Fitted and Fused

As recently mentioned, we drove up to Perth on Wednesday to get a new pair of pants for Mike. He technically has plenty of pants, but he's in one of those loops where you keep ignoring all of your clothes for one favourite thing (I know it well), so a second pair of the same sort seemed like a wise investment.

(If I were to write a manual for the Fat & Unstylish, the entire first chapter would just be this: "If you love it, buy five of it.")

(But Mike can't have five pairs of love-it pants because they are $135 each, after alterations. Alas, he has broken out of our anti-fashion pact just enough to realize that $20/pop this-size-fits-many Walmart-wear britches are never going to feel as right or last as long as altered trousers from a menswear shop.)

(So long as we're having an aside talking about clothes, I wish I could show you the outfit collage I assembled on Polyvore last night. It's hilarious in its sincerity. I don't use-use Polyvore, but I wanted to find out how everyone on Pinterest makes those collages of clothes ensembles, and it turns out that Polyvore is the way. It did seem unlikely that so many everyday people were working the magic lasso in Photoshop. Anyway, I can't be bothered to screenshot the iPad at the moment, and I've sort of exceeded the time limit on these parentheses, so...)

On The Way Up

As we drove, I checked Yelp to see if any new restaurants had opened since September. I didn't expect to find anything that could detract us from our plans (lunch at Flying Taco, dinner at Two Fat Indians), but then I saw a dotted skull logo and the words "Big El's Latin American Fusion."

By the time I was halfway down the menu, Mike was setting a new course in Siri. Destination: Northbridge.

Northbridge Sculpture

In my limited experience of Western Australia's capital city, I'd say Northbridge is the place to go if you're with a group of hungry people and nobody knows what they want. With so many restaurants one after another, something will surely appeal to all.

Plus, unless it's very hot out and you're feeling unfit, it's essentially adjacent to the CBD (aka downtown).


We always talk about going to Chocolateria San Churro, but today we had Mexican on our minds.

Chocolateria Sign

Bye, Saint Churro.

Christmas Decor in Northbridge

Christmas decorations were still everywhere in the streets. Back in Vegas I used to feel like a slattern the tree stayed up until MLK Day, despite Mike's preferences for leaving it up as long as possible, but since Mike assured me that hot cross buns for Easter would go one sale right after Christmas (they did!), and since the tinsel in our city streets is already gone, I was surprised to see decorations still in the CBD.

Mike Inspects Decorations

Decorations Still Up

We walked the long way around the block to Big El's ("Surely there will be an alley we can cut through" - ha) where we were shown to a booth and handed two lunch menus. Lunch menus?

Sure enough, the things we'd admired from the website menu weren't on there. "Mike, let's do this right and come back for dinner." He agreed. And so...

Chocolateria - Main Room


I was concerned by the idea of an all-sweet lunch, but who can resist el chock-oh-lah-tay? It was Saint Fabio of the Cocoa's will.

Chocolateria - Mock Mojito

For beverages, we started with two "Mock Mojitos" from the Summer Menu: "A refreshing mocktail of lemon and lime, apple juice, coconut syrup, and fresh mint blended with ice."

If I think about it too much, the longing may overtake me. Why can't Chocolateria San Churro be in my town? The mint! So minty! How often do you have to wipe crushed mint leaves off your teeth at the end of a meal? Not often enough.

Chocolateria - Sampler Fondue

After some back and forth, we settled on the Classic Fondue for Two: "Fondue of melted chocolate served with mini churros, choc brownie, banana, strawberries, nougat, macarons and more." They forgot our nougat, but neither of us realized this until just now, and neither of us likes standalone nougat, so that's okay. (But add in the warm water, indifferent service, some sloppiness with the chocolate presentation and questionable strawberries, and the experience dropped to 4-out-of-5 stars.)

The "Chocolate & Churros Tapas" also had appeal, but I think we made the better choice. For, in the annals, this occasion has been marked as the moment when Mike's complete reversal from a macaron-despiser to a macaron-seeker was cemented. (Huzzah!)

The last churro wasn't even finished when we rolled ourselves out of there, back to the garage, and to a different parking garage deeper into the CBD. (Even if we were up to such a walk on a warm day, it was already past 2 p.m., and our growing list of sights to see all closed before six.)

Fitting Pants

Mike's pants being sorted for alterations, as already shown a few posts ago. I double-thumbs-up Kingsize Big and Tall if you're both or either and anywhere near Hay Street. The staff members are very serious about getting the right fit for the occasion (but pleasant, too - which I say because they laughed at and agreed with each of my lame jokes).

