The Smooth Guide to Adelaide (Financial Times How to Spend it)

The hub of South Australia wears lots of hats at once, though none have corks tied to the brim – it’s far too stylish for that: ‘City of Churches’; ‘The 20 Minute City’; ‘Home of the crow eaters’; ‘Festival City’. True, there are a lot of churches – an eerie amount of churches even given the tiny populace. It’s also true that you can get from any A to any B in about 20 minutes, and that central state Aussies hunted crows in the mid 19th century when food was scarce, but those crows were, by all accounts, as big as fancy poultry. And yes, there’s usually a festival going on. Stripped of those clichés, it’s a supremely pretty small town on steroids – green and elegant, peppered with squares, surrounded entirely by parks, a short tram ride from a wonderful beach. It’s a lovely, sunny, bonnet-wearing kind of a place.


When you come to Adelaide, many will tell you to head straight for the Hills – home to some of the finest Chardonnay on the southern hemisphere. As John, the sommelier of Auge, currently the cities most celebrated contemporary Italian restaurant, tells me while I peruse his wine list that accompanies Friday night’s dinner of duck and walnut sausage, ‘people take their food and wine very seriously here.’ Ah yes, there’s one other hat that the city wears very proudly: ‘Restaurant Capital of Australia’. Adelaide has more eateries per capita than anywhere else on the continent. Like the award winning piatti principali options fashioned from locally reared venison and veal served in the sleek chocolate and toffee toned interior of Auge, there are some wonderfully memorable meals to be had, and of course wines to be drunk. A weekend is just enough time to capture the flavour of the city.

Saturday morning’s breakfast should be a two, three or even four course affair. Start the day with a ‘long black’ or a latte at Lucia’s, one of the oldest cafés in town and with a deserved reputation for the best beans around. Lucia’s is all about location, location, location – it’s in the buzziest part of the Adelaide Central Market, right next to the busker’s stage and the main café court, where absolutely everyone gravitates to on a Saturday morning. While the weekend city can be so neutron bomb quiet that walking amongst its tower blocks fulfils a whole season of Twilight Zone fantasies, the Central Market throngs… This is where foodie Adelaide comes to buy all its more esoteric and rarified ingredients. Try some Persian Fairy Floss with a hot chocolate – denser than regular spun Candy Floss and in a variety of flavours, including vanilla and pistachio, you nibble or dunk it and you’ll be hooked immediately. Buy some to take home from Lucia’s deli next door and jump in a taxi for breakfast proper, at Urban Bistro, a short drive away, on Rose Park.

Urban Bistro is one of the chicest brunch spots in the country – make sure you’ve called ahead to book or you’ll be queuing outside with other Johnny Come Lately black-clad fashion types, swishy gay couples and the kind of photogenic young families with well behaved toddlers that rarely exist outside of advertising campaigns for mortgages or leather sofas. Urban Bisto is the embodiment of the long lazy weekend morning. Brunch is two courses, or three if you have the Blushing Bubbles – their strawberry, peach and mint take on the Bellini – along with an order of brioche and your crab omelette with spring rolls. The dining room is Scandic-spartan and dove-grey-pleated-panel minimal, but the menu is maximalist and just the thing to indulge in before a retail safari.

Taxi back to the CBD – the Central Business District – and get out at the JamFactory, a collection of contemporary craft and design studios that has a great ground floor store and gallery. There’s always a good show of something quirky and collectible, while most of the JamFactory’s designer tenants sell editions of their work on-site, from boldly coloured blown glass and ceramic jewellery to neon and recycled corkscrews, all markedly accomplished and stylish – you’ll definitely want some of it, whether off-the-shelf and into your carry-on bags or by commission and shipping.

Most cities have a focal point, and in Adelaide it’s Bert Flugelman’s mirrored Spheres sculpture on the Rundle Mall, two silver balls that, since their appearance in the 70s, have become an integral part of any Adelaide visit: You have to rub the ‘Malls Balls’ for luck, apparently. Balls duly rubbed, head into the David Jones megastore and focus on the labels that are unavailable offshore, including Morrissey’s discreetly luxurious monochrome apparel and chicer-than-Calvin Macpherson Men underwear.

