Before the events of last week, many in Adelaide could be forgiven for forgetting we’re still living with a pandemic. But when Broadsheet arrives at Loc Bottle Bar on opening day, we can’t ignore Covid if we tried.

The natural wine bar opened on Tuesday in a Renew Adelaide space on Hindmarsh Square – next to the Pullman Hotel, which is acting as a medi-hotel for international arrivals in quarantine. As we sip on orange wine and snack on saucisson under dappled sunlight, army personnel in face masks and camo keep watch behind a temporary security fence. It’s a wild contrast.

“It’s free security though,” quips owner Olivia Moore. “We should introduce a deal for people who’ve finished quarantine,” adds bartender Ella Daire.

For a first taste of freedom, Loc would sure hit the spot. The bar is a physical progression of Moore’s online bottle shop, which launched during the nationwide shutdown. The result is a merging of both concepts (the venue’s tongue-in-cheek Instagram bio says “Kinda like a bottle shop, but a bar instead”).

Inside, a shelf on the back wall holds 150-odd bottles of low-intervention wine (Loc stands for left-of-centre) divided into old and new world (Moore name-checks French label La Boheme – by winemaker Patrick Bijou – as a current favourite). Guests can select the wine they want straight off the shelf – much like you would in a retail space – or leave the choice in the staff’s hands.

“I want to get to that Cheers vibe of knowing everyone and knowing what they like,” Moore told Broadsheet during our first visit.

The open layout is certainly conducive to that. There’s no service bar, removing the usual barrier between staff and guests. Just an electric-blue communal bar table plus bench seating along one wall. And the tiny footprint means – under current restrictions – the bar can only hold six people inside and 13 outside (Moore recommends booking ahead). After December 1 it will seat 13 inside and 26 outside. In a post-Covid world, capacity would swell to 30 in and 52 out.

Moore and interior designer Claire Markwick-Smith (of Kipfler) have stripped the former hairdressing salon back to expose the green concrete floor and textured walls, on which hang a curated display of lino prints – available for sale – by local artist Loique Allain. (You might recognise her name and works from wine label Dilworth and Allain, which she owns with partner Chris Dilworth. Her prints are also plastered across bottles of Frederick Stevenson.)

The petite space has no room for a kitchen, so staff are plating up small bites devised by chef Maria Delengas (Bloom, ex-Nido). Right now it’s olives, pickles, smokey seeds, saucisson, French cheese and crackers; in a couple weeks the menu will expand to include tarama on rye bread, sardines and tomato, salt-cured swordfish, and more (served on locally made crockery by The Little Potter).

For those who want to drink something other than wine, there are cans of “quirky” RTDs from Empirical Spirits, organic table beer from Wildflower and cases of Bridge Road. Soon Moore will introduce a house brew made by local producer Alan Varney of Varney Wines and Victor’s Place to ensure a regular supply of ethical organic beer (in nice full-circle stuff, Varney was Moore’s first boss in Adelaide after she came over from London to work a vintage season at d’Arenberg).

But the focus is firmly on the wines – specifically, trying to shift perceptions of natural wine. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘It’s very niche what you’re doing here’,” says Moore. “And I’m like, ‘It’s not. Do you like wine? Because I’ve got something for you'. I want people to get away from the thinking that this is niche.”

Loc Bottle Bar
6 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide
Tue to Fri 3pm–late
Sat & Sun 12pm–late