South Australia’s dining scene is heating up. Although commonly overlooked in favour of Melbourne and Sydney, in Adelaide, a clutch of chefs have quietly started a gastronomic revolution.
The ingredients for a thriving foodie scene have always been there. The city is surrounded by 18 world-renowned wine regions, and residents enjoy a calendar bursting with cultural festivals – including Tasting Australia, the country’s longest-running food and drink festival.
As this year’s Tasting Australia kicks off on 28th April, now is the moment to champion Adelaide’s blossoming food and wine scene. So, we asked Karena Armstrong, chef at McLaren Vale’s The Salopian Inn and co-director of Tasting Australia, to fill us in on the city’s finest food. From flame-licked firepits to the garden restaurant consistently lauded as Australia’s best, here are her top seven.
‘This is a life-changing dining experience,’ says Armstrong of Restaurant Botanic, a tree-smothered fine dining spot almost hidden in Adelaide Botanic Gardens.’ It’s a multi-sensory experience; the menu comprises 20 flavour combinations – including indigenous ingredients such as red hair kangaroo – that you’re encouraged to eat with your hands. ‘It is a big night out – the wine list and curation are indulgent without being ostentatious,’ she concludes.
Plane Tree Dr, Adelaide SA 5000
‘Set in the foothills of Adelaide Hills at a retail nursery, Topiary is exquisite,’ says Armstrong. ‘Chef Kane Pollard leads a calm and thoughtful restaurant that serves local produce at its finest, with a respectful and gentle approach to plants being served at their peak and often as the star of the dish.’ Come here for lunch – you’ll be eating the likes of homemade halloumi and mallee roo in a baby-pink dining room.
1361 North East Rd, Tea Tree Gully SA 5091
Charcoal black and centred around a huge, wood-fired oven, arkhé is setting Adelaide’s food scene alight – literally. ‘Fire is the heart of the restaurant,’ says Armstrong. ‘Jake Kellie’s food is the star – full of flavour and brilliantly executed. Get a seat at the bar to watch the kitchen in action; the Maruya station wagyu is always excellent, as is the Southern Rock lobster, and also make sure you have some of the fire-kissed vegetable dishes.’
127 The Parade, Norwood SA 5067
This South African restaurant and bar by is fiercely original – both in dishes and design. ‘Duncan Welgemoed’s spicy, punchy flavours are as bright and robust as this eclectic and vibrant restaurant,’ says Armstrong. ‘Drinks are unashamedly boozy and the experience completely original; be assured that among all the fun and brashness is an excellent dining experience.’
4 East Terrace, Adelaide CBD, South Australia 5000
Flame-licked and Japanese-inspired, Armstrong describes Shoboso as a ‘sexy, moody, super-cool restaurant where Adam Liston cooks with heart and thought.’ The team combines smoke, steam, and fire to turn out its award-winning menu. Sit at the bar (‘the best seat in the house’), order the sashimi (‘always a standout’), and take your pick from an excellent sake selection.
17 Leigh St, Adelaide SA 5000
It wouldn’t be an article about South Australia without including at least one wine-based option; Magill Estate is Armstrong’s top pick. ‘Scott Huggins teams up with Penfolds Wines to offer the ultimate experience of Australian food and wine,’ she says. ‘There are long lunch possibilities with all the caviar and indulgence you could ever want – degustation dining at its best. You can even arrive by helicopter.’
78 Penfold Rd, Adelaide SA 5072
FINO at Seppeltsfield
If you want to taste the Barossa Valley, head to this picturesque restaurant; around 90% of the menu is farmed in the Barossa. ‘The food is simple and elegant,’ says Armstrong. ‘The micro-local buying of ingredients gives you the chance to really sit back and look at the area’s produce without leaving your lunch chair. Plus, your next wine will appear in front of you before you realise you actually wanted it.’