Say what you will about Australia’s sleepiest city but when it comes to food and drink, Adelaide seriously delivers.
It’s no wonder some of the country’s most prominent chefs have taken up residence in South Australia. Beloved Maggie Beer welcomes visitors to her Barossa property to wander the olive groves and sample delectable pantry staples. Former Chef of the Year Duncan Welgemoed plates up bold and complex creations at Africola, an ode to his South African heritage. MasterChef’s Poh Ling Yeow even runs a stall at the Adelaide Farmers Market every Sunday. With so much culinary talent in one small state, the calibre of food in Adelaide and its neighbouring wine regions is on another level.
In South Australia, restaurateurs, chefs, winemakers and producers have a licence to saunter outside the confines of tradition. The result? A remarkably diverse food scene where unusual pairings, unique ingredients and unexpected twists are standard practice.
Lucia’s at Adelaide Central Markets
Lucia’s is something of an institution, known for serving up some of the finest Italian food in Adelaide. Proper Nepolitana sauce is the hallmark of southern Italian cuisine and I have it on good authority that Lucia’s is the real deal – confirmed by an Italian cashier in Rundle Mall who raved about the place on my first morning in the city. This was the second mention of Lucia’s since I’d landed so I thought it criminal to skip.
One of the longest running outfits at Adelaide Central Market, Lucia Rosella opened the venue in 1957 after relocating from Benveneto in Southern Italy. Today, her two daughters run the show, plating up no-nonsense Italian staples with fresh, seasonal ingredients. They also make the best panini in the city (another hot tip from a local foodie).
The delicatessen is well worth a persue, offering their famous sauces – only made over summer when Aussie tomatoes are at their ripest – as well as a range of local cheeses and cured meats.
Adelaide Farmers Market
On Sunday mornings while the city centre looks like it has been all but abandoned, in the south-western outskirts, Adelaide Showground is heaving. The weekly Farmers Market is a bustling affair where stalls with cult followings send lines snaking around the corner. Shoppers cling to their keep cups and sling canvas bags over their shoulders, collard greens and carrot tops spilling over the sides.
Follow the enchanting smell of freshly baked goods into the market hall and grab a loaf of sourdough from one of the many bakers. Or fill your cooler bag with artisan cheeses from local dairy producers. It’s here that you’ll find the widest range of ingredients and ready-made food in Adelaide available for purchase direct from the farmers, makers and bakers.
For a treat (as long as you’re willing to wait in line for it), check out Jamface by Poh for a slice cake, biscuit or pie that looks almost too good to eat…almost. Head to Lato Cakery to taste traditional Slavic honey cake – a five-layered masterpiece alternating South Australian honey with caramel cream. Let Them Eat is one stall you won’t need to feel guilty about splashing out at. Chef and owner Tanya sources all her ingredients locally to create vegetarian delights that are both healthy and eco-conscious.
Whistle & Flute
It’s easy to walk straight past this south Adelaide cafe. Hidden behind a wall of ferns and an unassuming metal door, this local favourite is a popular brunch spot with a delicious and very literal menu.
If you’re looking for ‘Things that are eggy and elso bready’, your choices range from blue swimmer crab scrambled eggs to a halloumi burger oozing with a googy egg and sriracha mayo. ‘Things that are sweeter than others’ include toasted waffles topped with whipped nutella and bircher muesli with peanut butter and apple slices.
If your brunch turns into a long lunch, you might want to sample the salted caramel martini or perhaps a bloody mary if you’re recovering from a day at the wineries. Beer drinkers are in for a tough decision – the fridges are always jam-packed with craft beers from local brewers. Keep an eye out for Mismatch on tap – more on them later.
The Summertown Aristologist
A scenic 30-minute drive out of the city and into the Adelaide Hills, The Summertown Aristologist serves up authenticity on a plate. It’s a true community affair – the wine racks are stocked with natural wines from a vineyard just down the road (and sold at the cellar door just next door) and the dishes are crafted from local, organic ingredients grown in the kitchen garden.
The menu changes weekly and is driven by what’s in season around South Australia at the time. During my visit, I feasted on steaming bowls of delicately seasoned lentils, slow roasted eggplant, grilled capsicum bursting on bite and freshly baked sourdough with a healthy scraping of cultured butter. It was wholesome and flavourful, and went down a treat with the bottle of Gris Rose from nearby Chateau Commeci Commeca.
If you’re not sure what to order, that’s a good thing. Go for the “don’t think about it” option and have the team bring out delicious samples of the entire menu one after the other. You’ll be full to the brim but not to the point of sluggishness, as the ingredients are as fresh as they come.
Lot.100 is part of a small but growing trend towards multi-business venues across the state. It’s a collective of producers joining forces to provide a one-stop food and beverage destination where you could easily while away an entire day. It comprises a craft brewery, small batch winery, gin distillery, cider company and fresh juice producer.
The ‘lot’ is an 84 hectare property in the illustrious Adelaide Hills. What was once a cattle pasture has been transformed into a destination dining precinct that blends the industrial and the agricultural in a forward-thinking, sustainable manner. The roofs across the property bear 1700 square metres of solar panels and the on-site wastewater treatment plant purifies every drop to be reused across the property; to water crops, in the distilling process and so on.