Harper's Building

Objective complete, we could now do That Thing We Do Whenever We're in the CBD. On the way to That Thing, I admired the architecture. Has anyone made a walking map of Perth's CBD, describing the history behind each building?

Even though modern awnings on lovely old buildings can often kill the moment, the ones on the Harper's Buildings (the plural is funny) aren't so bad. My admiration of Art Deco in architecture only grows as I get older.

Miss Maud's

Today was once again not a Miss Maud day. Someday. I have no idea if I'll like the food (my mother-in-law's favourite cake - princess cake - comes from there, but I was indifferent to the Ikea version, so...), but the design - especially of the nearby hotel/restaurant - is so cute I find myself tempted to whisper the dreaded "totes adorbs."

Piccadilly Arcade

Pink glass! Bas-relief! More Deco!

In this photo you can barely see the blank marquee for the cinema inside Piccadilly Arcade, built in 1938. The theatre only just closed in September.

("Mike! Why didn't we go?" "Because it was shit." Nerd derail: I'm so used to Mike using "shit" instead of the more arguably proper "shitty" as an adjective that I can't remember if I've heard this usage in the States. Anyway, I wonder if an older Mike might have found that the Piccadilly's architecture redeemed its shortcomings if he'd given it another chance. Hopefully it will re-open...

(...unlike our beloved drive-in, which is closing after 54 years. How does one operate a drive-in through the 90s and aughts only to close it now? I wish the owners had given people a chance to fundraise for whatever price the real estate developers offered, but it was kept rather quiet until the deed was done. I support business, but come on. One of the last operating drive-ins in Australia and, really, the world, and it closes now, in this era of reinvention and preservation? Again, I don't begrudge the owner wanting the money, but I'm not convinced that selling out to someone who will plonk down a few houses on the spot was the way to do it.)

Plaza Theatre

Just a year older than Piccadilly Arcade and Theatre is the former Plaza Theatre, now an arcade itself. 

The Wikipedia article says that the theatre is above the 40 shops that now make up the arcade. What, it's still there? Screen? Seats? Cooter-mints?

(On second thought, let's not try to find cute way to say "accoutrements." Eep.)

According to its page on Cinema Treasures, the guts are still good in the Plaza Theatre building. I just wish Googling that hadn't let to discovering the beautiful (live) theatre that was torn down to make the Plaza in the first place. Ack! What is this, Vegas?

When I look at the photos of the Plaza in that link, I just see a generic 1970s theatre, not the vestiges of greater days. The hell. But then this photo was taken in 2009, so... maybe the history still sleeps beneath (or above)?

That Church

After taking several photos like the above (not in this post but on Flickr) that I would mercilessly HDR-tweak in Snapseed, partially because I bizarrely prefer to post-process on the iPad now, which renders results very differently from most monitors (sorry), and partially because I'm just silly, we approached our destination at London Court.

London Court

Because I didn't fuss enough to step back a ways, you can't really see the spot where the mechanized knights come out to joust when the clock chimes. Sorry. Not that I've seen it, either, never having noticed it until this trip when Mike pointed it out (and then we didn't hang around to see it, not realizing we were only minutes away).

London Court

The official website can sing the praises of London Court better than I can. Actually, wait, Life on Perth does it much better.

Suffice to say that it's a very cool shopping space.

London Court Cigar Mannequin

London Court - Giant Freckles

(Giant Freckles! Argh!)

London Court

The Wikipedia article says that "most" of the original apartments have been converted to commercial space. Hm. "Most."

London Court

There's Sir Walter near the end. Next time I'll have to turn around as we enter (for we always enter from the Hay Street side) and see Dick Whittington and his cat. (Now cue an excited 30 seconds where I think that "Dick Whittington" is Don Draper's other name on Mad Men.)

London Court Elevator

But now we near where the excitement lies...

London Court Directory

Once upon a time, the basement level had a restaurant, the Elizabethan details of which are apparently (per the Life on Perth site) still visible in the stairwell. But how can I take the stairs when such a thematic elevator awaits? (Just like the ones Good Queen Bess used to ride, yes.)

London Court Elevator

London Court Elevator

(I really didn't take a photo of the neat-o button panel just below? Pity's sake, woman.)

London Court Elevator

And down to the basement we went, eager to do That Thing. (Who scratches letters into a door like this? What is wrong with you, people?)

You'd never know the basement used to be a tavern. Now that I'm better informed, I'll have to look closer next time, but usually when I come around the corner from the elevator I'm busy trying to scurry past the tables of wargamers and card collectors who always collectively glance up to see who has entered the hallowed warren that is Tactics.

