Does Adelaide’s Small Bar And Restaurant Renaissance Make It The New Melbourne?
The laneways are crowded with small bars, street art, barbershops and chefs working on cuisines you’ve barely heard of. Craft beer is king and there are more tattoos than you’d find at a bikie’s convention.
Welcome to Adelaide, Australia’s new capital of cool. In just five years, the festival city has seen its narrow laneways transform from quiet pedestrian corridors to thriving cultural hubs. Here’s how to get the best out of the City of Churches.
The twin pillars of Adelaide’s laneway culture are Peel and Leigh streets, two parallel thoroughfares running off the notoriously rowdy Hindley Street strip. During the day they’re still busy with commuters heading from the train station to work but once it hits five, crowds start to gather at the outdoor seating and the people watching begins.
So, Why Adelaide (and why now)?
Six years ago, these quiet streets were no different to any others in Adelaide and a lot of the credit for the transformation goes to Udaberri. The owners of the Basque-flavoured pintxos bar fought a long legal battle to get their licence and since they opened their doors, more than 100 small bars have followed. The original small bar is still a great place to start the night with a gin and tonic or some share plates but, even the most ambitious traveller won’t fit everything in – here are a few spots not to miss.
Adelaide small bars not to miss
Pink Moon Saloon
Wedged in a tiny former service alley less than four metres wide, Pink Moon Saloon is all about working with what you’ve got. Modelled on an alpine chalet, it looks like a tight squeeze from the outside but inside it’s cosy rather than cramped and the design has won multiple awards – use it as an excuse to make friends with your neighbours over a tipple from their carefully crafted drink list.
Walking into nearby Maybe Mae, located beneath the small passage connecting Leigh and Peel Streets, is like entering another world. That’s partially because the underground bar has no signage, but mostly because of the opulent art deco era furnishings (think green leather and lots of mirrors). It’s table service only here and if you’re not ordering cocktails, you’re doing it wrong.
Paloma Bar and Pantry
New kid on the block Paloma has a breezy, Mediterranean feel but the focus is firmly on Mexico with the tequila-based signature cocktail. The pantry dishes out small bites but grab a seat by the window upstairs and you might not leave – it’s perfect for people watching as Peel Street comes alive.
When it gets late and you’re looking for somewhere to kick on, head west to Solomon Street where you’ll find Cry Baby. With an old school jukebox and eye-catching neon sign, it calls itself a dive bar but there’s nothing divey about the 12 craft beer taps. Though it’s only been open a year, it’s quickly become the hospo industry’s go-to bar for knock offs and judging by the line that forms most nights, the rest of Adelaide is keen to join the party.
Adelaide Restaurants not to miss
Many of the bars do on point food but if you’re after something more substantial, you never have to go far. You can almost wait in line for Cry Baby while you order a classic slice at neighbouring Sunny’s, an ultra-hip pizza bar (and regular bar) run by a roll-call of Adelaide hospo stars. It’s the kind of versatile spot where knock-off drinks can morph into dinner with classic pies from the wood-fired oven (as well as a “not pizza” menu), and some nights the dancefloor even gets a workout.
Pink Moon’s Deli offshoot
Pink Moon’s Deli offshoot does mouthwatering lunch rolls stuffed to the brim with slow cooked meat (or veggies) until they’re sold out on weekdays, or stop by on a Friday for the legendary fried chicken.
Bread & Bone
Upstairs from Maybe Mae, Bread & Bone does one of Adelaide’s best burgers and nearby Shobosho has a menu of Japanese and Korean-inspired food that changes every day. Grab one of the eight stools at the walk-up yakitori bar Sho downstairs and you’ll have the best seat in the house.
Beyond Adelaide’s CBD laneways
The laneway renaissance now extends far beyond Peel and Leigh Streets, and you can barely find a street in Adelaide without its own little scene. You’d never think to walk down Gresham Street unless someone suggested it but a row of three adjacent bars includes La Buvette, a charming wine and aperitif bar that’s one of Adelaide’s great champions of natural wine and just happens to have the city’s friendliest bouncer.
Even more unexpected is Baddog bar, a seriously classy whisky and blues den at the other end of town with no signage and no hospo neighbours. If the light’s on, that means it’s open – go in, you won’t regret it.
But the greatest concentration of bars and eateries outside of the Leigh-Peel hub is around Vardon Avenue and Ebenezer Place, where Nola serves New Orleans-inspired food alongside excellent whiskey and craft beer selections and East End Cellars has one of Adelaide’s best wine selections, many of them pouring at Mother Vine across the road.
Hey Jupiter and Kutchi Deli Parwana
Hey Jupiter is a traditional brasserie that’s busy from the morning crowd grabbing coffee or a cheeky bloody mary alongside their pastries to diners tucking into traditional French meals for dinner. Those in more of a hurry line up for flavour-packed Afghani street food at Kutchi Deli Parwana.
In every pocket of town, evidence of Adelaide’s renaissance is visible and it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, by the time you read this a new spot has probably opened. But you’d better get in quick to beat the crowds.
(Lead image: Maybe Mae / Facebook)