Right now, Adelaide has myriad places to wine and dine. It is a hotbed of exciting eateries, from food trucks to cafés and from casual restaurants to fine-dining establishments. Whatever your taste in food or drink, Adelaide’s CBD has you covered.
In 2014, just before he launched his restaurant Africola, Duncan Welgemoed told The Adelaide Review that the city would become a food destination in a few years. With Africola, the former Bistro Dom Head Chef is part of the local food resurgence, as he embraces the food memories of his South African childhood to create the city’s most exciting dining space with an eclectic, colourful design by co-owner James Brown (Mash Design).
Though the dishes are high quality, Africola isn’t fine dining. It’s exuberant dining. It is also unique, not only to Adelaide but to Australia and possibly the world.
Africola isn’t the only Adelaide restaurant that shines with a cuisine and experience that can’t be found elsewhere. Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana, which celebrates Australia’s native ingredients in a fine-dining space, is the city’s most prestigious restaurant.
Along with its sister establishments Botanic Bar and Golden Boy, Africola forms a destination corner for exciting, quality food and drinks on east terrace and north terrace. It is one of many food and wine pockets across the city, which include Waymouth street, the east end of Rundle Street, Ebenezer Place/Vardon Avenue, the Peel Street and Leigh Street precinct, as well as that old favourite Gouger Street. These pockets mean Adelaide’s gastronomic scene is healthier than ever.
Would Africola have been possible five years ago? Probably not. In the last five years Adelaide has emerged as an exhilarating place to eat and drink. The city’s bars and restaurants are bold, enticing and push the boundaries. These are exiting times, as ambitious chefs cook from their hearts in restaurants they own or love while bar owners look to introduce elusive and exotic drinks and experiences to their patrons.
Though Adelaide’s food resurgence is now in full swing, things looked a little grim a few years ago. A block on Waymouth Street changed all that. Press and its chef Andrew Davies emerged with high quality casual dining and brilliant nose-to-tail options. Press joined the lunchtime favourite George’s on Waymouth, as well as other new places such as Bistro Dom and Melt to create a dining hub, which now includes Press’s sister bar Proof. Press and Bistro Dom are nationally acclaimed while George’s was just named best European restaurant at the 2015 National Restaurant and Catering Awards.
Around the time of the Waymouth boom, Leigh Street emerged as a place to eat, drink and hang, with places such as world music bar Casablabla and the small bar Udaberri, a game changer, which could be argued, was the catalyst for the small bar resurgence that followed thanks to changes in the liquor licensing laws.
When Leigh Street’s neighbouring Peel Street was activated, it created the Leigh/Peel precinct, which is now a world-class bar destination with Clever Little Tailor, Chihuahua, Maybe Mae and others creating a destination for global and local flavours. The precinct’s quality cafés such as Coffee Branch and La Moka join these bars. Then there is Peel St Restaurant.
Under the guidance of chef Jordan Theodoros (who returned to the city after the success of the regional delight, Aquacaf in Goolwa), Peel St is an unpretentious, hearty place to experience a mix of Middle Eastern and European flavours, which encourages diners to share.
Peel St was recently named Australia’s Hottest Value Restaurant of 2015 by The Weekend Australian, which stated, “We challenge anyone to find a dining experience offering so much bang for such modest buck”.
The Weekend Australian’s Hot 50 Restaurant 2015 list proved that Adelaide’s gastronomic credentials were noticed on a national stage. Seven South Australian eateries made the top 50 including Peel St, Africola, Magill Estate, Orana, Etica, Botanic Gardens Restaurant and Fino Seppeltsfield. Similarly, five South Australian restaurants made Gourmet Traveller’s 2016 Top 100 list: Orana (10th place), Magill Estate (11th), Appellation (54th), Africola (60th) and Peel St (81st).
Gourmet Traveller’s top South Australian pick, Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana, has in two short years become one of this country’s most talked about restaurants, as the former Magill Estate Head Chef’s dream of utilising native ingredients has proved a hit at both his fine dining Orana and his casual Street ADL. Zonfrillo’s Indigenous food quest has seen him grace the cover of the global food magazine Fool as well as host the Discovery Channel show Nomad Chef.
Another restaurant receiving national attention is the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, which under the control of chef Paul Baker uses perhaps the country’s finest garden (the Adelaide Botanic Garden) as his personal kitchen garden for seasonal delights during the day, as well as nights. The restaurant resurgence means that the state’s amazing produce is able to be showcased to a local audience in the best possible manner.
The re-emergence of Adelaide’s dining scene no doubt encouraged national and international heavy hitters to launch eateries in Adelaide. One of the world’s most famous food celebrities, Jamie Oliver, opened an impressively designed Adelaide outlet for his Jamie’s Italian chain, while the casino lured highly regarded chefs Sean Connolly and Nic Watt to launch Sean’s kitchen and Madame Hanoi to great success.
While the new pockets emerge across the city, Adelaide’s long-running dining strip Gouger Street continues to evolve. It is still full of wonderful cheap and cheerful options such as Ying Chow, Ky Chow and Star House but includes new places such as the ramen joint Ryo’s and the fusion restaurant Mexican Society of Chinatown.
When it comes to global flavours, Parwana’s sister restaurant Kutchi Deli delivers remarkable Afghan flavours in a delightfully colourful space on Ebenezer Place. The Ebenezer and Vardon Avenue precinct has now exceeded expectations to become one of the city’s most eclectic and electrifying dining and drink strips and is home to Hey Jupiter, Sad:Cafe, East End Providore, East End Cellars, Mother Vine and Nano Café.
Duncan Welgemoed said Adelaide would become a food destination in two years’ time a year ago; well it’s only taken 12 months for that prediction to ring true. The time is now.
David Knight is Editor of The Adelaide Review