So, no photos, since lifting the camera would draw too much attention to myself, but here's a quick pic of part of my favourite wall - where most of the board games are - taken with my phone while our purchase was rung up.

Inside Tactics (The Best Wall)

It's become increasingly hard to justify purchases at Tactics that are often cheaper through Amazon, even with shipping from the United States, plus buying through Amazon sometimes means we can also get things that haven't arrived at retailers in Australia yet.

But we do want to support the business (so I guess I'll go ahead and link to their website with its miserable design, apparently developed to appeal strictly to 20th-century wargame players despite the store being so, so, so much more than that), and so we always try to find something to buy.

(In this case, it was the Gloom expansion "Unquiet Dead." Twice the price as in the States, but last we looked it's one of those few games on the wish list that Amazon doesn't ship to Oz.)

The point is: if you like board games, RPGs, miniatures, card games, or - yeah, sigh - war games, even if you aren't a geek about any of these things but just want a break away from the Monopoly/Scrabble/TV show-themed offerings on the toy aisles at the usual retailers, you'll love a trip to Tactics. London Court sets the mood, and I promise that every time you look at the Tetris-packed walls, you'll see something you missed before.

Trinity Shops

Back out on the street level, we went down and around and up through the Trinity Arcade. I continue to be amazed by all of the individually themed shopping corridors that connect the main pedestrian-only shopping streets of downtown. It's like visiting ten different shopping centers with ten different visions all within steps of each other.

Trinity Corridor

"What is this, the Queen Mary?" -Mike.

With a historic church on one end, you'd think I could Google up a nice history of Trinity Arcade within ten seconds, but that didn't happen. All I know is that the church was maybe built in 1865. Maybe I should start following Museum of Perth on Twitter. (Look at this article they linked about a 16th-century illustrated manuscript showing a kangaroo!)

Trinity Mall Details

Caged Up

(Given that I have almost freakishly small hands in real life, it would seem that the camera adds inches as well as pounds.)

As we walked down the street and were stepping away from the main shopping area, I saw a large and busy retail store out of the corner of my eye. Was that... was that tea?


And was that chocolate chai? The tea that I'd been looking for in recent weeks, thinking about replicating a local cafe offering?

T2 - Creamy Chocolate Chai

Picked up the cup. Sniffed. Oh yes. Oh yes.

T2 carries over 180 teas, but apparently I didn't bother to upload any of my other photos to Flickr that might reflect what it's like to step into a dedicated tea warehouse with trendy sensibilities. Oops. (And yet I put a couple of phone snaps on Yelp. Here's one looking behind the counter.)

A wave of crowded madness happened at the same time that we walked in, so we didn't get to try any of the six or so sample pots set out along a round counter. (Not that Mike even likes tea, but he's generally game to taste something new.)

Instead, we stalked the store looking for the box containing the "Creamy Chocolate Chai" (not to be confused with the "Chocolate Chip Chai") and a little infuser ball since of course someone like me who rarely drinks tea doesn't need her own teapot.

New Teapot

I mean, until I saw this one.

(And now I'm a member of the "T2 Tea Society." It's like I have to drink tea now. Never mind that it's been three days since I drank down that teapot - admittedly twice - and I'm only just now sorting my sleep and mood back out. I hope. But I can't give up Creamy Choc Chai for decaf! That is, if I ever settle down enough to brew another pot. Caffeine addicts annoy me, and the last thing I should seek is to become more annoying, but, oh, we all have our price.)

Will Detour For Doors

"This way, honey," says Mike. But, but... doors! Old things! I need to gaze and click!

On Hay Street - His Majesty's Theatre

Corners of theatres!


And... well, okay, I'm not into comics, but this shop caught my attention. (As did the other comic store we passed that was up some arty stairs, and another comic store that was around a bricked corner. Kind of a brief "Comic District," if you will.)

Jean Pierre Sancho

Walking up to the Jean Pierre Sancho bakery counter and deciding not to buy anything is becoming a tradition with us. I guess we had beckoning tacos on the brain.

St. Mary's

Farewell, CBD! See ya - sorta - in an hour when we return to Northbridge.

The Re Store

Before that, we wanted to check out the Re Store in Leederville.

The Re Store

Where was that again?

The Re Store

The "Re" Store, you say?

The Re Store

Ah yes, the Re Store, named for a John Re, from the same family that runs a big European food wholesale import business in Perth. Apparently this store (and deli and bottle-shop) has been here all of Mike's life, but he never visited until now. (And that's a great shame since it's thoroughly amazing.)

