It’s been a relatively quiet start to the year for restaurant openings. We haven’t really had those big, shout-it-from-the-rooftops arrivals of previous years. After 2021’s major headliners – Arkhe, Restaurant Botanic and Fugazzi among them – come an understated bunch that, together, contribute to the texture of Adelaide’s dining fabric. We’re also seeing more and more venues that are hard to categorise neatly into the “restaurant” box. From an increase in fast-casual joints to venues that are just as much bar as eatery, plus more operators making a play for the suburbs and regions, we’re seeing a diversification of places to eat out. And that’s a good thing. So, at the halfway mark of the year, we’re taking a look back at the ones that impressed us most.
99 Gang Social, CBD
The Asian-leaning burgers at Gang Gang are some of Adelaide’s best. But at the team’s late-trading bar and diner – which opened on Hindley Street in late December, narrowly missing our best of 2021 wrap – they give a nostalgic nod to the US, courtesy of co-owner Nina Hadinata’s time spent living in LA. Burgers here include the 101 (beef, provolone, grilled onion and French mustard), named after the iconic highway; the Coastline (a fried fish sandwich with pickled daikon, American cheese and spicy sauce); and the Route 66 (Nashville hot chicken, butter pickles, house-made dill ranch, iceberg lettuce and American cheese). While the Asian throughline found at Gang Gang is less prominent here, inspiration from across the Pacific comes in other forms. You might see cheeseburger dumplings, beef rendang served in mini hoagie rolls, and crisp onigiri-style rice “toast”. The drinks list is big on classic cocktails – Mojitos, Mai Tais and more – perfect for cutting loose on the dance floor, which kicks off after dinner service (complete with floating DJ booth and a shining disco ball above).
Bistro Francais, Hyde Park
After meeting during their tenure at O’Connell Street French restaurant Cliche (now Kosho), European expats Nazzareno Falaschetti and Fabien Streit have teamed up to open their own neighbourhood French eatery in Hyde Park. French-born Streit wants to prove the cuisine isn’t always complicated or elaborate, plating up classics such as steak frites, escargot, French onion soup, fall-apart beef cheeks in red-wine sauce, twice-baked cheese soufflé, a stunning ratatouille flan, and an ASMR-worthy crème brûlée. Backing it all up is Falaschetti’s concise wine list that traverses France and holds space for a couple of local favourites. But before you hit the grape juice, we recommend his passionfruit gin Martini – or a classic French 75 – to get the palate humming.
Cheekies Hot Chicken, CBD
After a month-long delay due to gas connection issues, Rashaad Cézar and Rachael Sharples finally have a dedicated space for their Nashville hot chicken brand. The new site is on Pirie Street’s growing lunch strip, near Chicken & Pig, Osteria Oggi, Abbots & Kinney and Soi 38. And it’s set to bring Cheekies’ fiery fried bird to a new daytime crowd, following its first location inside Cézar’s Rundle Street bar Brklyn. The interior, by Faculty Design, is kitted out with bar seating, cosy booths, playful neon signage, and a yellow colour scheme reflecting the star of the show: golden fried chicken. Specifically, tenders and wings served at one of five heat levels ranging from “no heat” to “damn hot”. (We hear there’s an even higher off-menu level of heat that you need to sign a waiver to attempt.) There’s also a fried chicken sandwich, tacos, and chicken and waffles. New business partner Brendan Carter (of Unico Zelo and Applewood Distillery) has put together a wine list that leans on local producers such as Delinquente and Moorak, alongside Aussie beers (plus Pabst Blue Ribbon) and non-alcoholic brews.
Hnly, Henley Beach
As you sip cocktails while the sun sets over Henley beach, it’s easy to see why Angela Papas (Diaspora Kouzina), Peter Louca (Louca’s Restaurant, Diaspora) and George Kasimatis (George’s on Waymouth) undertook the mammoth task of transforming a pair of Henley Square apartments into a restaurant. The spot, which opened at the close of 2021 (missing out on our best-of list), is too good not to share. Ascend the stairs to a plush second-storey dining room with generous north- and east-facing balconies. Sandstone and soft furnishings make the space feel sophisticated – like the linen suit you’d wear to lunch on the Costa del Sol. Equally on theme is the Mediterranean-inspired menu, featuring Shark Bay scallops in a finger lime dressing, Coopers beer-battered whiting with fries, and blue swimmer crab linguine. A separate, snacky menu is served on the balcony and might include oysters, tuna tonnato and more.
Lost Phoenix Farm, Hindmarsh Valley
Earlier this year, chefs Andre Ursini and Will Doak quietly opened their first venture together – a regional restaurant and event space in Hindmarsh Valley. It’s not the most obvious choice for someone of Ursini’s profile, but he’s got form in hidden destination restaurants with Villeta Porcini. Lost Phoenix Farm, though – tucked away inland from the busy coastal destinations of Port Elliot and Victor Harbor, atop a hill, in the former home of Victor Harbor Winery – is wholly more accessible and family-friendly. Doak, who previously worked at Ursini’s Orso, and head chef Bridget Corber are matching the setting’s farmhouse vibes with wholesome, homestyle cooking: peri peri-glazed roast chicken, lamb shoulder with labneh, and crumbed flathead with gribiche alongside Mediterranean-leaning snacks such as anchovy fingers with whipped ricotta and peperonata, and burrata with panzanella salad and fig leaf oil. Add to that plenty of grassy space for kids to run around and it might be the ideal weekend destination for young families.
Press Food & Wine, CBD
It’s not technically a new opening, but it may as well be. After a three-month closure and a change of ownership, Waymouth Street institution Press reopened in April with a new look, new chef and new direction. The ground-floor dining room is unrecognisable, with a curvaceous new marble bar and a lighter, softer, more intimate setting courtesy of designer Claire Kneebone. The menu has changed dramatically too, thanks to new executive chef Tom Tilbury (previously at Gather at Coriole), who’s plating up Gazander oysters served with wakame and a cucumber vinaigrette, choux au craquelin filled with silky chicken liver parfait, and blushing pink strips of dry-aged beef served in a beef-fat vinaigrette. He’s also paying homage to classic Press dishes, including its signature offal and burger, available at the bar only.
Silver Sands Beach Club, Aldinga
Aldinga’s new Silver Sands Beach Club is a surf club, but not as you know it. Since opening two months ago, the 120-seat bar and dining room inside the refurbished Aldinga Bay Surf Life Saving Club has been a magnet for city folk and locals alike. It’s little wonder, with owner-operators Mark Kamleh (Tiger Mountain, Syrian Mobile Disco) and Nick Stock (a respected wine critic and Tasting Australia’s beverage director) behind it; prime ocean views; and a coastal-inspired menu alongside pub classics including a prawn cocktail bun, kingfish crudo, Kinkawooka mussels with fries, and grilled swordfish – plus pizza, lasagne, a cheeseburger and a chicken schnitzel. The wine list combines Fleurieu producers such as Alpha Box & Dice alongside a hefty list of premium internationals (think premier cru burgundy and chablis) curated by Stock.