The most beautiful shop in Adelaide is next door: Australia’s newest branch of Aesop, the home-grown, all natural, vegan, literary-themed range of body products, has 7320 amber apothecary bottles undulating in a dramatic wave suspended from the ceiling. Everything about Aesop, from its fonts to its tricky-to-get-in-Europe Animal pet wash for your canine, is exquisitely contemporary. Buy the airport-security friendly Immediate Moisture Facial Hydrosol to stop yourself becoming prune-like on the epic flight back home.

Rundle Street is Adelaide’s most celebrated and self consciously cool parade of shops and pavement cafes, with brightly coloured colonial first floor balconies strewn with bunting. Dip in and out of the hip womenswear boutiques and settle down for a late afternoon restorative Supermodel’s Breakfast cocktail at Distill, a plush cocktail bar that details, perhaps implausibly, the good health inducing properties of its martinis: ‘Look radiant and younger, longer’, promises the Aloetini, though one suspects the vodka and Cointreau content may impare the beauty therapy with prolonged use.

Set aside an hour for the Art Gallery of South Australia on North Terrace which, as well as its impressive historical collection, houses a Marc Newson Lockheed Lounge and some crowd pleasing contemporary pieces, both homegrown and imported: Iranian born Aussie Hossein Valamanesh’s Fallen Branch, a striking bronze wall sculpture of a hyper-real, beautifully detailed branch that has grown impossibly into a circle sits feet away from Warhol and Hirst. The gallery is also home to one of the most picturesque lunch spots in the city: The garden bistro, with a long patio in the shade of overgrown vines, is a great stop off for a salad and a glass of something localled pressed, white, dry and sparkling.

After the Gallery head hotelwards for some pre-dinner downtime – Adelaide eats early, so prepare to eat early with it, at around 7pm. Of all the top end options to stay in town, the most unusual is in the Fire Station Suite, one of three bedrooms at the Fire Station Inn, managed by the North Adelaide Heritage Group, complete with a 1942 fire engine in the bedroom and its original fireman’s pole. If you prefer a little less fancy dress with your sleeping arrangements then the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel is a solid choice a few steps away from the grand sweep of North Terrace and the lush, spectacular 19th century Botanic Garden, while the Medina Grand Treasury has a collection of very lovely apartments with full hotel service in the old Treasury building that mix a Farrow & Ball modernity with high ceilinged period architectural touches. The Medina’s reception staff do, however, seem overfond of the Beatles greatest hits.

The Medina is directly opposite the Grange, the most talked about restaurant in the city. There’s no debate about visiting the Grange – it’s a must-tick culinary box complete with a chef-signed menu handed to you with your coat on the way out. On a Saturday night there are no options: it’s tasting menu or nought, so you’ll be working your way through Cheong Liew’s eight course Migration of Ideas Asian/French fusion tasting menu, with some adventurous ingredients and textures reminiscent of ceremonial Japanese kaiseki cuisine. If you’ve done the Grange before, try the aforementioned Auge or Farina, another nearby Italian, kitted out in bright white yellow and black tiles with Miró-esque squiggles and a hip bar scene. Farina’s pasta dishes are immense, so go easy on the small plates beforehand – though the risotto balls with braised pork cheek are a must. After dinner opt for an unusual nightcap – a glass of sparkling Shiraz in the Tiki Hut in the garden of the Lotus Lounge, or settle down at an outside table at the Dragonfly bar to watch the local graffiti artists set to the pavement with chalks and slogans – its quite the phenomenon and a measure of Adelaide’s well-groomed twin set and pearls conservatism that even the outlaw art is polite.

