After making his name in some of Brisbane’s most successful restaurants, including Fortitude Valley superstar Same Same, chef Ben Bertei has upped stumps to Adelaide where he’s about to open his own restaurant, Kiin.

The vibrant new addition to the CBD will launch in November in the former Ming Room site opposite the Royalty Theatre on Angas Street. It’s set to carry on Bertei’s acclaimed Thai-inspired cooking, which will be paired with an expert wine list by sommelier and business partner David Wickwar (who opened Melbourne’s Vaporetto wine bar eight years ago before selling it in 2021).

The business partners, who met 18 years ago when Bertei was at Melbourne's Longrain, both moved to Adelaide with their families last year with the intention of setting up a spot together.

Never miss an Adelaide moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

“For me it was a rollover effect of Ben coming down here,” says Wickwar. “Me and him started coming down here and dining out a bit, hanging out in the city, getting a feel for the place. We saw the dining scene here, we saw there were some great places, and we saw the city has a really good energy, but we also saw there was a gap in the market where we felt we could do something.”

“If you took either Soi 38 or Golden Boy and smashed it with Shobosho, that's probably the outcome that comes with my style of food,” adds Bertei, who’s clocked some time at Shosho since moving to Adelaide. “Obviously I know Thai food quite well and I've been doing that for 20-plus years – but [this will be] the modern realm of it and using a lot more European techniques in what we do.”

On the plate, that might look like burrata dressed with green nam jim and fried shallots and served with roti; roasted pumpkin paired with whipped tofu, ricotta and green curry oil; a “red curry cheeseburger” served with crisp fried onions; and a “fish finger of sorts”, Bertei hints.

“Dan Hong’s been doing [this style of cooking] in Sydney for quite a while … Adam D’Sylva’s been doing it at Tonka and Coda in Melbourne. It hasn't really been done in Brisbane – not to great success – and it hasn’t really been done down here either … you still keep the core values of the dressings and the curries and things, but there’s other areas you can play with.”

Bertei says to expect around 25 dishes of curries, salads, snacks and more, among them a “high tea pickled cucumber salad” with green nam jim, and grilled snake beans with chilli jam, coconut and lime. But don’t expect him to plate up any of the dishes that helped make his mark in Brisbane.

“I don't think I want to and I don't think I need to – I think people will come in and go, ‘Okay, this is Ben from Same Same’; I think it'll be in the taste. I kind of want to let that past go … But I think when people come in if they’ve dined with me before they’ll go, ‘Yep, this is his food’.”

The wine list is Wickwar’s domain, and he’s starting with a tight list of 60-odd drops of South Australian wines (“We’re just trying to respect the fact that the wine industry is so massive down here and so diverse,” he says) alongside some European labels.

“We’re not going to go in with an encyclopaedic wine list, or anything too extensive,” says Wickwar. “It’s just focusing on matching with the food, so like delicate, aromatic white wines; your light juicy reds; some quirky, forward thinking stuff like skin contact and alternative stuff. But not too much of that … we’ll probably avoid most of the big names and focus on local boutique labels and just keep it rotating.”

The pair had originally considered suburban hubs like King William Road and Prospect Road to open their first restaurant together, but they’re excited about bringing people over to Angas Street.

“People have asked us, ‘What about foot traffic?’ But if you spend a little bit of time there, we’ve got a private girls’ school across the road, we got an arts theatre … It's pretty central, we’re just down the road from Chinatown,” says Wickwar. “And we’re in a business district so lunch trade should be fairly solid. We’re focusing on nights, but we’ll take the days as well if they’re there.”

Designer Emmeline Barwick (of Georgie Shepherd Interior Design) has been tasked with the re-design alongside Sam Weckert of Tiger Build, who is managing construction and fit-out. They’ve ripped up the green carpet and are stripping back the room to create a warm, inviting space of neutral tones, textures and soft fabrics.

“We’ve basically gutted it all and opened the whole space out to be that modern open kitchen and dining where you can dine at the kitchen, you can dine at the bar, you can watch the chefs cook,” says Wickwar. “The idea with the fit-out is nights being the focus, but we’ve realised because of the location we needed to create a space that will feel comfortable during the day. So it's light and bright and inviting enough during the day … but then at night-time, the lights come down, the music goes up and it has that real atmosphere and buzz to the space.”

The result, says Wickwar, will be a “really fun, engaging environment”. “We want that atmosphere in the dining room to be kicking, to be something people talk about when they leave – the music, the way it fits in with the décor, the way the service ties in with that as well. We want it to be a fun place for people to come to.”

Kiin will open at 73 Angas Street, Adelaide, in mid November.

@kiinrestaurant