Adelaide's hidden hangouts
From bars that you enter through an open-fire place to former rubbish-bin laneways that have been transformed into stylish venues, our CBD is now bursting with whimsical, hidden hangouts waiting to be explored.
A false fireplace has to be hauled aside on its hinges to reveal the entrance to The Barlow Room – one of Adelaide’s most surprising small bars. Styled like a basement speakeasy, with sepia-coloured walls and period furnishings, it’s tucked beneath Lindes Lane (off Rundle Mall), and it is in another of the city’s burgeoning network of more than 70 boutique bars and eateries.
Look carefully behind closed doors in Adelaide’s city laneways and you’ll find many outstanding but discreetly concealed bars. Mr Goodbar in Union St has only six stools in a compact tiled foyer, but a staircase leads to a long attic that’s lined with comfortable couches and busy mixologists shaking cocktails.
Thrift Shop Bar in Waymouth Place has transformed a former storage bunker behind the Ambassadors Hotel into a breezy retro lounge. Bedecked in vintage bric-a-brac, it serves a sharp Quandong Negroni (made from their own small batch gin, created in conjunction with Kangaroo Island Spirits) within a drinks list made up of only Australian-made spirits.
This scene has emerged as a consequence of new small-bar licences introduced in 2013.
Rob Dinnen was a key entrepreneur who fought hard for this change after returning to Adelaide in 2012 from northern Spain, determined to create an authentic pintxos bar. His idea of presenting food and music in a wine bar fell outside existing licences, although it coincided with the State Government and Adelaide City Council wanting to inject vibrancy and attract more residents to inner-city apartments.
Subsequent changes to licensing legislation resulted in Dinnen and partners opening Udaberri in Leigh St (see above). Modelled on San Sebastian’s dark and moody pintxos bars, its open rafters and hanging bulbs create an appropriate atmosphere to enjoy sardines or jamon in the company of smart Spanish, Portuguese and local SA wines.
Udaberri remains a key attraction on Leigh St, which is now nested with small bars. This transformation has triggered a similar facelift in neighbouring laneway – Peel St – which has its own curious cluster of idiosyncratic venues including Chihuahua (a mad Mexican tequila bar) and Maybe Mae (a dark basement den with its entrance door disguised within a wood-panel wall underneath Bread & Bone Wood Grill - see below).
Clever Little Tailor has emerged as Peel St’s polished sophisticate, making serious cocktails with a dash of flair. Its owners were inspired to create a second bar in Leigh St with a very different personality, by transforming a former bin service laneway into a stylish pair of narrow
The resulting Pink Moon Saloon (see below) was crowned Australian Gourmet Traveller’s 2016 Bar of the Year, due to its lively mix of classy cocktails and delicious food from a wood-smoked oven.
The influence of these successful enterprises has spread across the city.
La Buvette Drinkery in Gresham St embraces the classic feel of a small
Paris café/bar, with an extensive range of aperitifs, cocktails and French wines offered beside exciting new styles from cutting-edge SA winemakers.
Proof Wine Bar, located in a laneway that flanks Press Food + Wine eatery, is an enduring pioneer of the new bar movement, noted for its inventive cocktails and carefully curated wine list (as well as its delicious food, of course, which is pictured below).
The Henry Austin has taken over the space that previously housed Chesser Cellar. It promotes the gentrified romance of old Adelaide with its clubby dark wood panels, while enthusiastically embracing on-trend drinks and dining options. It will also serve as a late-night cabaret and jazz venue during the 2017 Adelaide Fringe.
The city’s East End has also tapped into the thirst for new bar options. Head upstairs at 260a Rundle St to BRKYLN to sample a hip list of craft beer, listen to Soundpond’s live in-house radio streaming, and
perhaps get groomed by a barber located on the premises.
Nearby Vardon Avenue (see below) has a cosmopolitan European feel with pavement table settings outside sophisticated wine bars Mother Vine and The Tasting Room (found in East End Cellars bottle shop).
Similar late-night revelry can be found bak in the West End at rowdy hangout Sunny’s Pizza (17 Solomon St), where craft brews, savvy wine and great Naples-style pizza is served until 2am. If you’re there on the right night, you may even get to witness their disco ball getting a workout.
Finish your night on the roof. The Gallery in Waymouth St was the city’s first rooftop bar, notable for its living wall of plants; but you can also sit among stone gargoyles atop the 1930s-styled Mayfair Hotel, ordering from a smart list of cocktails and champagnes in the Hennessy Lounge.
Nearby, 2KW’s rooftop setting with stylish private cabanas suggests
New York City or Istanbul, but the vista from its vantage point on the corner of King William St and North Tce – a panorama stretching from the sea to the Adelaide Hills, taking in Adelaide Oval and illuminated cathedral spires at night – is unmistakably Adelaide.
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Images © SATC. Video © RAA.