Our favourite bar openings of the year have little in common. In fact, many aren’t bars at all. 2019 gave us brewpubs, urban cellar doors and drinking dens with food so good they could easily be classified as restaurants. Here are the new arrivals that impressed us most – in no particular order.
In an industry dominated by men, a brewpub headed by women is a distinction worth noting. It’s why Sparkke officially opened its brewery and restaurant on this year’s International Women’s Day. The brewery moved into the 180-year-old former Whitmore Hotel on Morphett Street in March. The fit-out has softened but sits comfortably with the pub’s early history. In the thick of it all is head brewer Agi Gajic’s lab. The nano-brewery yields around 50,000 litres of limited-release, keg-only beer yearly. Head chef Emma McCaskill (ex-The Pot, Magill Estate Restaurant) has traded fine dining for impressive, elevated pub grub. Start with her famous roti with dahl butter, and pork and ginger dumplings in chicken bone broth, before moving onto a curried lentil and beetroot salad, or Black Angus beef rump cap with sweet-and-sour tomatoes. Up on the recently opened rooftop bar, the menu makes use of the newly installed woodfire grill.
What was once Chihuahua Bar now bears little resemblance to its former self. Paloma, which opened mid-year on Peel Street, is a beautifully bright two-storey cocktail bar from the Palmer Hospitality Group (which also owns 2KW). Named after the cocktail (a tequila-based drink popular throughout Mexico), Paloma naturally focuses on agave-based-spirits. The cocktail list has a strong amaro focus and uses house-made preserves and cordials. Bar manager Luke Fleming (ex-2KW) plans to ramp up the fortifieds list to align with the Spanish-accented menu. In a tiny pantry, shelves are lined with jars of house pickled, fermented and preserved fruits and vegetables, plus tins of anchovies and sardines, available to eat in or take home. Snack on Sicilian olives, charcuterie and goat’s cheese with red-wine-poached quince.
When Little Bang Brewing Company moved out of its home on Union Street in Stepney (into a much bigger one 500 metres down the road), two winemaking cousins moved in. Behind the roller door you’ll now find wine barrels, not beer tanks, courtesy of former Proof bartender Jordan Hein of Moorak Wines, and seasoned winemaker Bevan Ferguson of Massey Wines. Ferg’s is a cellar door for the two brands, used for blending, bottling, storage and tastings (production is based at Ferguson’s Stonyfell winery). The bar also highlights guest producers without their own cellar door, plus beer and gin collaborations. Snack on salumi and cheese plates, and pizza from Pan & Vine down the road.
When Josh Dolman, Ashley Wilson and Robert Denisoff opened Sunny’s Pizza in 2016, they intended for it to be a bar. “Unfortunately, it became a really amazing restaurant,” Dolman says. So when the tenancy next door became available (following the closure of Fairweather Coffee), the trio saw an opportunity to realise their original vision (with mate Daniel Vaughan). The result is 1000 Island, a dimly lit and at times rowdy "Tiki but not Tiki” bar. The aesthetic is anti-design: a jumble of Aztec shapes, Atomic Age design, vintage film posters and abstract art. The drinks list is stacked with good-time cocktails such as Pina Coladas, Mai Tais and Zombies.
The team behind Wing It was missing “the kind of classic sports bars you find on every corner” in the US. Their new basement bar fills that void with an Americana theme and a tried-and-tested formula: hot wings, cold beer and live sports “every damn day”. Catch screenings of NBA, Major League Baseball, AFL, cricket, NRL and more, or there’s a pool table and darts if spectating doesn’t cut it. You might come for the sports and beers (expect quintessential American brews such as Coors, Blue Moon and Pabst Blue Ribbon), but you’ll stay for the chicken wings. They come by the kilo – or half – slathered in your sauce of choice (try spicy Buffalo or Thai nam jim).
Adelaide has no shortage of cellar doors. But one just three kilometres from the city, in the middle of a working winery, in a former church is a first. Add to that the formidable duo behind it – young gun winemakers Greg Grigoriou (Delinquente) and Steven Crawford (Frederick Stevenson) – and this tasting room and occasional bar has fast become one of Adelaide’s favourite drinking holes. Opening at the end of last year, the Bowden venue just missed out on inclusion for our best bars of 2018 wrap, but after a steady trickle of pop-up dinners, gigs and regular appearances by the Sunny’s Pizza truck, it made a huge splash this year.
Everything about Pirate Life’s new home is vast. The enormous Port Adelaide warehouse has a 25-metre-long peacock mural emblazoned on the outside and 10,000 square metres of floor space. Inside, a customised, energy-efficient, 50-hectolitre brewkit is dwarfed by the former Dalgety Wool Store’s 14-metre-high ceilings. Studio-Gram looked after the design for the venue (which can accommodate 300 people), and it’s predictably slick. Twenty-four taps – pouring Pirate Life’s core range and limited releases – gleam behind the polished concrete bar, which is 22 yards long. There’s also an arcade area with a 22-foot shuffleboard, pinball machines and more. Snack on vegetarian dumplings, ceviche or chicken katsu sandos from the newly added Pirate Life food truck.
Leigh Street Wine Room
We’re cheating here. Yes, this featured in our best restaurants wrap last week but this list would feel incomplete without Leigh Street Wine Room. Beyond owner-chef Nathan Sasi’s impressive menu lies some 400-odd bottles of minimal-intervention wines selected by Sasi and built on by sommelier Meira Harel and newly instated head somm Liinaa Berry (ex-2KW). The huge list homes in on Australian, French and Italian wines, with a healthy contribution from the Adelaide Hills. Add to that: pre-batched cocktails, warm service and a stunning Studio-Gram interior and this is a place worth returning to again and again.
This beachside bar from the family behind New Nordic, Malobo and Swedish Tarts opened over the weekend on Henley Square – so it's a little soon to call. But with Neapolitan-ish pizzas and house-made pastas flanked by meatball and parmigiana hoagies this modern take on the seaside surf club is a welcome addition to the western suburbs. As for the drinks, expect summery cocktails, Negronis on-tap and Italian wines.
Last month 17-year-old Hindley Street wine bar Apothecary 1878 rebranded with a new name, new look and new menu. It mightn’t be a fresh opening but it’s certainly a new era for the venue, which opened 11 years before Adelaide’s small-venue licence transformed the city's drinking scene. The makeover subtly swaps the lavish Parisian decor for a more casual vibe inspired by New York brasseries. And the courtyard and cellar is now open every Friday and Saturday night.
Golden Boy’s Cellar
“We hear a lot, ‘Where can we grab a quick drink?’” Golden Boy co-owner Sondra Deering told Broadsheet in May. The answer? A gorgeous new basement bar for pre- or post-meal. It’s not a separate venue – you’ll have to book a table at the beloved Thai diner to scope it out, but with a beautiful new interior of soft apricot walls, plush blue carpet and brass detailing designed by UFO Agencies, it’s absolutely worth a visit.