The Lot.100 restaurant welcomes foodies seeking sustainable, local produce prepared differently. Only the best ingredients are used to create a type of food that blend modern Australian with rustic Italian cuisine. The ever changing menu is complemented by innovative offerings from Lot.100’s numerous beverage brands – Adelaide Hills Distillery, Ashton Valley Fresh, Hills Cider, Mismatch Brewing Company and Vinteloper Wines. Order a tasting flight – the gin option won’t disappoint.
Chalk Hill Wines & Never Never Distilling Co.
Chalk Hill is another award-winning collective which unites three pioneering food, wine and gin producers. The namesake, Chalk Hill Wines, is a family-owned estate driven by six generations of grape growing heritage. Established by the Harvey family back in 1964, Chalk Hill opened its cellar door in 2020 not long after their Alpha Crucis Old Vine Grenache was named the best wine in McLaren Vale.
Carrying plenty of accolades of their own, Never Never Distilling Co. make up another third of the collective. Led by a trio of boundary-pushing creatives, the brand has won some of the most noteworthy accolades in the business. Their mantlepiece holds awards for 2020’s Best Regular Gin and Double Gold from the World Spirit Awards in San Francisco.
Of course, when sampling some of South Australia’s best drops, it’s hard to stop at just one or two glasses. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get something in your stomach (as if you needed an excuse?). Chalk Hill’s food offering comes in the form of sophisticated Italian-style street food. Cucina di Strada dishes up Roman style pinzas (not pizzas), warm snacks, grazing platters and Mediterannean-inspired desserts.
If your craving for fine Italian food is all-consuming, it may be worth saving yourself for lunch at this family-run restaurant tucked away off Chalk Hill Road. Tables and chairs spill out of the refurbished farmhouse and onto the lawn, warmed by freestanding heaters on cool days and shaded by a monumental oak tree in the warmer months.
Don’t expect to order a Hawaiian pizza at this joint. Unwaveringly true to their Abruzzo roots, they serve true Neapolitan style pizza on dough made by hand, fired in a wood oven made by Stefano Ferrara and shipped over from Napoli, Italy. If pizza isn’t your thing, firstly, what’s wrong with you? Secondly, you won’t be disappointed by the arrosticini – lamb skewers cooked over charcoal with a touch of salt. Simple, authentic and delicious.
If you can’t decide what to order, let the kitchen look after you. You’ll be treated to a selection of antipasto, Schiacciata (traditional Tuscan flatbread similar to focaccia but definitely not the same!) and a selection of chef’s favourite pizzas. The drinks menu carries a number of familiar names, too. Mismatch Brewing, Hills Apple Cider and Chalk Hill Wines all make appearances.
Alpha Box & Dice
If you don’t mind swirling your wine outside the box, this McLaren Vale cellar door is an essential stop on your itinerary. The eccentric winemaker behind Alpha Box & Dice has undertaken a rather ambitious challenge and is just shy of the finish line. The label has embarked on an Alphabet of Wine project, creating either a series or standalone wine for each letter of the alphabet. Only five letters remain at the time of writing.
I didn’t even have to try the letter ‘G’ – Golden Mullet Fury – before penciling it down on my order form. I was sold on the name alone. This limited edition magnum is Alpha Box & Dice’s signature ‘orange’ wine, where red winemaking principles are applied to white grapes. The result is a bold drop with strong stone fruit flavours, best served ice cold on a piping hot day.
The cellar door is open Friday to Monday from 10am to 6pm. Housed in the heritage-listed barn in the heart of McLaren Vale, guests can indulge in a grazing platter to compliment their tasting either inside surrounded by an eclectic art collection, or outside under the shady trees at the various picnic tables.
Book a stay at Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets
If you’ve read this far, it’s clear that you’re a truly devoted foodie. In which case, there’s no other place to stay in Adelaide than in the spiritual heart of the city’s food scene. A lazy stroll from the vibrant Adelaide Central Markets and right on the brink of Chinatown, Hotel Indigo is a characterful food and beverage destination of its own.
Brightly coloured tables and chairs protrude from the vibrant hotel lobby and out onto the sidewalk of a quiet laneway. Here, Market & Meander gives guests their first taste of the Hotel Indigo experience. The hotel’s main restaurant plates up extravagant, tasty dishes with plenty of fun twists – a nest of pink fairy floss topped my French toast one morning. The menu reflects the plentiful multicultural influences of the neighbourhood and stocks its bar with South Australia wines, local beers and signature Indigo cocktails.
Take the elevator all the way to the top and you’ll discover a not-so-secret rooftop bar which books out regularly, and has done since opening in March 2021. Merrymaker embodies the hotel’s raw and refined ethos, dishing up sumptuous seafood and charcuterie from local suppliers, complemented by innovative cocktails, an eye-boggling wine list and loads of tap and bottled beers to quench the most serious of thirsts.
Aside from the consumable offerings, the decor and furnishings are perhaps the most memorable features of the hotel. Housed in a former textiles factory, the blend of heritage-listed features and avant-garde architecture provide an accommodation experience that truly reflects the personality and style of a city in perpetual metamorphosis.
Find the best rate for Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets here.
The writer was partially hosted by Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets.
Lead image: Lunch at Lot.100 photographed by Tyrone Ormsby