Mends Street in South Perth has a charm all of its own. There's an almost indefinable magic about this microcosm, thanks to the many hidden gems that lie within. Whether it's the deciduous plane trees lining both sides of the street, the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafes or the spectacular river views that await, Mends Street is certainly imbued with a rather poetic allure.
And it's a hive of activity morning, noon and night – early orning walkers heading down to the Esplanade for a stiff constitutional, a steady stream of tourists coming in by ferry to head up to the zoo, the café set lapping on lattes and an array of diners and mix of pub-goers well into the evening.
But there's far more to Mends Street than meets the eye. Between Labouchere Road and Mill Point Road, you can find a popular bowling club and a well-preserved heritage precinct with buildings dating back to 1898. Witness the old police station (built in 1908), post office (1900) and the Old Mill Theatre (originally built as a Mechanics' Institute Hall in 1899), still packing in punters who want to see people tread the boards. The Heritage House Cultural Centre, home to the May & Herbert Gibbs Arts Gallery, was originally built in 1904 as the municipal council offices and refurbished in 1998.
The Old Mill Theatre on Mends Street, South Perth – still packing 'em in
However, for many, Mends Street only really starts proper from the Mill Point Road intersection down, as this is where the main hustle and bustle takes place, seven days a week, even on those so-called quiet public holidays.
A couple of heritage buildings can be found here as well, such as the 11-15 Mends Street shops, home to the Mends St Medical Centre and Old Mill Pharmacy. And, of course, there's the Windsor Hotel, established in 1898, and something of an icon for the area. It's been in and out of favour many times over the years but it's never stopped drawing people in, particularly for a refreshing ale at one of the outdoor tables. The BP service station seems somewhat incongruous just opposite but, given it's reportedly one of the busiest servos in WA, this might actually be one of the secrets to Mends Street's success, catching passers-by that might otherwise miss it.
The Windsor Hotel is a popular local watering hole on Mends Street.
Heading down towards the river, a left into the Millstream Centre or right into South Shore Piazza and you quickly find Mends Street has it all… fashion boutiques, newsagents, cafes, restaurants, TAB, a commercial precinct, banks, supermarket, jeweller, patisseries, real estate agents, doctors and more.
Mends Street has a well-deserved reputation as a café/dining strip and has an abundance of cuisines to choose from, including some choice hidden treasures. Coco's and Incontro remain popular choices, thanks to their combination of fine food matched with stunning views of the Swan River and city skyline. Tanukiya is an intimate little Japanese place, successful thanks to consistent good word-of-mouth. Mends Street Café, Atomic, Dome and Gelare tend to cater for those after the quintessential caffeine fix.
While many have long lamented the passing of that exquisite French restaurant La Rive Gauche, located upstairs from the street, you can now find d'Tandoor (Malaysian) along with Thai Orchid in the same locale. And quietly tucked away are the pizza and kebab takeaways, almost as if protecting the poetry of the street.
At Mends Street's end is, of course, the South Perth Esplanade and the Mends Street Jetty, also home to the Marquay Restaurant. The combination of wide open parkland, majestic water vista and stunning Perth panorama would have to be another key component in Mends Street's popularity.
Mends Street Jetty has played a crucial role over the years in bringing through-traffic to the area, thanks to the back-and-forth ferry service from Perth. It was originally built at the foot of Mends Street in 1894 for £125 and, while changes have occurred over the years, its general function has remained the same. The jetty's also home to various other boats and vessels, ready to take people out for a night on the Swan.
There's something about Mends Street that makes it almost timeless and placeless – almost as if it could be placed in any English-speaking city without seeming anachronistic in the slightest. Cosmopolitan, colourful and always charismatic, Mends Street continues to maintain a unique sophistication that exudes a delightfully refreshing effervescence.
Put your best foot forward... plenty awaits on Mends Street, South Perth.