While people living on the east coast have been deriding Adelaide as dull – the nickname Radelaide comes with lashings of sarcasm – residents of the South Australian capital have been enjoying world-class wineries 20 minutes' drive from the CBD, a calendar bursting with cultural festivals, and a dynamic food and wine scene.
Little wonder Adelaide has zoomed up the world's most liveable city list, coming in at number three last year and eclipsing both Melbourne and Sydney.
"I think over the next couple of years, Adelaide restaurants are going to give Sydney and Melbourne a red-hot crack," says chef Jake Kellie, whose CV includes Mimi's in Sydney, Estelle in Melbourne and Michelin-starred Singapore venue Burnt Ends.
Check out these hot spots during the annual Tasting Australia festival (April 29 to May 8), when the autumn harvest is peaking, the weather is at its best and some of the country's biggest food and drink names are in town.
Just don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself scanning the city's real estate listings.
The dining room and rear courtyard at Jake Kellie's Adelaide restaurant Arkhe. Photo: Studio Gram / Timothy Kaye
Jake Kellie enjoys playing with fire. He spent three years working the wood grill at Singapore's modern Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends and now has an ironbark-burning furnace of his own at Arkhe, in a pretty Victorian building in Adelaide's inner east. The open kitchen, skirted by 19 seats, is Arkhe's fiery heart. From it come dishes such as grill-striped Murray cod with blistered tomatoes and squid garum, hulking Mayura Station wagyu ribs and luxe ingredients such as caviar and lobster, matched by a wine list boasting one of the country's largest collections of grower champagnes.
127 The Parade, Norwood, arkhe.com.au
A rundown 1900s horse tram barn in Adelaide's western suburbs has blossomed into a light-soaked 70-seat all-day cafe with exposed ceiling trusses, whitewashed walls and honey-coloured timber joinery. Fire touches almost everything that exits the semi-open kitchen, from wood-grilled snake beans with a punchy house-made XO sauce to thick house-made crumpets topped with mascarpone and foraged wild blackberries, which double as breakfast and dessert. Whatever else you order, don't miss the crunchy kipfler potatoes served with pickled lemons and curry leaves on a swirl of labne.
38 Winwood Street, Thebarton, 38bloom.com.au
The modern French-inspired bistro, Eleven, is generating buzz. Photo: David Sievers
Opening a CBD restaurant mid-pandemic may seem counter-intuitive. But for Themis Chryssidis and Callum Hann, it wasn't so much a whim as a necessity – their cooking school and events business, Sprout Cooking School, couldn't operate under COVID restrictions. Now, their modern French-inspired bistro, Eleven, is generating buzz and plans are under way to turn the courtyard bar into an all-weather space. Bread and butter is Eleven's stealth weapon. Milk bun slices come with a generous portion of "roast chook" butter, made by whipping in burnished chicken fat and crowning it with crunchy chicken skin crumbs. Hann, a former MasterChef contestant, nominates King George whiting ceviche with a warm umami-rich sauce as Eleven's other menu winner.
11 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, elevenadl.com.au
Fugazzi's signature mortadella and salami finger sando with mayo, pickled shallot and pecorino. Photo: Supplied
Fugazzi Bar & Dining Room
Fugazzi's front door is a portal to the kind of upmarket Italo-American restaurant where you can imagine wealthy New York mobsters gathering to break bread. It's awash with marble, leather, velvet and striking Fornasetti plates, and Max and Laura Sharrad's menu is a match – a combination of irresistible snacks (I'm looking at you, mortadella and salami finger sando), elevated classics such as ricotta gnocchi with braised osso buco, and show-stopping wagyu tomahawk steaks. Don't miss anything involving pasta – Laura was MasterChef's pasta queen – but particularly the hand-rolled pici with picked blue swimmer crab, chilli and garlic.
27 Leigh Street, Adelaide, fugazzi.com.au
Press Food and Wine
The team behind Leigh Street Wine Room and online wine store Juice Trader are turning Adelaide's favourite modern grillhouse into a glamorous European bar and dining room, with local chef Tom Tilbury leading the kitchen. Marble, timber and brass have refined the rustic former print factory, which will seat 100 over two levels. When the venue opens early next month, head for the new ground floor bar for classic wine bar snacks such as veal tartare, chicken liver parfait and oysters, and drinks drawn from a deep list that cherry-picks from the great wine regions at home and abroad. One to watch.
40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, pressfoodandwine.com.au
Justin James' kitchen garden is the envy of cooks everywhere – the executive chef is surrounded by Adelaide's lush 50-hectare botanic garden and a year into the role, he is still uncovering its treasures. James, whose CV rattles off Vue de Monde, Noma, Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has been given licence to respectfully harvest ingredients such as bunya nuts, wattle seeds and lemon aspen to create Botanic's four-hour edible exploration of time and place, season and weather. The $245-a-head menu evolves constantly, presenting more than 20 flavour combinations such as abalone and boab (its tubers apparently have a texture like water chestnuts) and sea urchin hot sauce.
Adelaide Botanic Garden, Plane Tree Drive, Adelaide, restaurantbotanic.com.au
Chef Jake Kellie at his Adelaide restaurant Arkhe. Photo: Duy Dash
Take a bite of SA
Tasting Australia, the now-annual food and drink festival, is billed as a chance to experience every flavour of South Australia. While some of the big-ticket events sold out in a flash, there are still plenty of celebrations being held across the state, including right in the heart of Adelaide.
Town Square becomes the festival hub, with stalls from Adelaide favourites including Sprout's Chilli Shack pop-up, Soi 38's Thai grill and Sunny's Pizza party, and Town Square Kitchen hosting top chefs across brunch, lunch and dinner.
The Legends Dinner at Town Square Kitchen on April 29 celebrates Barossa Valley luminary Maggie Beer with chef Emma McCaskill and others featuring Barossa produce. Tickets $350.
The following night, Fire & Ferment showcases two of the strongest trends in Australian kitchens, and some of our biggest names. Justin James from Adelaide's Restaurant Botanic, Rosheen Kaul of Melbourne's Etta, and Adam Wolfers (Gerard's Bistro, Brisbane) will show their stuff backed by treasures pulled from the Yalumba cellars. April 30, tickets $295.
Or take a day trip to the rugged Eyre Peninsula on April 30 or May 1 for a salt-scented itinerary involving oysters, clams and marron fresh from the source, prepared by the likes of Jake Kellie (Arkhe) and Jemma Whiteman (Sydney's Ante). Tickets $850 (includes meals, flights, and transportation).
Roslyn Grundy was a guest of Tasting Australia and South Australian Tourism Commission.