By Jeff Miller
All photos (except where noted) courtesy of the South Australia Tourism Commission
While it may not have Sydney’s opera house or Melbourne’s stylish reputation, Adelaide, South Australia is a culinary hidden gem, thanks in no small part to its location: because of its temperate climate and seaside location, the city of 1.2 million’s bustling with fresh fish, farm-to-table veggies, and fine wine from the nearby Barossa and Clare Valleys, each of which is also blessed with a smattering of fine restaurants. Add to that a youthful population (colleges are the lifeblood of the city’s economy), and you’ve got a city that is exploding with an ever-expanding selection of dining destinations, plus a wealth of cultural worth, with museums dedicated to Australia’s unique aboriginal culture and long-standing art scene and old-school architecture that calls to mind the gorgeous facades of classic New Orleans.
Grub wise, in-town, the food scene’s dominated by the massive Central Market, a bustling mix of chef-friendly produce stalls and specialty stores, the success of which has spawned a mini-business of farmers markets selling everything from homemade spice jam to hand-caught fresh scallops.
Restaurant-wise, modern-looking spots like the American-influenced The Grace – The Establishment (127 The Parade, Norwood; http://www.thegrace.net.au/home.html) a slick-looking tapas spot stacked with well-heeled ladies and slim-tied men, share space with more traditional dining experiences like the one at Chianti Classico (160 Hutt St; http://www.chianticlassico.com.au/), where a hearty seafood stew reigns supreme. Still, getting into the nearby wine country’s the way to be, with outdoor, among the vines-dining at Skillagolee (email for directions; http://www.skillogalee.com.au/) worth every moment of the drive there.
For even more picks in and around Adelaide and South Australia, we asked three experts:
The Restaurateur: Mark McNamara is one of South Australia’s most well-respected chefs; his award-winning restaurant, The Appellation, is located at the beautiful Louise Hotel in the Barossa wine region.
Ferment Asian: “Unlike most Vietnamese restaurants that have the same giant selection cookie cutter menus, “Ferment” has a tiny seasonal card and [the chef] cooks real food. For me it’s like dining with Vietnamese friends – it’s all cooked to order with passion and the flavours burst with freshness.
(90 Murray St, Tanuda) (http://www.fermentasian.com.au/)
Fino: “Simple, honest local ingredients cooked with great skill and passion and more than a little rural Italian influence with a menu that follow the season. The wine list is again short but very sharp with some amazing wines by the glass.” (8 Hill St, Willunga) (http://www.fino.net.au/)
The Wheatsheaf Hotel: “The Wheaty” has become the bar of choice for those that like to drink good beer, wine or whiskey (they have a pretty lineup in gin and rum as well) with at least 10 beers on tap including one on a hand pulled gravity pump.” (39 George St, Thebarton)(http://wheatsheafhotel.com.au/)
The Hotelier: James Baille is one of the owners of Southern Ocean Lodge, a gorgeous seaside hotel with expansive rooms, a massive wine cellar, and a top-grade restaurant on Kangaroo Island off the coast of Adelaide.
The Lane: An upscale Australian bistro serving food that compliments the single-vineyard wines in the Adelaide hills. (Ravenswood Land; Hahndorf) (http://www.thelane.com.au/bistro-and-cellar-door/menu)
Chianti Classico: “An Adelaide institution – Italian based on fresh seasonal SA bounty. It also has the best breakfast in town!” (160 Hutt St) (http://www.chianticlassico.com.au/)
The Marquis: A brand-new Parisian restaurant that was the winner of the best wine list in Adelaide, 2011 Food Awards. (13 Gouger St; Adelaide) (http://www.themarquis.com.au/)
The Bartender: Carlos Alvarez is the beverage director at The Pot, a small-plates, Asian influenced seafood bistro.
Fino: Alvarez says this award-winning provincial spot has, “great food and the freshest produce.” (8 Hill St; Willunga) (http://fino.net.au/)
Cork Wine Bar: This quaint cafe has, “awesome atmosphere and a fantastic wine list.” (61a Gouger St; Adelaide) (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cork-Wine-Cafe/27934833001?sk=info)
Press Food And Wine: Just opened, this sleek spot is “funky, buzzing, and hot.” (40 Waymouth St, Adelaide) (http://www.pressfoodandwine.com.au/)