When Adam Robinson opened Lockwood General on a leafy Burnside backstreet in 2021, he hoped to eventually introduce night trade. The cafe’s placement in a quiet residential setting means that’s off the cards for now, but it has fortuitously opened the door to something new.
“Before I opened Lockwood, I wanted something on this street,” Robinson tells Broadsheet, surveying his new bar on King William Road. “So it’s serendipitous: the fact I can’t do nights there has opened up the opportunity to do something in my own neighbourhood.”
Robinson, who’s lived in the area for nine years, has form in bringing new energy to Adelaide’s well-heeled suburbs. And he hopes Alt will do the same for Hyde Park when it opens this weekend.
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“I’m really proud of what I was able to achieve at Lockwood,” he says. “It’s a really unique atmosphere there, and I’m hoping to transfer that to this venue at night-time, with lots of regulars, and have it be an extension of the home.”
Alt’s approach is in the name. “It’s an alternative way of looking at things,” Robinson says. “We’re doing a lot of classic things, but taking a different approach to them.” It’s not a venue that’s trying to be alternative, or different, or challenging, he’s quick to clarify. “It’s just about taking a different look at things.” Like the food menu, which is overseen by Robinson, who’s also a chef.
“Something that irritates me at other venues is batched portions,” he says. “So if you and I go out for dinner and there’s three croquettes we have to split one, or one person gets two and the other gets one. I might not even like croquettes; I might want something else on the menu. So the snacks are individually portioned. You could get a croquette and I could get a miso devilled egg, and you have that with a glass of bubbles and go on your way.”
That croquette arrives atop some samphire aioli, ferrying delicate crab meat and roe pearls. Larger share plates might include fried chicken with truffle sriracha, honey, cucumber and sesame, or beef brisket served with braised cabbage and smoked yoghurt.
“We’re angling to take the pre- and post-dinner market because there are enough restaurants on the street,” says Robinson. “But we’re still able to be a destination for your evening if that’s what you want to do. That’s how I like to eat. If I go to a restaurant with a friend, we end up splitting share plates.”
The 200-strong wine list is sorted by characteristics – such as fizzy, crisp, mineral, aromatic and textural – instead of variety, with a mix of traditional and new-wave drops from Australia and overseas. “We’re not sommeliers, but we love wine and we’ve drunk a shit-tonne of it,” says Robinson.
“It’s a place for wine lovers, not wine experts,” adds venue manager Courtney Price, who has worked at Africola and Fugazzi. In keeping with that brief, the pair are teaming up with James Hopkins of The Fruitful Pursuit to host the latter’s Maker & Me, a series of intimate and informative wine tastings, every Sunday.
Settle in out the front under the red vine leaves, or inside at the communal table running through the centre of the room. The feature piece is cut from a 150-year-old red gum.
The other centrepiece is the expansive wall of wine, its line-up of vibrant labels providing pops of colour to the monochromatic space. The custom-made shelves will grow with the wine list to slowly cover the north-facing wall. The opposite wall is a backdrop for local art, starting with a work by Pia Gynell-Jorgensen. “We’re not taking any commission from [sales of] it,” says Robinson. “It’s just a way of raising up local creatives and letting them have as many eyeballs as possible on their work.”
There’s also a mural by artist Alex Bellas snaking around two walls, inspired by the strokes of a paint brush. Bellas is also behind a much more colourful work elsewhere in the venue, which you’re sure to find when you visit.
When speaking to Robinson and Price, it’s clear every choice is intentional. The bar height is lower than usual, about as tall as a kitchen counter, to create a homey and approachable atmosphere. “We didn’t want that separation between customers and employees,” says Robinson. The chairs were selected specifically for their comfort, so people can linger for longer. “Love is in the details,” says Robinson. “Even the bathroom – it’s only somewhere you’re going to use the toilet, but it should be beautiful.”
It’s all geared to providing a warm and inclusive environment for the community, as well as imbibers coming from across town. “I want a space that my friends would like to come and drink in, but that my mum would want to drink in as well,” says Robinson. “That’s what I love about the hospitality industry: I love the variety of people you can encompass in a venue.”
Alt opens at 151 King William Road, Hyde Park on August 5.