Adelaide: A Delicious, Laidback City

22 November 2014
Read Time: 3.9 mins

Adelaide manages to be relaxed and funky, buzzy and quaint, all at the same time. Recent changes to liquor laws, allowing small bars to flourish, have certainly upped the scene, and a hipster laneway culture is developing in the city’s West End.

“It’s a different city to what it was a few years ago,” says Jordan Theodoros, 2014 Chef of the Year in The Advertiser Food Awards. Theodoros, chef and owner of Peel Street, the popular restaurant at the epicentre of this movement, is pleased young people no longer feel they have to leave Adelaide, but are setting up new businesses here instead.

Adelaide packs a lot of attractions into a compact city, and with its flat terrain, it offers easy walking. Another option for getting around is to hop on a free city council bicycle, available from any of 19 hire locations. All you need is a valid ID.

 Adelaide sparkles on the River Torrens

Must Do’s

Art Gallery of South Australia

The building itself is stunningly beautiful, and with only a small percentage of its collections on show at any given time, the Art Gallery of South Australia is well worth a repeat visit, to see its galleries of European, colonial, contemporary and Indigenous art. Visiting exhibitions (currently 'Fashion Icons: Masterpieces from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris') are also of a high standard.

Adelaide Central Market

Operating since 1869, Adelaide’s famous market is the largest undercover market in the southern hemisphere. Browse 80 stalls selling all manner of enticing fresh and prepared foods – the variety of cheeses available, for example, is amazing. Under the same roof, join the locals at Lucia for coffee and a zeppola, the local version of an Italian crispy doughnut; Le Souk for a spicy North African meal; or Taldy Kurgan for Russian piroshky, pastries or cabbage rolls.

Adelaide Zoo

In its glorious park setting, Adelaide’s Zoo offers a very pleasant day’s outing, with plenty of animals and birds to see, despite its compactness. If you get there early enough for the zoo’s highlight, the Giant Pandas, you’re likely to see them moving around. Book ahead, for special, behind-the-scenes experiences, like feeding the lions, or enjoying “close encounters” with Sumatran tigers.

Where To Stay

Since it’s a big festival city, Adelaide has no shortage of places to rest your head. Recommended hotels include:

Ibis Adelaide. This new hotel showcases funky designer style. Graffiti artworks, stylish furnishings, Samsung tech fittings and a cool bar, complete with an outdoor terrace hung over the street, add to its fun, futuristic vibe.

Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury. A charming property which counts among its pluses good location, historic charm and modern comforts and facilities, with a choice of rooms, studios or one- to two-bedroom apartments.

The Playford. This hotel combines award-winning luxury rooms and a stunning Art Nouveau ambience, plus an ideal, central location close by the Festival Theatre.

The Stamford Plaza. Experienced staff, luxury rooms, an in-house Argentinian grill restaurant and its CBD location make for a convenient and comfortable stay.

The Majestic Minima Hotel. A hotel that recently transformed itself into an art gallery, commissioning local artists to paint artworks on the walls of its 46 well-equipped studio rooms.

Suburbs Worth Sussing Out

Norwood: You can walk from the CBD to this cosmopolitan inner city suburb. Stroll along Norwood Parade, with its outdoor cafés, restaurants featuring cuisine from Italian to Thai, Spanish to Indian, bookshops and interesting specialty shops. History buffs can check out the plaques celebrating famous Norwood residents such as Edwardian-era authors May Gibbs and CJ Dennis.

Campbelltown: Foodies can have fun following the “Flavours of Campbelltown” food trail, via a free booklet from the council website, or through a guided tour. The trail takes you to small manufacturers of a wide variety of foodstuffs, including smallgoods, fudges, sausages, continental biscuits, and amazing cakes. Learn the family stories behind the 25 featured businesses, and indulge in the variety of tastes offered.

Hidden Cultural Gems

The Jam Factory, is a central city studio and gallery promoting quality design and craftsmanship – especially glassworks, painting, furniture and ceramics. Next door, check out the charming and welcoming Mercury Cinema, where classic, foreign and other unusual films are screened.

To discover more artwork not far away there’s Urban Cow Studio, housing a wide-ranging collection of offerings from more than 150 South Australian artists and designers.

Tandanya - the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, is a fascinating place to explore contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as expressed through performing and visual arts.

 Much of Adelaide's produce is locally sourced

Eating And Drinking

While Adelaide has long been a hotspot for innovation in cuisine, lately buzz has settled around the eat street known as Peel Street, shut to traffic on weekends to allow alfresco dining. Jordan Theodoros’ Peel Street is perhaps the most celebrated of the funky cafes, with a really simple formula of fresh and delicious food in the form of Thai salads, Middle Eastern braises, and other delectable dishes buzzing with robust flavours.

Next door is the hard-to-find, 'secret' entrance to underground bar Maybe Mae. Adjacent to the stairs going up to fab hamburger joint Bread & Bone Wood Grill, go downstairs and push hard on the wood-panelled wall, which morphs into a door (very James Bond). Voila, you can now enter a plush, hip bar with tasty drinks and a cool crowd.

Another popular bar nearby, also renowned for good food, is Clever Little Tailor. Or try La Moka, famous also for its great coffee.

The East End of the city is picking up as a quality food and wine destination, according to Adelaide insider Sophie Mibus of cooking school Le Cordon Bleu. She recommends premium wine bar Mother Vine and retailer The Tasting Room. There are lots of quirky quality coffee shops just off Rundle Street (for example Penny University), worth checking out as well.

Nearby you’ll find Orana - named after an Indigenous word for 'welcome,' this intimate fine dining restaurant focuses on treating local produce and native Australian ingredients, such as Kangaroo Island marron, with sophistication. Bush flavours even make their way into the cocktails, with excitingly good results. Make mine a riberry caipirinha!

One particularly revered restaurant is Bistro Dom. Labelling itself modern Australian, Bistro Dom also draws on a French heritage, mixing a classic bistro style with contemporary tweaks, such as chef Duncan Welgemoed’s 'pumpkin sandwich' – like an Eton mess of maple-syrup ice cream, pumpkin seed-and-caramel wafers, topped with crispy speck.

There’s plenty of good food to be found in North Adelaide; the quality of food and service at Cucina attracts plenty of praise; as does the dining room at the Daniel O’Connell Pub & Dining.

A bit out of town, Walk the Talk Kitchen and Catering in Verdun is a 20-minute drive into the Adelaide Hills. This surprisingly sophisticated café serves brilliant food (best of all, the lemon-curd layer cake) in a garden setting.

Keren Lavelle

A Sydney-based writer and editor, Keren Lavelle is equally happy to hike in wildernesses or to soak up culture (or indeed, to soak in hot springs). In her experience, the best trips have the right proportion of meticulous travel planning, but still allow for an element of improvisation and serendipitous discovery.