Vanilla Sampler

We needed vanilla anyway (she justified), and now I can taste-test the difference between the three!

Pasta Case

Even with dinner and a 90-plus-minute drive home ahead of us, we couldn't resist the case of fresh pasta. Our eventual selection of caramelized onion, ricotta, and sundried tomato is just out of frame to the left.

Baby Arancini

My only regret of this entire trip is that we bought only 10 of these instead of 10,000.

The Re Store

I love the little windows around the top.

The Re Store has been in business for 78 years. (It's beginning to seem like all the good stuff was built ~1936.) What the heck, Mike? What the heck? You could've grown up on those arancini! (Still, I'm selfishly glad we could discover them together.)

Big El's

Speaking of the European wholesalers, we were soon back in Northbridge and just steps away from their warehouse to finally sit down to the awaited meal at Big El's.

Table Water

I don't have much to say about our dinner - mostly because my fingers are dragging me across the finish line of this post, and partially because my deluded brain thinks I may want to save my thoughts to write a full-size Yelp review - but I can say that as soon as that water bottle hit the table, my optimism soared.


Mike looks as happy as he was hungry.

Jalapeno Poppers

These tempura-battered jalapeno poppers were so squeezy-juicy and hot (in both senses) that I completely forgave the server for pronouncing them with a "J as in Jill" sound.


The quesadillas, also off the tapas portion of the menu, may cause a double-take with the orange splashes, but rest assured that we're looking at chipotle mayo, not nacho cheddar here. Each one was cheesy enough to appease my growling dairy monster but thin enough to not taste monotonous.

Street Corn

The street corn just may have been my favourite of all. Smoky!

Assemble Your Own Tacos

I wasn't expecting self-assemble tacos, but they ended up being fun. (Pictured here before Mike's carnitas arrived. My vegetarian black bean option is in the center. Mike had stepped out to the restroom - I didn't make him move so I could compose the mastershot above.)

The system of choosing a protein, a sauce, and a salsa (or more than one, depending on how many tacos you order or if you want to pay $1.50 more) works well. I really wanted to try the "Devil Peach Chilli Jam," but the server warned me that it was as hot as the "Hellish Nightmare Regret Sauce." I'm gutsy, but living with someone who grows chilis that will numb your lips before they even touch them has made me a teense wary. Maybe next time. (I do wish the menu had a tiny sauce sampler so we could try a little of everything before deciding.)

While our chosen tapas were great (and it was tough to stop choosing more), the tacos were probably the low part of the meal. I only say that, though, because I like my tacos with things like onion, cilantro, queso fresco, etc. Protein + sauce and salsa just isn't complex enough. Mike agreed that the tacos weren't as great as the rest, but in his case it was because the carnitas bar has been set sky-high by El Publico, so Big El probably never had a chance there. However, this "low point" was definitely only by comparison, for the tacos were still a pleasure to eat. (True, I wanted salt for the guacamole, and this is one of those restaurants where they don't put salt and pepper on the table, but other than that - yum!)

Big El's is a great discovery since Mike doesn't get to go to El Publico when I'm around. (El Publico's meatless offerings taste like "meh" to me, which means that for me they do nothing to offset the restaurant's loudness or painfully hip ambiance. Believe me, I wish I could love the place, but given the cost of dining out, I can't justify sucking it up. El Publico does have damn tasty chickpeas, though. I'll give them that.) Big El's only recently changed to current menu and are planning to add even more with a focus on more Latin offerings (so they can stand out better from Perth's quietly emerging Mexican scene), so if you're someone who visited the restaurant in 2013 and were underwhelmed by the selection, give the menu on their website a look.

Our day in Perth was spontaneous (aka underplanned) and comparatively short, but my.. sixth? seventh? trip to the city was once again a fun time. Sometimes I think of taking the train up for the day while Mike's at work and just walking around to look at the buildings in the CBD. (Someone needs to make an Open University sample course on architecture.)

And now, four days later, Mike's pants are ready. (Already picked up by his mom who works a short walk away. We visited her at home after dinner, where I got my eleventy billion mosquito bites that I tried to cure in the sea yesterday. Today's allergy-bloated foot and many scabs tell me that didn't work.) Will we return to Perth before the break is over to collect the new trousers? Will I get more tea? Will this become my thing? Will we make the traditional Tactics stop? (Even though the heat in the basement on this last trip drove us out early.) Will we see the refreshed Myer (now "Myre") building in Fremantle with its pop-up shows? Will we finally visit White Dwarf Books? Will we walk through Plaza Arcade? Will we peek inside a cathedral? 

And most importantly, what will we eat?

19 January 2014 |