James Stewart, co-author of the Rough Guide to Australia, discovers Adelaide’s hip dining scene.
The choice of must-see cities on a trip to mainland Australia used to be so simple. Adelaide, the “City of Churches”? We’ll stick to Sydney and Melbourne, thanks. So even Australians are mildly surprised that Adelaide has blossomed into their hottest little state capital. And one reason why is food.
The South Australian capital has always had a reputation for gastronomy. The Adelaide Hills which ruffle up beyond its north suburbs supply some of the best wines in Australia’s cellar and brilliant ingredients from the smallholdings of Adelaide Hills-Billies.
In the early nineties, Adelaide led Australia in small creative restaurants. Then the impetus stalled. Talent left for the big cities. The dining scene grew conservative.
To vivify a Central Business District which emptied after 5pm, the city government relaxed restaurant regulations in 2013, opening up space for brilliant young restaurateurs to start up small innovative enterprises. At the same time, downshifters priced out of Sydney and Melbourne discovered that Adelaide was one of Australia’s most liveable cities. The centre is spacious and well-aired. Rents are cheap. And you’re never more than 20 minutes from the beach and lovely wine-hills.
Together they’ve brought the buzz back to central Adelaide. Once-dingy alleys now sparkle with bars and bistros in converted warehouses and shops. Cheap rents allow chefs to experiment rather than follow food fads that put bums on seats to pay the bills. It’s a virtuous circle; a perfect storm in a teacup and on a plate.
And being a small laidback city, chefs can cultivate direct relationships with farmers for true paddock-to-plate eating.
“We used to be this sleepy little town that ate and drank well, where you could get to the beach easily. But central Adelaide today is going through what Melbourne experienced in the late 1990s with [hip dining district] The Lanes,” food journalist David Sly says.
“The licence change allows innovation and possibility by lowering the bar for entry. Chefs here are making it work on their own terms.”
Finally, Adelaide has out-grown its City of Churches sobriquet. Amen to that. Here are five Adelaide restaurants where you can experience this new dining revolution.