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Cool Adelaide

The beating heart of Cool Adelaide: highlights of the city centre

Get a caffeine fix at Coffee Branch on Leigh St.
Photo: South Australian Tourism Commission
by Max Anderson

In 2014, the city named for a forgotten queen of a forgotten king is emerging as a savvy socialite princess, more Middleton than middling.

Billions of dollars have been spent on civic projects along the River Torrens in the middle of the city proper (the square mile bounded by parks). The projects are at different stages of completion, but as the covers come off, a new dynamic is taking hold and precincts are coming out to play.

Yes, this is the year of Adelaide – and this is a quick guide to some of the coolest spots in the heart of town.

Start at the heart

Start at the Adelaide Oval. It might sound retrograde but the venerable old cricket ground has doubled in size to offer the most central sporting stadium in the nation. More significantly, in March it begins hosting South Australia’s greatest passion – AFL footy – drawing up to 52,000 people into the CBD for matches.

That’s a lot of new energy.

After a Showdown, a Big Bash or a top-name concert, you should stroll across the recently opened Riverbank footbridge to North Terrace and the city’s latest bar and restaurant district. Defined by Currie and Hindley streets, it possibly qualifies as Cool Adelaide’s hippest district – a little nexus of lanes that has positively bloomed with bars and cafes thanks to relaxed state licensing laws.

The pace has been set by Leigh Street, offering a triple shot of good coffee (Coffee Branch), good food (the award-winning Cos Restaurant) and great bars such as Udaberri and Casablabla, where you can learn how to salsa between margaritas.

The feel-good has also spread next door to Peel Street, home to five new small bars with the same number waiting to be green-lit.  

Eat/drink

Adelaide has always been good at serving fabulous home-grown fare in intimate and interesting spaces, but notable newcomers are upping the ante in the 5000 postcode.

Rundle Street offers a long menu of dining options and is now home to a ‘‘dual dining’’ experience that is serious about native and indigenous foods. Street-ADL is a bar and restaurant where you can do a world tour of cultural cuisines. Upstairs is the much smaller Orana restaurant, which has tasting menus, matching fine wines with the likes of Australian bushtucker including mudcrab and charred Coorong mullet.

Also try fine inner-city eats at Peel St (robust dishes, blackboards and exposed brick), Press Food and Wine on Waymouth Street (half-suckling Berkshire pig anyone?), House of Donkey (a vegetarian cafe and flower studio) and The Mac Factory on Hutt Street (for its macarons).

With dozens of inner-city establishments applying for liquor licences at the beginning of 2014, the hottest tip for any visitor looking for a cool place to drink is: go find one and report back.

Alternatively head to Gouger Street, a veritable canyon of comestibles, but also home to a buzzy bar scene. Hot places inviting you to take the waters include Sangria Bar (yup, a range of sangrias); Cork Wine Café, specialising in organic, biodynamic and natural wines; and the schmicko Loft Oyster and Wine Bar.

The new Cantina Sociale on Sturt Street is a wine bar that stocks one-off wines you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Little Miss Miami on Frome Street mixes cha-cha-cha with more than a hint of chichi (check out the parasol display overhead), offering cocktails and shared eats. The pop-up is next door to the wildly popular Little Miss Mexico.

Shopping

Adelaide does great boutique shopping, with fashion mavens heading for the shops along Rundle Street and King William Road (Hyde Park). But the city is especially good for art/design and vintage clothing.

The JamFactory remains No.1 for design. It’s a not-for-profit collective of artisans producing beautiful jewellery, glass, furniture, you-name-it, within a lovely old brick building. Have a look, have a chat, you can even have a go in the workshops – then take home something stunning.

Lovers of creativity should also check out Urban Cow Studio, where the work of 150 South Australian artists and designers is on display. The very cool Council of Objects has reopened in Ebeneezer Place – another vibrant little laneway that has become fashionable of late. Adelaide is a happy hunting ground when it comes to vintage clothing. Some favourites are The Antique Market on Grote Street, Push Pin on Compton Street and Gilles Street Market (on the first and third Sundays of the month), which offers a hipster vibe and perky coffee aromas.

Theatre/ music

Adelaide is reliably overshadowed by bigger cities when it comes to mainstream theatre, but it’s a world-beater when the Adelaide Festival of Arts (and Fringe Festival) fires up in February and March. In 2013 it became an annual event, meaning the city reliably gets a plethora of premieres, as well as late-night chill-out and performance zones.

The State Theatre Company is at home in the Adelaide Festival Centre on the Torrens, reliably staging contemporary and classic productions, while Her Majesty’s Theatre (a lovely old dame built in 1913), hosts touring crowd-pleasers such as 2013’s Driving Miss Daisy. Meanwhile, away from the red velour seats, Splash Adelaide is bringing year-round zing to the streets with a fast and furious program of pop-up entertainment: 2014 brings movie nights, grand bazaars, street parties and art exhibitions (splashadelaide.com.au for more). As for music, the WOMADelaide world music festival (March) in the Botanic Park oozes herbal cool, while the savvy Cabaret Festival in June gets bigger and smoother each year.

The indie music scene continues to be venerated in Adelaide. Try La Boheme on Grote Street for cocktails and cabaret, and The Rhino Room on Frome Street or The Edinburgh Castle on Currie Street for emerging bands.

Big-name acts play the Adelaide Entertainment Centre (surprisingly close to the city at the end of its new tramline), but the Adelaide Oval is sure to be staging some spectaculars now that it has pulled on its big-boy pants and got serious about seating.

Map of Adelaide
The coolest spots in town
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Architecture/history

North Terrace is a string of grand old buildings from the late 1800s, many of them housing fine cultural collections accessed for free. Don’t miss the surprise that is the Mortlock Library – a hallowed and lofty space – and the always fascinating Treasure Wall in the library proper, an oft-changing display of SA icons and artefacts.

The South Australian Museum’s Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery features more than 3000 items and is best experienced by a tour. Next door is the beautiful Art Gallery, an 1881 period piece housing 38,000 pieces, including an impresive collection of 19th-century Australian art.

The Bicentennial Conservatory in Adelaide Botanic Garden reliably wows visitors with its radical glass shell design, as well as its collection of tropical plantlife.

The North Terrace/Torrens architecture has now been boosted by the new Riverbank footbridge, the renovated Adelaide Oval (now home to the restyled Don Bradman collection), a massive reworking of the Convention Centre (expected to lead to an expansion of riverside eating), the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and SAHMRI medical research building. The latter, designed by architectural firm Woods Bagot, is very new millennium - an organic form covered in reflective, diamond-shaped elements. It’s a design that got locals talking and has been likened to a disco ball, an alien and a cheese grater.

Across the river and parklands is North Adelaide. A Pubs and Pulpits walking tour with Tourabout Adelaide will reveal not only its curios but the history of the free-settled colony that became South Australia.

Taking off : a short film

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