Adelaide’s many cultures create a cosmopolitan cuisine. Diner food and pastries are made with South Australian ingredients, and local winemakers uphold the region’s reputation for quality.
Check out the Central Market’s dazzling mashup of produce, or join a Barossa Valley wine tour and visit cellar doors. There are also plenty of ways to burn off the extra calories.
1. It’s a city of foodies
Adelaide may have a smaller population than Australia’s biggest cities, but that hasn’t stopped it from establishing itself as a culinary hotspot. The city offers all the perks of wine country with a big-city energy and variety — imagine Yountville with a major university, a bustling Chinatown, and a giant historic food hall. Adelaide also benefits from a legacy of 150 years of immigration, creating an array of diverse cuisines and cultural experiences.
Whether you’re looking for cheap eats in Chinatown, or world-class dining at Long Story Short a stone’s throw from Ebenezer Place, Adelaide has something for every palate and budget. Its love of fresh produce is apparent in its cafes, restaurants, and markets, with a particular focus on vegetarian or vegan options. Try crispy eggplant sandwiches at Sarah’s Sisters Sustainable Cafe, or vegetarian Chinese dishes at Zenhouse Vegetarian Yum Cha.
The city’s farmers are just as passionate about their craft, sourcing ingredients locally whenever possible. The city’s Central Market has been a local staple since 1836 and is home to everything from paperbark parsnip pie to smoked beef brisket.
South Australia produces 60 per cent of the nation’s wine, and that translates into some impressive wine lists at its restaurants. Enjoy a glass with your meal at Osteria Oggi, which serves up Italian piazza settings, a marble bar, and concrete arches.
You can also delve into the region’s culinary heritage at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens restaurant, where dishes inspired by the flora and fauna of the garden are created and dished out on a curated tasting menu. You might find green ants, finger limes, or a bunya bunya branch on your plate.
The city is also famous for its cocktail bars, with many hidden down laneways and up hard-to-find staircases. The West End is one of the most popular, with a number of spots offering live music and intimate booth seating. Bank St Social is another favourite, with its cosy, dark-wood saloon atmosphere and craft beer selection.
2. It’s a city of festivals
One of the great things about Adelaide is that it has the energy and variety of a city, plus a cornucopia of culinary delights. This is thanks to the local food movement that’s sweeping through South Australia. It’s a region with a strong identity rooted in nature and the soil that supports it, but a love for experimentation means that chefs aren’t afraid to push boundaries. From the paperbark pie at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant (featuring green ants and finger limes) to the kangaroo sausage patty at Grange’s The Source (with a dash of salty kombu seaweed), there’s so much on offer.
That spirit of experimentation extends to the region’s many festivals. In recent years, the Adelaide Hills has re-staked its claim as a world-class wine destination, but rather than a stuffy cellar door, there are now hilltop pubs and festooned beer gardens serving craft beers from the surrounding fields, and tucked away eateries like Villetta Porcini that serve wood-fired pizzas in a deconsecrated church. Down the road in McLaren Vale, you’ll find truffles served with lunchtime degustations at Maxwell Wines and mushroom-grown risotto at Lucy Margaux, while in Uraidla, Commune of Buttons serves thoughtful locavore cooking under hanging light fixtures made from glass demijohns.
But the rise of the foodie hasn’t meant a loss of interest in Adelaide’s arts scene, which is still one of its main attractions. While it may have a reputation for being more conservative than other Australian cities, Adelaide has an impressive lineup of performances that spans the gamut from opera and ballet to theater, comedy and dance.
This year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival is proving to be no exception, with the final week of shows selling out quickly. It’s been a bumpy start to the season, with the line-up announcement causing controversy and some artists pulling out, but ticket sales are up, and organisers are confident that it’ll be another sellout.
3. It’s a city of wine
A city whose name is synonymous with wine, Adelaide is surrounded by the country’s most celebrated vineyards. Whether you travel north, south, east or west from the city centre, it’s only a short drive to one of the state’s key wine regions.
The Adelaide Hills is the closest of all the major wine regions to the city and it’s one that visitors cannot stop raving about. It’s the coolest region in Australia, resulting in sparkling and aromatic white wines as well as ripe, fruit-driven chardonnay.
While chardonnay does make up a good proportion of the grapes planted in the area, it’s complemented by Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This thriving region is steeped in viticultural tradition but also embraces the innovations and inspirations that will lead to tomorrow’s great wines.
In fact, the Adelaide Hills is the only wine region in the world that can produce the rare and speciality Pinotage grape. The winery that made it famous, Deviation Road, is a must-visit for wine lovers. Here, a beautiful garden setting with heritage-listed bushland provides a serene setting to taste their award-winning wines.
With a growing reputation for its cuisine, Adelaide’s dining scene is packed with global influences. From Orana, where chef Jock Zofrillo focuses on native Australian ingredients, to Shobosho’s charcoal-fired izakaya counter up front and the Afro-pop interiors of Africola at the back, the city has something for every palate.
The city’s shopping scene is just as exciting, with boutique markets and a wealth of specialty shops. The renowned chocolate maker Haigh’s is worth a visit for anyone with a sweet tooth, while the Adelaide Central Market has an amazing selection of local artisan producers.
Getting around is easy, with a range of public transport options and many restaurants that are happy to take walk-ins. For the ultimate in luxury, however, consider booking a stay at the Intercontinental Adelaide, a luxurious hotel that’s right in the heart of the action. This way, you’ll be able to explore the city on foot and seek out some of the best hidden gems along the way.
4. It’s a city of nightlife
Adelaide’s resurgence as a food destination didn’t happen overnight, but the city is now bursting with exciting eateries. The rise has been led by a new generation of chefs and bartenders. They’re pushing the boundaries of creativity, and their restaurants are attracting foodies from all over the world. From kitchener buns to pie floaters, these chefs know how to use the best local produce and showcase it at its finest.
You’ll also find many classic pubs and wine bars where you can sample the wines and spirits that have made the area famous. But the wine isn’t the only drink with a local following, the craft beer scene has gained momentum too. There’s plenty of great choice, with breweries such as Port Adelaide’s Pirate Life and Fleurieu Peninsula’s Swell Brewing offering up inventive beers that blend unlikely ingredients.
As well as a growing range of modern, trendy restaurants and bars, Adelaide also has some great rooftop bars that offer gorgeous views of the city. One of the best is Sol Rooftop, which sits atop SkyCity Adelaide and offers a stylish indoor restaurant and outdoor terrace with a stunning backdrop. You’ll also find smaller rooftop spots hidden away on alleyways or behind secret doors.
The city’s chefs are also embracing their South Australian heritage, creating cuisine with a distinct local flavour. At Orana, Jock Zoffrillo serves up a multi-course tasting menu showcasing native ingredients. And at Africola, former Bistro Dom head chef Duncan Welgemoed fuses African and European styles with his signature ingenuity (think chicken skin sandwiches served with squid-ink aioli).
As the home of the espresso martini, it’s no surprise that Adelaide has its fair share of cocktail bars. Head to the city centre for a buzzy night out and you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can try out some of the latest creations at the oh-so chic La Moka, Lotus Lounge or Barbushka. Or you can visit a local distillery and enjoy a glass of their own unique spirit.