On Sunday morning taxi to Unley, the kind of close-to-town flower basket suburb that you’d be living in, if you lived in Adelaide. There’s something inherently Sunday about Unley – dog walking, half hearted jogging, newspaper reading over coffee… And everyone ends up outside Cibo Espresso, either queuing up for a takeaway or at a pavement table with a panini. You can cover most of Unley’s best shops in just over an hour and everything is along King William Road. Start at Wild Child Style Lab, which stocks some demure Australian-based designers, including Wayne Cooper, Nicola Finetti and Bettina Liano, and then meander.

It’s on the drive to the Hills on Sunday afternoon that you realise that Adelaide really is the 20 Minute City – you can be sampling the Petaluma vintages at Bridgewater Mill in well under half an hour, and you can wind down your weekend with a sublime late lunch and a long, long wine tasting at The Lane shortly after. Select your favourites (the Beginning 2004 Chardonnay is particularly stunning) and they’ll arrange an order and delivery through their UK distributor. The Lane is a labour of love for its owners John and Helen Edwards who started planting in 1993 and recently opened a glass-box bistro with stunning views over their vines. It’s the quintessential Adelaide Hills experience, and the winery that all those in the know go to for Sunday lunch. Indeed such is the passion that locals have for the Lane that the sommelier and staff at Auge head up before dawn during harvesting season to help pick the grapes that will end up as Pinot Grigio accompanying duck and walnut sausage. But then as their sommelier says, they take their food and wine very seriously around these parts.






Prices are for two people sharing, room only:


Medina Grand Treasury, 2 Flinders Street

00 61 8 8112 2000



Majestic Garden Hotel, 55 Frome Street

00 61 8 8100 4400



The Fire Station Inn, High Street, North Adelaide

00 61 8 82721355






Prices are for a three course meal for one with half a bottle of wine


Auge, 22 Grote Street

00 61 8 8410 9332



Cibro Espresso, 156 King William Road

00 61 8 8299 9661


Distill – The Health Bar, 286-288 Rundle Street

00 61 8 8227 0825


Dragonfly, 193 Victoria Square

00 61 8 8212 5661



Farina, 39 Hindmarsh Square

00 61 8 8227 1007



The Grange, The Hilton, 233 Victoria Square

00 61 8 8237 0698



The Lotus Lounge, 288 Morphett Street

00 61 8 8231 0312


Lucia’s, Western Mall, Adelaide Central Market

00 61 8 8231 2303


Urban Bistro, 160 Fullarton Road, Rose Park

00 61 8 8231 2400






Aesop, David Jones Rundle Mall

00 61 8 8305 3418


David Jones, 100 Rundle Mall

00 61 8 8305 3000


JamFactory, Lion Arts Centre, Morphett Street

00 61 8 8231 0005


Wild Child Style Lab, 167 King William Road

00 61 8271 3711





Adelaide Botanic Garden, North Terrace

00 61 8 8222 9311

Mon-Fri 7.15am-5pm; Sat-Sun 9am-5pm. Closing times vary from half an hour to two hours later in spring/summer.


Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace

00 61 8 8207 7000

Daily 10am-5pm.


Bridgewater Mill, Mount Barker Road, Bridgewater

00 61 8 8339 9200

Daily 10am-5pm.


The Lane, Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf

00 61 8 8388 1250

Mon-Thu 10am-4pm; Fri-Sun 10am-5pm.





Kangaroo Island, justifiably dubbed ‘the Galapagos of Australia’, is just a half hour scheduled light aircraft flight away and has some the most outlandish as well as unspoilt nature on earth. ‘Roos, koalas and wallabies roam free in abundance while a walk amongst the baby sea lions playing wild on the beach in Seal Bay is quite simply one of the most wonderful things you could ever hope to do. Flight and tour details at




Adelaide is enjoyable year-round. Winters (June to August) are mild but can be wet – though this is still the driest state of the world’s driest continent. Summers right through to the embers of autumn in May can be roasting while spring, from September-November, can run the gamut of all four seasons in a day.




Mark C.O’Flaherty flew to Adelaide as a guest of Qantas – return flights from London to Adelaide in economy from £898.10.








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