A slow but steady stream of new bars trickled into Adelaide this year. Most of which came from operators who have well and truly earned their stripes in the industry.
A booze distributor, and winemaker, opened the Holy Grail of wine bars in a neon-pink-lit Rundle Street basement; the man behind Maybe Mae added a retro rooftop bar at Henley Beach to his repertoire; and a serial bartender went out on his own with a “polished-up” dive bar where you can dance on tabletops.
Here’s where to whet your whistle this summer.
“Wine bar” often equals “pretence”. Not here. Booze distributor Mark Reginato and winemaker Louis Schofield bring a collective 20 years in hospitality to this neon-pink-lit heritage Rundle Street basement. It’s the ultimate wine cellar. Reginato wagers its dirt-cheap $8-a-glass cleanskins are “better than almost any other house wines in the country”. There are 20 wines by the glass, more than 200 listed local and international drops (they’re not limiting themselves to “SA only”) and a good haul of fortifieds. The bar menu doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it punches well above its weight. Try the burrata.
In March the seven-month-old Etica: Pizza al Taglio was flipped on its head to become Bar Etica – a sophisticated spuntino (or “snack”) bar serving smart, modern-Italian plates ... and pizza. Pizza al Taglio served cut-to-order, Roman-style pies that were priced by weight. Now, they’re made to order. The evolving menu might feature burrata with persimmon and lime; whitebait with wasabi and saltbush; or Smoky Bay oysters with wakame and lemon. Larger plates include osso buco with mashed potato and cannelloni with pork cheek and red wine. The bar abides by the same philosophies sister site Etica has built its name on: animal welfare and ethically sourced ingredients. Try both in one night: the “A1 Dinner” begins with snacks at Bar Etica before a walk to Etica for the main event.
Sip on whisky and gin in award-winning surrounds at Malt & Juniper, the new sister venue to neighbouring Alfred’s Bar. An eclectic back bar is home to hundreds of spirits, from Johnnie Walker Black, to a Japanese whisky that’ll set you back $200 a shot (that’d be the Yamazaki 18-year-old Mizunara cask). Lower your gaze slightly to a small selection of rums and agave spirits, and two rows of gin, the other of Malt & Juniper’s signature offerings. Expect a selection of gin- and whisky-based cocktails and high quality boilermakers – think Starward Wine Cask with Mismatch Pale. During the day, the bar operates as a grab-and-go cafe, serving locally roasted coffee, vegan snacks, sandwiches, and pastries from Cliché.
Until 2016 Solomon Street was just another disused West End laneway brimming with potential. Then Sunny’s Pizza and Fairweather happened. They occupy two of three spots in the Powerplant Building – a former car park. “Polished-up” dive bar Cry Baby is the latest piece of the puzzle. Strike up a game of pool or throw a few bucks in the original ’72 jukebox. It’s chock-full of rock’n’roll records hand-picked by owner Jon Di Pinto. Late on a Friday or Saturday night you’re likely to see a handful of punters dancing on the tabletops. Despite a haul of 300-odd bottles of spirits, there’s no list. Di Pinto bought mostly single bottles, and went bonkers on the tequila and bourbon. All-Australian craft beers pour from 12 taps.
Whatever preconceptions you have about The Stag, forget them. Its new custodian Oliver Brown (NOLA, Anchovy Bandit) has transformed the longstanding venue into a warm, timeless gastro-pub. Kitsch nostalgia rubs up against clean and contemporary design by Sans-Arc Studio. Similarly, the menu combines the classics with modern sensibilities. NOLA’s head chef Justin Penman turns out your customary schnitties, steak sandwich and fish’n’chips (courtesy of Fair Fish) but you might also get fattoush salad, pearl barley with heirloom carrots and winter veggies or ricotta gnudi. In the pool room there are billiards games for a buck. The money goes directly to local sports teams and charities.
A short walk from Henley’s coastline is Ollie Margan’s (Maybe Mae) latest venture – rooftop bar West – which sits atop the Melt Henley and SeaSalt complex. Margan describes the bar’s look – perfected by design firm Studio -Gram – as “your grandparents’ house in the ’60s and ’70s” complete with retro hardwood timber. “Just because we have the ocean views doesn’t mean we have to have that nautical feel with the different shades of blues,” he says. The drinks list adds a seaside vibe to classic cocktails – think fresh, light and breezy. A small food menu features sandwiches (crust off) with flavours such as prawn cocktail, baloney and curried egg.
The crew behind new Pirie Street haunt The Golden Wattle runs the gamut of Adelaide’s hospo scene. Long-time publican Damien Kelly and barman Tom Byrnes (both from The Hotel Metropolitan) have partnered with David Blumberg from The Exeter, Josh Phillips from Magill Estate Kitchen, Pete Curtis from the Port Admiral and Ben Quici from Midnight Spaghetti. It’s this meeting of minds that informs the direction of their new all-day venture: a place where “the 21-year-old [can] feel comfortable standing next to the three-breasted-suit lawyer,” says Kelly. The sprawling bar pours a succinct selection of approachable beers and wine. A wood grill, sourced from Gumtree and made in Yatala Prison, turns out classic pub fare, gussied up. Think lamb shoulder, Korean-style pork ribs, chicken wings and charred pumpkin. Oh, and those fritz-and-sauce sandwiches.
Want more bars? Check out Broadsheet’s 2017 Best of list.