upcoming Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodlebar in Northbridge. 


Perth is expensive, damn expensive. But here’s the truth – it should be.

To be honest, I love a good ‘I just paid one year’s wage for an espresso, Perth’s so expensive, the sky is falling’ rant as much as the next guy. But before we sharpen the pitchforks and storm the Bastille, let’s order a side of perspective with that dinner for two you took out a second mortgage for.

Instead of telling everyone you bought a macchiato on Chapel Street for $2.60 (bet it was a single shot with a dash of milk, wasn’t it?) as proof of Perth’s priciness, lets instead look at the idea of living here as a commodity – as something you’re buying.

Thinking of life in Perth that way, you start to look at the question of whether Perth is too expensive as a value proposition. For starters, if Perth was a product, it’d be a luxury good. We’re the Prada or Ferrari of places to live. It’s not just weather and beaches. What about the other things that make it a place to live, not just the cost of your coffee?

If you’re a person who ever needs access to healthcare, wants a job, might start a business or raise a family, likes the great outdoors, and multiculturalism, and enjoys a lack of armed conflict, dictatorial rule or social unrest, as a package deal where’s better than Perth?

Or put another way, isn’t Perth the most attractive product on the market?

If you’ve travelled or lived elsewhere, how we stack up compared to other places around the country or overseas really puts Perth (and being a citizen here) in a very enviable league. Perth is routinely listed as one of the world’s most liveable/best cities. Why would we think that desirability would come without the price tag – a cost reflective of our exclusivity, our cachet?

I could tell you about high-cost environments, the expense of isolation, transport costs and the other arguments brought out to justify why living here, eating here and drinking here tends to be more pricey than other places. I argue that instead of the question being ‘Is it too expensive to live here?’, it should be ‘Is Perth value for money?’.

To answer that question, I look around and see my friends’ and family’s quality of life, and I say, unequivocally, it is. So yes, we all wish things were more affordable, and yes, the good old days of affordable living seem to be behind us, but if you’re looking at your $38 pint of Asahi and moaning that it’s half full, maybe stop and be thankful you’re one of the blessed few who get to enjoy it at all, in the middle of paradise...

Whitney Ng is the prolific blogger behind Dine Whit Me, as well as
a writer and photographer.


I grew up spending my summers flitting back and forth between Perth and my hometown, Singapore. Upon every visit to Singapore, I was spoilt by perfectly crisp roti and chicken rice sets for just the rattling coins in my pocket. Even though earlier on this year, the BBC named Singapore as the world’s most expensive city, the average Joe can still eat like a king. I found myself in the same position while working overseas in Moscow, Russia and Shanghai, China. They have been respectively noted as some of the most expensive cities in their continents, and yet I could still eat well every day without feeling a single pinch.

After exploring Perth’s local dining scene extensively over the last couple of years, I have grown rather accustomed to dutifully explaining the high prices that grace a majority of our restaurant menus. ‘It’s Perth’ has become a cookie cutter response for $5 suburban coffees and $25 ‘Asian-style’ noodles that were mediocre at best and served in a bowl the size of my palm.

You’ll be hard tasked to enjoy a night out for dinner and drinks for two in Perth’s inner city suburbs without the budget tipping the scales to a near $50 per person. On the rare occasion that you pay around $30 per person and leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, you’ve found a keeper! In comparison, I recently enjoyed a night out in Sydney at a Mexican joint in Surry Hills (the equivalent to our Northbridge) that didn’t break the bank – I left full of delicious food and perplexed as to why the people of Perth couldn’t enjoy $5 tacos every day of the week.

I’m sick of forking out $10 for a single flowerpot of chips and over $30 for bowls of pasta. The profit margin makes my head spin. There are noticeable patterns within our dining scene; a restaurant with a view is synonymous with overpriced and underwhelming, while the words ‘fusion’ or ‘tapas’ justify measly portions.

We live in a city where cocktails are priced like entrees, and entrees resemble amuse-bouches. The simple solution could be don’t order it, or don’t go to that restaurant – but unlike our east coast neighbours, we aren’t always spoilt for choice. Avoiding expensive establishments would mean that my options for a somewhat decent, well-priced feed would dwindle down to McDonalds, southern suburbs Asian cuisine, or breakfast at IKEA on Saturdays.

Personally, I believe that Perth punters are starting to distinguish between restaurants charging high prices for a quality, well-prepared meal, and restaurants charging high prices just because they can. While I’ve got a handful of favourite local restaurants that are either well priced or well worth paying for, I think Perth still has far too many establishments that are missing that trifecta – quality, consistency and value for money. If we’ve got to pay top dollar, then we should at least pay top dollar to establishments that deserve it.

Cheap Eats

Pinching your pennies? Head to Perth’s best dollar-stretching restaurants.

  • Alfred’s Kitchen, Guildford
  • Ace Pizza Highgate
  • Francoforte Spaghetti Bar, Northbridge
  • Is Donburi, Northbridge
  • Le Vietnam, CBD
  • Mama Tran, CBD
  • Noodle Forum, CBD
  • Nao Japanese, CBD
  • Old Shanghai, Fremantle
  •  Pad Thai Cafe, Joondana
  • PappaRich, Northbridge
  • Pinchos, Leederville
  • Run Amok, Fremantle
  • Tak Chee House, Northbridge
  • Tra Vinh, Northbridge 
  • Big Bowl Noodle, Northbridge
  • Taka Japanese Cuisine, CBD
  • TanPoPo, Mount Lawley
  • Tasik Northbridge
  • Toastface Grillah, CBD
  • The Moon Cafe, Northbridge

Now it's your turn - are you #TeamAndrew or #TeamWhitney? Let us know your thoughts on this debate and leave a comment below.

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